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Motorola One Action review: stands out from the crowd

Not too long ago, Motorola launched the Samsung Exynos-powered, punch-hole display toting One Vision in India. But at Rs 19,999, the smartphone didn’t have enough ammunition to take on competitors like the Realme X (review) and Redmi K20 Pro (review). Motorola was quick on the uptake, and recently launched the Motorola One Action in India. At Rs 13,999, the One Action is a lot more affordable than the One Vision, and packs nearly the same spec sheet with a better camera module. To find out how it fares, I have had my SIM in the Motorola One Action for the last one week and here’s my take on it.

Design and Display

As I had observed in my first impressions of the Motorola One Action, the plastic and metal-clad phone is nearly identical to the Motorola One Vision (first impressions). Except for one extra camera sensor on the back, the entire aesthetics and build quality for both these smartphones are the same.

Initially, I had an issue with the taller 21:9 display as it was a task to reach the top corners. However, as I used the phone as my daily driver, the form factor grew on me. A little palm adjustment to reach the notification panel is a small price to pay for the conveniently slim profile that is easy to handle using one hand. The even weight distribution tipping the scales at 176g is the cherry on top.

Motorola is offering the One Action in Denim Blue and Pearl White colourways, both of which look elegant. I received the Denim Blue variant of the handset, which is subtle and looks very classy. However, the glossy back of the phone attracts a lot of smudges, which I was expecting. What I wasn’t expecting was how easily the smudges came off with just a single wipe. If that’s too much work for you, Motorola has also bundled a transparent case with the phone, which will keep it looking pristine.

Other elements include the batwing Motorola logo with an embedded fingerprint scanner on the back, physical buttons on the right, Type-C port with speaker grille on the bottom and dual Nano-SIM tray on the left. The SIM tray on the Motorola One Action is hybrid in nature, which means you will have to sacrifice your secondary SIM should you choose to expand the onboard storage. The rear fingerprint scanner is extremely fast and the in-built face unlock method is equally snappy.

The Motorola One Action retains the 6.3-inch IPS panel from the One Vision, which is exactly the same with the punch-hole camera on the top left and full HD+ screen resolution. During my time with the phone, the display produced vibrant colours, sharp text, ample brightness and good viewing angles. The One Action also comes with Widevine L1 certification, which means you will be able to enjoy content in HD on OTT platforms.

However, the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio, while future-proof, is impractical right at this moment. There’s still not enough 21:9 content available to stream, resulting in wide black bands appearing on the sides when watching 16:9 videos. And if you pinch to zoom on YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix etc, there’s cropping around the edges. Additionally, I faced the black bar issue in several basic games like Stick Cricket, Stick Soccer and others. On the flipside, the black bands hide the camera cutout that has a thick black border around it, so that’s a plus.

Cameras

As mentioned before, the Motorola One Action adds an extra camera to the package One Vision offers. Talking specs, the triple camera setup on the back comprises of a 12-megapixel primary shooter backed by a 5MP depth-sensing sensor and 16MP wide-angle Action camera. The latter is not your regular wide-angle camera, instead, it’s a rotated wide angle lens that’s meant for capturing videos.

The selfie shooter on the Motorola One Action is a 12MP sensor, which is a downgrade from the 25MP snapper on the One Vision. The camera app is custom but is pretty straightforward with various modes hidden in the menu that can be accessed by tapping the grid button on the viewfinder.

Coming back to the Action Camera feature, when you switch to the video mode, the camera app opens by default in the standard video capturing mode. However, there is a small button next to the recording button, which allows users to switch the orientation of the footage.

This allows the user to capture landscape video while holding the phone vertically, thanks to the wide-angle lens which has been placed at a 90-degree angle. The idea behind this feature is to facilitate GoPro-like video recording while on the move. On the topic of video recording, both primary and wide-angle sensors are equipped with EIS for shake-free recording with 4K and 1080p video recording capability, respectively.

