Expert Rating
3.5/5
Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★
Pros
  • Good screen-to-body ratio
  • An innovative implementation for the action camera
  • Clean Android UI
Cons
  • Punch-hole is too big to be ignored
  • Lacks fast charging support

After launching its debut punch-hole-toting One Vision (review) smartphone in India, Motorola has brought the same feature in a much more affordable package with the One Action (first impressions). But that’s not the only feature that has trickled down to the new handset, as it also gets the Exynos 9609 chipset and even the same battery capacity. Of course, thanks to Android One initiative, the device promises major updates for two Android iterations and security patches for three years. And yet, with a rather attractive price tag of Rs 13,999, the One Action finds itself amid strong competition, so it’s but natural to wonder who is the One Action for. That’s what we’ll be dissecting in the Motorola One Action review today. So without further ado, let’s jump right in.

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Specs at a glance

Display
Size 6.3 Inch
Resolution 1080 x 2520 pixels
Performance
CPU Quad core, 2.2 GHz + Quad core, 1.6 GHz, Samsung Exynos 9 Octa
RAM 4 GB
Storage
Internal memory 128 GB
External memory Up to 512 GB
Battery
Capacity 3500 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable
Standby Time Up to 156 Hours (2G)
Camera
Primary camera 12 MP
Secondary camera 12 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 3500
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie

Summary

As mentioned above, the Motorola One Action isn’t too different from its sibling. But it does have more to it than just being a scaled-back version of the One Vision. That’s why instead of following the conventional format, I’ve divided this review into the aspects that are the same between the two devices and what’s different.

What’s in a name?

If I give you the Motorola One Vision and One Action together, then it’d be difficult to tell them apart. However, if you notice closely at the back, then Motorola’s One Action’s rear camera module has text alongside that says “117-degree action camera”, which is where the handset gets its name from. So the rear camera setup is what mainly differentiates the duo. Instead of a 48MP primary camera on the back on the One Vision, the One Action gets a 12-megapixel shooter. And while both devices feature a 5MP depth-sensing sensor, the One Action also comes with a 16MP wide-angle camera that’s meant for capturing the action in videos. Speaking of videos, both the main shooter and action camera come with EIS, and while the former can record footage at up to 4k resolution, the latter is capped at 1080p.

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The camera app is almost the same – with everything nicely laid out on the main screen itself – except for the ability to change the orientation of the footage in the video mode, which enables the Action cam. Basically, the action cam lets you shoot landscape videos while holding the device vertically. As per the company, this will ensure that one can hold the device single-handedly for capturing action videos and hence the output would also be more stable.

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So how are the images captured from the One Action? Well, they’re punchy, and have good level of detail. The shutter speed is quite good too, though the focusing speeds could’ve been better. Not just landscapes, the device was able to perform well while capturing portrait shots or close-ups too. The edges don’t turn soft in either case, which is a plus. Similar to the One Vision, it’s advisable to keep the HDR mode enabled to get better output that looks pleasing to the eyes. Sadly, there’s no pixel-binning technology to enable superb low-light shots, and hence the 12MP snapper is just able to offer decent shots in such scenarios. There’s a considerable amount of noise and colours aren’t as vibrant either. Here’s a look at some camera samples shot using the Motorola One Action. 

The One Vision and the One Action also differ in terms of the resolution of the front camera. While the One Vision offers a 25MP snapper up front, the One Action features a 12-meg sensor. You wouldn’t notice much difference in terms of the quality, however. The output is sharp and vivid, and I also liked the colour pop feature that makes one stand out from the rest of the frame. However, the portrait mode looks quite artificial. You’ll also miss the 4-in-1 pixel tech available for the One Vision for the selfie shooter, which comes handy in dim environments.

Speaking of pixel binning, this capability is available for the action camera, ensuring good footage in poorly-lit settings. In daylight as well, the shooter delivers great-looking clips and have to say that rotating the sensor is an ingenious answer to vertical videos, since it’s easier to hold the handset in portrait orientation. What I found commendable is the fact that the brand has ensured that there’s minimal distortion, which isn’t so uncommon in wide-angle cameras. The electronic image stabilisation works well too, and is able to compensate for sudden jerks while shooting. My only grouse would be the fact that the action camera can only capture videos and not pictures, as that could’ve been quite useful for clicking images with wider field-of-view or fast-moving shots.

