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motorola one action review: An excellent mid-range Android device

motorola one action

Motorola phones may not be the first phones you think of buying but they should be on your short list of considerations.

Techaeris Rated 9.1/10

Motorola has been in the news an awful lot lately, and for good reason. Their new moto razr is causing a squall in more ways than one, and their latest moto g stylus and power are offering up some decent value as well. They’ve also recently unleashed the motorola one action in the United States with an emphasis on video.

This mid-range Android device is pretty basic when it comes to specifications and features. What Motorola hopes will set it apart from the competition is the camera, particularly the video portion of that camera. The motorola one action wants to be your smartphone plus action camera all in one. Read on for the full review of the motorola one action smartphone.

Specifications

The motorola one action has the following features and specifications:

  • Operating System: Android 9 Pie
  • CPU: 2.2 GHz Samsung Exynos 9609 Octa-core
  • GPU: Mali G72 MP3
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Expandable Storage: MicroSD up to 1TB
  • Battery: 3,500mAh
  • Battery-life: All-day
  • Charging: 10W charging with USB-C 10W rapid charge
  • Security: Face Unlock and Fingerprint sensor
  • Display: 6.3″ IPS 21:9, FHD+ (1080 x 2520)
  • Rear Main Camera: 12MP f/1.8; 1.25um; PDAF 5MP depth sensor
  • Rear Action Camera: Quad Pixel technology, 2.0um;  f/2.2; Ultra-wide FOV 117o
  • Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack, one Dolby Audio speaker, and 2 microphones
  • Dimensions: 160.1mm x 71.2mm x 9.15mm
  • Weight: 176g

What’s In The Box

  • motorola one action
  • SIM card removal tool
  • TPU case
  • USB-C charging cable
  • 10W charging brick
  • Instructions and Documentation
motorola one action mid-range Android
Very comfy in the hand with the 21:9 aspect ratio.

Design

I’m continually impressed with how far midrange devices have come over the past few years. It used to be that mid-range phones were pretty unimpressive. From shotty build quality and obvious cost-cutting material choices to the poor performance of the software, they were frustrating.

Now, with devices like the motorola one action and others, midrange smartphones are better than ever in every way.

The build quality of the motorola one action is absolutely amazing. While premium smartphones do exhibit a much better build, this smartphone isn’t far off from the big players on the block. I think that can be said about many other mid-grade smartphones as well.

It feels very nice in the hand giving you a sense of holding something worth more than an old piece of plastic. The front and back glass construction is held together by a shiny metal frame. Along the right side of the frame is the volume rocker and power button, beautifully placed. Along the left side is the SIM/MicroSD card slot used for cellular service and for memory expansion.

At the top of the phone is the 3.5mm headphone jack, something I don’t really care about but is demanded by many users, along with one of the two microphones. Along the bottom are the second microphone, the USB Type-C charging port, and the Dolby speaker.

motorola one action mid-range Android
A very nice design, all glass with metal bumpers.

Around the front of the motorola one action is that 6.3″ display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and fairly slim bezels. These bezels are not the thinnest out there but I actually don’t mind a slightly bigger bezel for avoiding accidental touch input. I do think the chin bezel could have been a bit smaller, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The front also has a hole punch for the front-facing camera. It is slightly larger than some other hole punches I’ve seen but not bad at all.

Around the back are the motorola one branding, the LED flash, triple-cameras, and fingerprint sensor. A nice touch to the fingerprint sensor is the addition of the Motorola logo.

Overall, the design looks and feels better than the asking US$349 price. Mid-range phones have really exceeded the build and quality requirements of their asking price demands. The motorola one action is definitely a well-built and well designed mid-range Android device.

Display

The motorola one action sports a 6.3″ IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 2520 and the 21:9 aspect ratio that’s becoming popular these days. The thinner 21:9 aspect ratio of the display does make holding the device much more comfortable.

The display on the action is very nice given its mid-range category. The colors are more vibrant than expected from an IPS display but not oversaturated like an OLED display. Colors are accurate to my eye but with a slight bump in the vibrancy. I felt like movies and photos looked excellent on this display.

Contrast is pretty good. It’s not as good as an OLED display but certainly not bad for a mid-range IPS display. Brightness is also decent. The motorola one action is useable outdoors but does struggle with very bright sunlight, which I did expect.

Touch responsiveness is good and scrolling felt smooth but there was some stutter in asset rendering, more in the performance section. Overall, the display is exactly what I would expect from a 2020 mid-range Android device. There’s a mixed bag here given the price but I think the good outweighs the bad.

motorola one action mid-range Android
The front-facing camera punch hole isn’t all that bad.

Software

The motorola one action ships with Android 9 but should be getting an update to Android 10 at some point soon. We’re not exactly sure when that’s going to happen but hopefully sooner than later. Android updates aren’t as fast as we’d like on Motorola devices but that’s usually the story across Android manufacturers.

Still, Android 9 runs well on the action but it would be nice to have features like dark mode on this device. Of course, Motorola has its own software features packed into the action. The biggest of those being their gestures interface.

