I recently bought the Motorola Moto E (Verizon LTE Prepaid) phone for $40. It is a pretty amazing phone for that price. It runs Android 5.1, uses a 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Processor, and has a 4.5″ display.
What makes this phone particularly attractive to me is that with a little work, you can instruct it to connect to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network. Here are the instructions. I give credit to the wonderful developers over at XDA, as I only modified their instructions slightly.
- Active T-Mobile Sim Card
- Comfort with working at the command line
- Moto E is running Android 5.1 (See this page for instructions for 5.0.2)
Instructions – These instructions worked for me using Windows 7 64 bit.
- Download and install the Android SDK Tools.
- Insert the T-mobile SIM card into your phone (The Moto E has a removable band that goes around the phone’s sides. Remove this band to replace the SIM card and also access the SD card slot. The back of the phone does not need to be removed.)
- Power on the phone and put it in airplane mode.
- Go to Settings -> About Phone and tap on “Build Number” until it says you are in Developer Mode (~10 times)
- Go back one menu, and right above About Phone there should now be an option for Developer Options, go into that.
- Turn on USB Debugging
- Connect the phone to your computer and wait for your computer to recognize it. If your computer doesn’t recognize the phone, you may need to install the Motorola driver.
- On your Moto E phone, a pop-up window should appear asking “Allow USB Debugging?” Select OK or Allow.
- Open a command prompt and navigate to the location of the SDK tools. You want to be in the directory that has the Android Debug Bridge program (adb.exe)
- Type “adb shell” at the command prompt
- Run the following commands in adb shell:
- pm clear com.android.providers.telephony
- settings put global preferred_network_mode 9
- settings put global preferred_network_mode1 9
- settings put global preferred_network_mode2 9
- Type “exit” or press CTRL+D in the shell to exit it.
- Type “adb reboot” at the command prompt
- After your phone has rebooted, you can disconnect it from the computer.
- On the Moto E, go to Settings. Under “Wireless & Networks” select “More” and then select “Cellular Networks.” In the “Cellular network settings”, click on “Preferred network type.” If it says 4G (with the options 3G and 2G listed below), then you have successful made the change. (If you don’t see these options, go back and repeat steps 7-18. I had to do this twice to get it to work.)
- Go back one screen, and select “Access Point Names.” Click the “+” symbol and add T-mobile.
- In the APN settings, update these two settings:
- Remove the Verizon messaging app and replace it with Google Messenger (you can get it from the Google Play store) and optionally remove/deactivate any other Verizon apps
Note: When you restart the Moto E, it may still first say “Verizon” and give you a warning about not having a Verizon SIM card, but after a moment, you should see the Verizon word switch to T-Mobile.
I hope this works for you! As you can see, rooting or unlocking the device is unnecessary to get it to work with T-Mobile’s network. I’ve read that this method might work with other GSM networks as well.
If you are successful at getting this android phone to run on a T-Mobile network, you save about $70, as the Verizon moto e prepaid version is selling for around $40, while the unlocked moto e GSM version is selling for about $110. They are, to the best of my knowledge, the same phone, which is the 2nd Generation 2015 version. From what I’ve read, the 1st generation moto e had some issues that were fixed in this model.
If you’re looking for a budget / entry-level android smartphone, I think you will be very happy with the Moto E if you can get it to work on your network. My family and I own the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy S4, and while the screens on both of those Galaxies are higher resolution than the Moto e, the S3 runs older Android software and the Moto E will likely stay current for a much longer time period. I’m personally happy to have this up-to-date Android phone as a back-up to my S4.