Motorola is updating its low-cost smartphone, the Moto E, as it targets first-time smartphone buyers worldwide.

Among the improvements over last year’s model: The camera now has auto-focusing, whereas the older model had a fixed-focus lens that didn’t compensate for how far away the subject was. The new Moto E will also have a front-facing camera for selfies, though images won’t be as sharp as the 5 megapixels on the rear. There’s also a model with 4G cellular connectivity. Last year’s model was available only for slower, 3G networks.

(Raleigh-based Republic Wireless has offered the Moto E models.)

In the U.S., Motorola will target prepaid customers, as well as those looking to buy children their first smartphones. The 4G model will cost $150 in the U.S., while the 3G will go for $120, both without contract requirements. The screen measures 4.5 inches diagonally, slightly larger than before.

Mote E specs:

  • Operating system

Android™ 4.4, KitKat®

  • Processor

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 200 with 1.2GHz dual-core A7 CPU 
Adreno 302 400MHz single-core GPU

  • Capacity

4GB* standard
MicroSD slot supports up to 32GB expandable memory

  • Dimensions and weight

Height: 124.8mm
Width: 64.8mm
Depth: 12.3mm 
Weight: 142g

  • Display

4.3 inches
540 x 960 qHD, 256ppi
Features anti-smudge coating and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

  • Connectivity

MicroUSB, supports USB 2.0
3.5 mm headset jack
Micro SIM

  • Battery

Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion, 1980mAh
Mixed usage up to 24 hours

  • Rear camera

5 MP

  • Video capture and playback

Capture 30fps FWVGA (MP4, H.264, H.263)
Up to 720p playback displayed in qHD resolution

  • Audio playback


  • Wi-Fi

802.11 b/g/n, 2.4GHz

  • Bluetooth® Technology

Version 4.0 LE

  • Location services


  • In the box

Moto E in black or white
One-piece charger
Quick start guide

Motorola, which Lenovo Group bought from Google in October, has been trying to set itself apart from other phone makers by selling cheaper phones that have some features found in higher-end products. For instance, all of its phones use Corning’s Gorilla Glass for durability.

“Even in developed markets, a large percentage of the population isn’t on a smartphone,” Rick Osterloh, Motorola’s CEO, said in an interview. “This category represents the biggest growth area.”

Motorola, which is headquartered in Chicago, announced its new phone Wednesday ahead of next week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Samsung, HTC and others are expected to unveil their spring lineups at the show. Sony also announced a budget phone this week for 129 euros ($146), though there’s no plan to sell it in the U.S. LG announced four mid-range smartphones. Details on prices and U.S. availability weren’t immediately revealed.