(Pocket-lint) - It was hardly a secret that Motorola's first quad-camera phone, the Moto One Zoom, was due to launch at IFA 2019 - the largest tech show in Europe - which is where we first saw the device. Since then we've been living with the largest One series phone to see what it's like.
Available in purple-tinted glory - an Amazon exclusive with Alexa built-in, we've actually got the black version on review, but the purple pics are just too nice to change - the Zoom joins the recent Moto One Action and Vision handsets. But it's actually quite a different beast in terms of size, design, and to some degree, software too.
With the sub-£400 market crown currently going to Xiaomi for its superb Mi 9T Pro, does the Moto One Zoom offer the goods to compete?
Design & Screen
- 6.4-inch Full HD (2340 x 1080) OLED panel, 18:9 aspect ratio, notch
- Colours: Electric Grey, Cosmic Purple (Amazon exclusive with Alexa)
- Measures: 75 x 158 x 8.8mm / Weight: 190g
- Moto logo illuminates with notifications
- Under-screen fingerprint scanner
- Seven-layer glass design
First thing's first: the Zoom does not follow the 21:9 aspect ratio screen convention of its Action and Vision cousins. Instead, this phone's 6.4-inch panel is a more conventional 18:9 format, meaning it's wider and not as elongated overall. There's also a notch in the display - that tear-drop-like opening where the front-facing camera lives - rather than a punch-hole solution.
In short: the Zoom is a total departure from the rest of the One family. To us that feels like an oddity; to a potential buyer it will be of no conern because they're not going to have all three phones in hand at once. But it does make us think that the Zoom has been in development for longer than the series' other two models, given its nod to some design solutions that aren't as up-to-the-minute, such as the notch - although we've never been a massive fan of the huge punch-hole notch that Motorola is using, so perhaps that's been shelved while its engineers work some magic for a second-gen solution.
This wider format design might make some sense for photography purposes, especially with that large raised unit on the rear occupying rather a lot of space. Indeed, the 21:9 format probably makes better sense for all phones, and in this particular form it doesn't feel too wide. The edge design is a little flatter than, say, a Huawei P30 Pro, however, so the Moto doesn't feel quite as soft in the hand.
The Zoom's screen also comes with a built-in under-display fingerprint scanner; again, a departure from the rear-positioned scanner of its other One cousins, but a potentially higher-end solution. While in our initial review of this phone we thought that made a lot more sense, it turns out that Motorola has picked a poor solution here: it's older technology at play, so the fingerprint scanner is slow and not always reliable. Shame.
This choice of fingerprint position does mean that the Moto 'batwing' symbol to the rear has taken the opportunity to be used in a different way: it now illuminates white from an LED light when notifications come in (there's some degree of customisation here, such as which notification/charging options will permit the illumination - or it can all be switched off if you'd prefer). It's not a full colour LED array like the Razer Phone 2, but then this Moto isn't punching at such high levels really. It's a bit of fun, but doesn't feel that necessary and only really draws more attention to that big camera protrusion to the rear.
The purple model showing in these photos is an Amazon exclusive, with built-in Alexa voice control from the off. It's a subtle purple, not quite as 'Cosmic' as its marketing name might suggest, but we think it's a lot of fun. The finish of either design is layered glass, which has a horizontal-run visual texture through it for greater visual interest - and which shows most prominently on the grey/black model.
The screen itself, at 6.4-inches, is a rather large diagonal, the kind of scale that's on par with the current crop of flagships out there. It's an OLED panel, so think deep black and popping colours, with a Full HD+ resolution that's crisp enough - we don't think more resolution in phones is typically of great value unless there's a specific reason for it.
Unfortunately the Zoom continues to be overzealous with auto-dimming, just like other One models, making for total dim-out moments while playing games of watching content. At its lowest brightness the screen also has an unusual red caste.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, 4GB RAM
- 4,000mAh battery, 15W TurboPower charging
- 128GB storage
We moved into the Moto Zoom and made it our home, treating it as our day-to-day phone for some time to see how it performed.
Under the hood is a Snapdragon 675 processor, which isn't the flagship form that you'll find in something like a similar-price Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, but isn't a low-spec as 630-series that you'll see in cheaper Moto G series phones either. From our use, we think it's a pretty savvy choice too. You need to ask yourself: do you really need the latest, greatest and priciest of processors? Once we would have said it was almost a must, but now even mid-level processors such as this are really capable.
Never have we run into any serious issues with the One Zoom during use - well, ignoring some weird auto-rotation killing graphics in a game once the screen goes into automatic saver mode - so you'll be able to plug away all the browsing, emailing, socialising and casual gaming that you need. Even decent games run just fine; our South Park: Phone Destroyer sessions have gone without a hitch.