Yet, for all its features, the Motorola One Action’s camera can’t take on the competition. The Realme 5 Pro simply comes out ahead – both in terms of sharpness and colour science – all thanks to its 48MP IMX586 sensor. Not to mention that the latest from Realme’s stables also ships with three additional cameras on the back.

Everything else

The defining characteristic of the Motorola One Vision was its unusually tall body – courtesy the 21:9 display –and the One Action also follows the same footprint. That means, the phone is quite narrow, but is quite tall, and hence it may take some time getting used to its ergonomics. Of course, you might need to do finger gymnastics as well to reach the corners of the screen since the 6.3-inch panel isn’t small by any measure.

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Speaking of which, the IPS display is exactly the same as the One Vision, i.e. you get a punch-hole on the left side and it bears a resolution of 1,080 x 2,520 pixels. You get vibrant colours and sharp text on the Motorola One Action, and I didn’t find any issues with viewing angles either. The brightness levels are quite good too, and I was able to make out what’s on the screen while using it outdoors. Sadly while the 21:9 aspect ratio is a novel concept and makes sense on paper, for most movies are made in this wide-screen format, it’s tough to find compatible content. This results in a sub-par experience as videos aren’t as immersive as they could’ve been and the apps also fail to make use of this aspect ratio. That said, the display does come in handy while scrolling through webpages, Twitter feed and reading eBooks, since the One Action is able to fit in more text than other smartphones in a single frame.

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Other than that, the Motorola One Action and One Vision are carbon copies of each other, right from their gradient finishes to the placement of buttons and ports. However, it’s worth noting that the One Action sports a polycarbonate build as compared to the use of glass in the construction of its sibling.

Under the hood, the One Action is the second smartphone from Motorola to draw power from a processor from Samsung. The Exynos 9609 is a 10nm chipset that offers two quad-core clusters clocked at 2.2GHz and 1.6GHz, respectively. Paired with 4GB RAM, the device is able to handle everything thrown at it, be it basic tasks or even intensive games. Speaking of that, the device runs PUBG at HDR graphics, and while the frame rates are little choppy, it’s playable. I also played Nitro Nation and enjoyed the experience. Sadly, the device heats up significantly within just 30 minutes of pushing it to the limits.

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On the storage side of things, the Motorola One Action gets 128GB UFS 2.1 memory, which should be more than enough to serve your needs. You can also expand it further by making use of a microSD card, though you’ll need to compromise on the dual-SIM functionality.

Another highlight of the One Action is the vanilla iteration of Android, which is the latest 9.0 Pie edition. You do get signature Motorola features however, including Moto Actions and Moto Display.

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While the One Action features a single speaker at its base, it does come with support for Dolby Atmos. Depending upon whether you are listening to music or watching movies, the Atmos tech does enhance the audio output, though the speaker isn’t as loud as I’d have liked it to be.

A 3,500mAh battery fuels Motorola’s One Action, and thanks to excellent optimisations, the device manages to last an entire day of use, if not more. In PCMark 10 battery test, the device achieved a runtime of nine hours and 13 minutes, which is slightly above average, but can’t match the phones that boast 4,000mAh or even 5,000mAh cells. Unlike the 15W Turbo Charge support on the One Vision, the handset comes with regular 10W adapter.

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Verdict

With the One Action, Motorola has managed to strike its own path in the hyper-competitive smartphone industry – offering a capable smartphone that also doubles up as an action camera. And while the “action” part is quite limiting as ultra wide-angle camera can only capture videos, and not photos, and there’s no OIS either, the device does offer something that rivals don’t. From an overall perspective, the Motorola One Action offers almost everything – an attractive design (though the punch-hole is larger than usual), a full HD+ display, decent internals, clean software experience and good battery life.

And yet, the competition is hard to ignore in this category. The newly-launched Realme 5 Pro (review) clearly beats the One Action to the punch (pun intended) by featuring a powerful chipset, a quad-camera setup at the back and a beefier battery. Then there are the likes of the Redmi Note 7 Pro (review) and Vivo’s Z1 Pro (review) that offer powerful camera capabilities and impressive battery life.

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All in all, Motorola One Action is an interesting offering and worth considering if you’re an Android purist or love shooting action videos. The fact that it’s priced Rs 6k lower than its sibling without involving too many compromises also makes it a compelling proposition.

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5

Pros

  • Good screen-to-body ratio
  • An innovative implementation for the action camera
  • Clean Android UI

Cons

  • Punch-hole is too big to be ignored
  • Lacks fast charging support

Photos by Raj Rout