Not long after the arrival of the Moto One Vision, Motorola is quick out of the blocks with yet another phone in the family: the Moto One Action.
To look at both phones appear much the same, with elongated 21:9 aspect ratio. But the Action has one big difference: not only does it feature a triple rear camera system, one of those cameras is dedicated to video only.
Why one dedicated to moving images? Well, Moto has turned the sensor by 90-degrees, meaning you can hold the phone vertically to capture horizontal format clips, meaning greater comfort for capture with the correct orientation as a result. Is it a genius move or one that today's vertical video generation won't care for?
Design & Display
- 6.3-inch 21:9 aspect ratio LCD screen (Full HD+ resolution: 2160 × 1440)
- Dimensions: 160.1 x 71.2 x 9.15mm / Weight: 176g
- Two finishes: Denim Blue / Pearl White
- Punch-hole front-facing camera
Front-on and the Moto One Action has the same face as the Vision: it's a 6.3-inch LCD panel with a 21:9 aspect ratio, meaning it's a lot taller than many other phones on the market. The idea is to match said ultra-wide format content, some of which you can get on Netflix, for example, but as it's not a given standard we find the phone feels a bit too long. It's very easy to hold though, given the limited width.
There aren't that many other 21:9 screens on the market at present, so the Moto One family seems to be forging its own path. Sony does also have a rival in the Xperia 10 Plus, but that's got bigger 'chin and forehead' bezels and is much pricier overall. This Moto is just £219, putting it in the same territory as the Moto G7 - which is perhaps a little confusing.
The Action continues down the line of punch-hole camera to the front, meaning there's no notch or massive bezel. However, as we said of the first implementation of this, the circular opening for this camera is massive - especially compared to its rivals, such as the Honor 20. Moto says this is for stability, to avoid the screen cracking under pressure.
Elsewhere the Vision is fairly complete for a mid-range phone for its asking price. It offers a 3.5mm headphone jack, so no compromise there, while the fingerprint scanner can be found nestled in the Moto 'batwing' symbol to the rear, recessed nicely so that it's easy to find and use.
Colour finishes come in two options - blue or white - with some subtle markings and dottings if you look up real close, but that otherwise won't be noticed. The rear camera unit doesn't stick out too far and squeezes those three lenses in close together, which is the way to do it - it's far less disruptive than the Honor 20 Pro's implementation, for example.
Spec & Performance
- Samsung Exynos processor (9609), 4GB RAM, 128GB storage
- 3500mAh battery capacity, USB-C recharging
- Android One stock software
- Moto Display/Actions app
Under the hood and Motorola continues with its interesting choice of chipset: it's Exynos, from Samsung, not the typical Qualcomm or MediaTek. In this instance, the octa-core 2.2GHz processor is the Exynos 9609, which is the same as found in the One Vision; a tweaked version of what you'll find in the Samsung Galaxy A80.
And this is good news, as the Vision performed rather well, with the Action set to follow the same path. The processor, paired with 4GB RAM, is adept enough to handle day-to-day tasks without any issues. Don't think of it as a RAM-packed flagship that'll do everything in a blink, but it's also not the clunky kind of performance that you'll get from the HTC Desire 12S.
A lot of this is perhaps down to the software: the One Vision runs on Google's Android One platform, which is a tried-and-tested approach from Google itself. There's only one extra app from Moto to handle Gestures, Actions and Display, but that's otherwise it. That keeps everything smooth, avoiding confusing pre-installed apps and the like too.
For a narrow-body phone such as this to squeeze in a 3,5000mAh battery is pretty good going too. Expect it to get you through a day, just don't expect it to get you through two like, say, the Asus Zenfone 6.
That triple camera setup
- Rear triple cameras:
- 16MP 117-degree video only (2.0um, f/2.2) with Quad Pixel technology
- 12MP standard (1.25um, f/1.8)
- 5MP depth sensor
- Front: 12MP front-facing selfie camera, punch-hole implementation
- Portrait, Cinemagraph, Spot Color modes
The big sell of the Action is its triple rear camera setup. This isn't the most comprehensive selection of sensors that Moto has ever used, however, given the price point - instead it's more a focus on points of difference. Really, the Action has a single rear camera that's paired with a depth sensor for better blurred-background portrait shots. This camera is a 16MP unit, not the 48MP one as found in the Moto One Vision. That's a large part of where the Action's lower price point comes from, then.
However, the dedicated video camera, which is 16MP, does use the same Quad Pixel pixel-binning technology. That means four 'pixels' will make up a single one, helping to produce sharper results. The maximum resolution output is Full HD (1080p), in either 16:9 or the elongated 21:9 format (the former also available at 60fps, the latter not).
That video camera is a really interesting idea too. Hold the phone vertically, hit record, and you'll see the capture in horizontal format on the screen (looking tiny, it has to be said). Will people be on board with that?
All we can ever think of is the hilarious Glove and Boots YouTube video about VVS (Vertical Video Syndrome), mocking those who shoot vertical videos. That was from 2012 - and even then the commentary recognises that some people "just don't care". Some seven years on - and increasing numbers of apps supporting unusual formats, such as Insta and Facebook - we wonder if people care even less. And turning a phone by 90-degrees really isn't that hard.
Perhaps the bigger success of this video camera is that it offers a wide angle of view - 117-degrees, a much broader field of view than the standard 78-degree camera - and also has dedicated electronic stabilisation to smooth out results (although you should really consider buying a DJI Osmo Mobile 3 gimbal if you're big into vlogging).
The Moto One Action brings unique thought to video capture, with its 90-degree rotated sensor, making it an interesting proposition - although one that, for those who really care about video orientation and who will simply turn their phones, is arguably overkill.
Where the Moto One Action has impressed us more is with its overall offering. This is an affordable phone, one that's well designed, with a smooth software experience, ample processing power and 21:9 aspect ratio screen.
For the asking price the One Action has got the guts to take on increasingly successful Chinese brands - think Redmi Note 7 and similar - and, you know what, this Moto can stand tall as a result. Gimmicky lead feature or not, the rest of this phone's feature set stands up to scrutiny.