The company now calls these features, Moto Actions, and Moto Display. Here’s what those software features allow you to do when you turn the features on:

  • Quick Capture: Twist your wrist quickly to open the camera anytime.
  • Fast Flashlight: Turn the flashlight on/off with two chopping motions.
  • One Button Nav: Navigate through your phone using just one button.
  • Three Finger Screenshot: Touch the screen with three fingers to take a screenshot.
  • Lift to Unlock: Lift the phone and look at the screen to unlock.
  • Peek Display: Interact with notifications and more while the screen is off.
  • Attentive Display: Keep the screen on while you’re looking at it.

Android 9 seems to work fine here and the added Moto software is actually useful. Still, Android 10 has been out for a while and an update to that would really make a difference. Overall, I would say the software experience is good and this should get Android 10 soon so you’ll be okay for some time with it.

Performance

The motorola one action has the performance of a mid-range Android device with its Samsung Exynos 9609 and Mali G72 but that’s not a bad thing. Basic tasks do fine, such as web browsing or social media browsing. I did find some stutter in scrolling through YouTube. It seemed the processor lagged behind in rendering assets as they became visible on the screen.

I didn’t find that to be the case in web browsing, only the on YouTube did I run across the stutter in scrolling. It played videos without a problem. It was only in the scrolling through my feed did the problem persist.

Overall, the performance was passing for a mid-range Android device. I only really had issues with scrolling through YouTube. Of course, it depends on how quickly you scroll, it may or may not affect you.

Speakers/Sound

Motorola says the action has a Dolby speaker system, but that’s not saying much. The single speaker at the bottom isn’t much better than any other smartphone, mid-range or otherwise, in terms of sound quality. Seriously though, you shouldn’t expect a whole lot from a single speaker even with Dolby branding.

Overall, the speaker works fine for voice calls, YouTube, Podcasts, and things such as that. It’s not very good for music and movies where you need more range than this speaker can handle. But I’d say most people aren’t that concerned with this as they will likely be using headphones or a Bluetooth speaker for entertainment consumption.

motorola one action
Another low-light shot inside a restaurant with my buddy Brian getting ready to kick my butt.

Camera

The cameras on the motorola one action are actually really great. Once again, given this is a mid-range Android device, we weren’t expecting the highest quality out there. The action actually surprised us and once again shows us why mid-range Android phones keep getting better.

The cameras are what the motorola one action is all about. The reason it has the name action is that the company is marketing this towards people on the move.

Let’s face it, we all hate vertical video but when you’re in the action, holding your smartphone in portrait mode is just more comfortable. Motorola realized this and the camera on the back of the action allows you to hold the phone in portrait but it actually records video in landscape. The camera also records in an ultra-wide format, creating ultra-wide-angle videos that fit 4x more in the frame. But don’t worry, you can still hold it in landscape mode and it will capture footage in landscape as well.

motorola one action mid-range Android
Inside a restaurant with very low-light.

The 12MP main camera does a decent job of producing pleasant photos in perfect lighting as well as outdoor well-lit conditions. The additional 5MP depth camera gives you the portrait effect like many other smartphones already do. Motorola has also gone the route of other smartphone makers with AI software that is supposed to optimize your shots. Things like auto smile capture, portrait lighting, and shot optimization are all designed to produce better photos.

For the most part, these photos are acceptable and most users are going to be very happy with them. The cameras, like many other smartphones regardless of price, do struggle in low light. Higher-end smartphones have compensated with a night mode which tries to compensate for the lower light. Night mode on higher-end smartphones can have mixed results and isn’t always perfect. What I’m trying to say is that the photos coming out of the motorola one action are what you’d expect from a mid-range Android device. Not perfect, sometimes horrible, but overall I think most people will and can overlook the low-light performance.

Overall, these cameras are fairly decent for the price you’re paying for this phone. They’re certainly not the best of show, but they’re going to be pretty acceptable to most users.

Reception/Call Quality

Reception and call quality are both good here. It is 2020. If a phone can’t get this right then something is very wrong.

Battery Life

Battery life for the motorola one action is stated as “all-day” and that’s pretty much spot on. I could get through a whole day with 40% still left in the tank. Now, if you throw heavy tasks like gaming and media consumption at it for hours on end, then it will drain, but so will flagship devices.

The nice thing is you have fast charging here. It doesn’t take long to top off the motorola one action with the included charging brick and USB-C cable. Overall, the battery life is great and will last all day.

Price/Value

The motorola one action is priced at US$349.99 and you can find it on sale (as of the publishing of this review) for US$279.99. Now, the US$350 price is already a great value but this sale price is nearly a no-brainer price if you’re looking for a great mid-range Android device.

Wrap Up

The mid-range Android device market is starting to become crowded. There are a lot of great choices out there and it is starting to become harder to recommend just one. But the motorola one action should at least be on your shortlist of phones to consider.

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motorola one action

US$349.99

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.0/10

Software

9.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Speakers/Sound

8.0/10

Camera

9.0/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • For a midrange phone the design is excellent
  • Build quality is excellent
  • The display is above average for a midrange device
  • Decent performance
  • Interesting cameras, average but interesting
  • Good battery life
  • Priced right
  • Includes case

Needs work

  • Still on Android 9 but Android 10 is supposed to drop
  • Speaker is weak, very weak

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