Coming to the imaging department, the 12MP primary shooter manages to impress while clicking pictures in broad daylight. I preferred shooting with HDR mode turned on as the resultant pictures displayed pleasant colour pop and high details. On the other hand, if the HDR is turned off the camera tones the colour saturation down, producing muted images. Modes like portrait, cutout, spot colour and cinemagraph work very well thanks to the dedicated depth-sensor. The AI-based recognition was also able to detect the frame I was trying to capture and optimise the settings to get the best image. Unfortunately, the wide-angle lens can’t capture wide-angle stills, which is frankly a missed opportunity and very disappointing.

Let’s talk about the pictures taken in low light now. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated night mode which is surprising considering every other smartphone these days features it. However, if you have a decent light source as you can see in the picture above, the camera does a good job of capturing the frame with minimal glare and noise. The situation changes when the lighting is very low, as the picture turns out noisy and blurred. The same is the case with the selfie camera too.

Speaking of the selfie camera, the 12MP snapper performs well in ideal lighting. However, I didn’t care for the AI face beauty and portrait modes, which are a tad aggressive, making the picture look unnatural.

Software, performance and battery

As for the software, the Motorola One Action is an Android One phone, which means it ships with stock Android 9 Pie out of the box. You get Google goodies like Digital Wellbeing, Google Lens, Google Now as well as Motorola features like Moto Actions and Moto Display. More importantly, the One Action will receive both Android 10 and Android 11, followed by an extra year of security updates. There is no bloatware or resource-hungry interface to bog down the processor either.

The One Action is the second Motorola phone after the One Vision to be powered by the Samsung Exynos 9609 SoC with a Mali-G72 MP3. The 10nm processor is further backed by 4GB RAM and and 128GB storage, which can be expanded up to 512GB via a microSD card. The storage is particularly impressive, given that most phones offer 128GB memory only for the top-end variants. During my time with the phone, I put it through the grind by keeping almost all apps open in the background. My usage consisted of YouTube binging, WhatsApp usage and several PUBG sessions. The Motorola One Action managed to handle everything thrown at it, without any lags or freezes.

The best part about the performance is that the phone boots PUBG in HDR settings. I played several sessions of Zombie Mode Infested, which is fast-paced gameplay. While I did experience frame drops every once in a while, the gaming experience was enjoyable. Dialling the graphics settings down to medium will ensure that the gameplay is smooth. Less intensive games like Asphalt 9 and Shadow Fighter 3 ran smoothly without any hiccups. However, you might find the phone heating up after a duration of 30 minutes or so, which is not a deal-breaker but something to make note of if you’re an avid gamer.

The Motorola One Action is backed by a 3,500mAh battery with support for 10W charging. With the charger provided, the battery juiced up from zero to 100 percent in just under two hours. In my experience, on a full charge, the battery lasted me a full day, with juice leftover.

The competition

As mentioned earlier, the Motorola One Action Goes up against some serious competitors in this price range. In fact, the Realme 5 Pro (review), which is priced at Rs 13,999, offers better specs like a Snapdragon a 712 SoC, quad cameras and bigger battery with a fast charger included. The likes of Redmi Note 7 Pro, Vivo Z1 Pro (first impressions) and Xiaomi Mi A3 (review) are tough to ignore as well, although the One Action does have some aces up its sleeve, such as a 21:9 display and Action Cam feature.

Verdict

With the Motorola One Action, the phonemaker has shown that when it comes to innovation, it has still got it. The phone offers a unique Action Cam, attractive design, 21:9 display, stock Android and good overall performance. While it might not stand out among the competition on the specs front, it’s still a capable all rounder, and one that’s going to particularly appeal to Android purists and vloggers.

Pricebaba’s rating: 7.5 / 10

Pros:

  • Vanilla Android interface
  • Unique Action Cam feature
  • Good battery life
  • Ample storage for the price

Cons:

  • Wide-angle lens can’t capture stills
  • No fast charging
  • Cameras struggle in low light

Photos by Raj Rout

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