The thing that really helps this phone run smoothly is the Android software. Oddly, however, this isn't Android One (as per the One Vision and One Action, as the namesake of the One series phones would suggest. Anyway, it's not a major bother as the differences between the two are so slight anyway.
All that Moto adds to the software beyond Google's usual operation is one app - called 'Moto', unsurprisingly - which handles Actions, Display and Voice for physical action-reaction controls, always-on and notifications (which we think the illuminated batwing logo should appear in - but doesn't), and Google Assistant-like voice control.
Actions controls action-reaction options, such as shake to switch on the flashlight. We tend to turn these off, as they can override and disrupt other in-app functions of like-for-like format. But having the option there is a nicety and certainly not a bother, unlike some of the ultra-heavy installs of other competitor phones. Here's where the Moto is above and beyond the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro, even though the former isn't as powerful it's no major bother.
Pairing such a processor choice with a capacious 4,000mAh battery also helps to keep the battery life flowing. We've found the One Zoom to go on for hours at a charge - easily to the end of the day and into the next if you're not too heavy on the use. This is all helped along by the not-over-intensive processor and sensible screen resolution, bringing good balance to battery life.
And if you do game for eight hours straight and need a top-up then Moto now includes fast-charging at 15W. Not the fastest going in the market by any means, but even just half an hour or so at the plug can go a long way in little time.
- Quad rear cameras:
- 48MP main (f/1.7, OIS), Quad Pixel technology
- ultra-wide angle (117-degrees, 16MP)
- depth sensor (5MP), portrait mode
- 3x optical zoom (8MP, OIS)
- 25MP (f/2.0) front-facing selfie camera
But the real deal with the Moto One Zoom is, of course, its quad camera solution. This is similar to the Huawei P30 Pro in its aspirations, marrying a standard, wide, optical zoom and depth sensor into one package. Well, it's more Mate 20 Pro-like, given the Moto's optical zoom is a 3x.
There's some quality stuff in the camera arrangement here too. The main lens is the same 48MP Samsung-sourced sensor that Moto uses in the Vision, which uses four-in-one pixels for quality 12MP output. There's also a multi-exposure Night Mode for hand-held shots in low-light or night conditions to bring out more detail and exposure.
Importantly this sensor is optically stabilised, as is the 3x optical zoom sensor which joins it. This longer zoom isn't the quickest to focus in the app, while the 8MP output from that extended view - which makes farther-away subjects look closer in shots - can't provide the quite the same high-level of quality. Still, it's none too sad for a mid-level phone.
The wide-angle (at 0.5x), which is becoming more commonplace in phones, opens the angle of view out by considerable proportions, squeezing in four times more than the higher-resolution standard lens. Great for wide scenes, even if the corners will blur somewhat.
Last of the four is the depth sensor, which is used to inform software about how far subjects are within a frame, which aids the portrait mode to separate backgrounds and blur them for a more pro-looking shot. It works ok, but not perfectly, as is typical of such cameras.
Overall the Camera app is a little slow to flick between shooting modes and such like, but its capture ability and the results from the main camera are solid. It's not going to beat the current top crop of flagships, but given the near-to-£400 price point, having such a wide variety of cameras is a real attraction.
Plus the front-facing sensor's 25-megapixel resolution also uses four-in-one output for 6-megapixel snaps at greater quality (full resolution capture is available if you'd prefer).
Although the Moto One Zoom feels like a departure from the growing One family - it's a wider build, it's ditched Android One for full-fat Android, and there's an in-screen fingerprint scanner (which isn't very good) - it's also largely a success for all that it offers.
Key to the Zoom's spec is, but of course, its quad camera setup. Although far from the first device to offer this, its cameras are fairly accomplished - well, the main one is for sure. That's a compelling proposition for this £379 suggested asking price.
So what's not to like? Well, it's really what else is out there. If you want to go notch-free and get more power still then Xiaomi's Mi 9T Pro is a bargain that's hard to ignore. It doesn't have a camera bump quite as ferocious as the Moto's either.
All said, the Moto One Zoom is a fairly affordable phone with solid cameras, decent battery life, smooth operation and a large screen.
This article was first published on the 5 September 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status.
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
No notch to be seen here because - and despite its price point - the Mi 9T Pro has a pop-up camera, allowing that screen to remain big, bold and free of interruptions. Perhaps more impressive, however, is that Xiaomi has squeezed in Qualcomm's top-dog processor - and for only an extra £20 over the Moto's asking price. It's an impressive package, even if the software irks a bit.