Motorola One review: One perplexing Android

Motorola One

Intro

The motorola One. On one hand, it’s great to see that Motorola is not out of the game just yet. On the other, it’s rather disappointing to see them return to the Malaysian market with a conundrum of a device that is the motorola One.

Much like Vernon, I too have a soft spot for Motorola; my very first smartphone was the Motorola DEFY released back in 2010. Prior to that, I rocked the Motorola E398. So, to see it fall so far from its once comfy perch, just saddens me.

Let’s not digress any longer and get on with the review of the Motorola One.

Motorola Droid MAXX HDDesign & Build

Motorola used to be known for devices that had extraordinary designs. From the iconic flip phone that is the RAZR to the tank-like RAZR MAXX and also the highly customisable moto X, they stood out and weren’t afraid to be different, which was one of the reasons why I loved Motorola phones.

So, to see the One up close and personal left me wanting. The device’s design hardly impressed me at all as it just seems like any other 2018 smartphone. It has glass on the back and the front, a notch and a dual camera array on the back. The only thing that makes it a little different is the capacitive fingerprint scanner that sports the iconic “M” logo. If you remove that, you will get a fairly generic device that have well been from anybody else.

Similar to the many other budget devices, the One’s chassis is made of polycarbonate and thus makes it feel a little cheap. On the flip side though, this makes the device weigh only 162g and combined with its 5.9-inch display, handling this phone and using it one-handed was super comfortable for someone like me with relatively small hands. I didn’t have to do any finger gymnastics to reach the top or the sides of the device when operating it.

Motorola OneSpeaking of the display, the One sports a 5.9-inch LTPS IPS LCD Max Vision display that has a HD+ (1520×720) resolution. As mentioned, it also comes with a fairly wide notch and a sizeable chin at the bottom. Bezels are quite thin so you do have a good amount of screen real estate.

Motorola OneOther nice touches of the One includes a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack up on top and a triple card tray that supports two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card simultaneously. Also, while it isn’t fully IP-rated, it is P2i-certified splash-proof so it can handle a sprinkle of water.

Motorola OneHardware

So, the design of the One was a bit of a hit and miss for me but what was a real dealbreaker had to be the internals of the device. I echo sentiments of Vernon in his first impressions post as the One is fighting a losing battle due to the fact that it uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625; not the newer Snapdragon 636 or 660AIE, which are being used by most mid-range devices in the market. Factor in the fact that devices like the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 or Realme 2 Pro cost just a tad more, you realise how quickly the One loses its appeal.

Motorola OneThe One only comes in one variant–4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Again, it’s not better when compared to the competition. It’s also a good thing that the device comes with a triple card slot that supports microSD cards up to 256GB.

To keep the device up and running, it has a 3,000mAh battery, which again isn’t much of a selling point. However, it does support 15W TurboPower charging.

Motorola OneWhen it comes to the cameras, the One sports a 13MP main shooter that has an aperture of f/2.0 and a secondary 2MP depth sensor. As for the selfie camera, it gets an 8MP camera with a f/2.2 aperture supported by a single flash.

Connectivity wise, the One doesn’t stray too far off from most phones today in that it supports Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, 2.4GHz or 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, AGPS, GLONASS and Galileo. The one up it has against other mid-range devices is the fact that it supports NFC, which isn’t something many of us use but still a “good to have” feature.

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Software

Motorola has long had a history of keeping Android as vanilla as it can be. Sure, they throw a few tweaks here and there but for the most part, it’s Android as Google intends it to be. With the One, Motorola has opted to give users the Android One experience, which to me is where this device truly shines.

If you like your Android smartphones free of bloatware and snappy, then you really can’t go wrong with the motorola One. It’s consistently smooth although I have noticed a few jitters and lag on and off when I multitask but this is probably due to the dated Snapdragon 625.

Motorola One

The only little customisation Motorola have fitted into the One are two quite useful features. The first being Moto Actions. These are two simple gestures that help users to get to the camera and turn on the flashlight easily. While holding the phone, all you have to do is a double chopping motion to activate the flashlight and twist your wrist twice to get to the camera.

As for the second feature I like, it’s Moto Display. It works someone like an Always-on Display found on higher-end smartphones with an OLED display but since the One is using and LCD display, it only shows when there’s a new notification or when the phone detects it has been picked up. Then from there, you can tap and hold on the icons to “peek” at the new notifications you have received.

Performance

Now when it comes down to performance, the combination of the Snapdragon 625, 4GB of RAM and Android One does a decent job of keeping up with my type of usage. As mentioned, 90 percent of the time, it’s really smooth and snappy. But seeing as my actual daily driver is a smartphone with a Snapdragon 845, I did notice a vast difference in animation speeds in apps such as YouTube especially after jumping to the top of the videos list after scrolling about 20 videos down.

Gaming performance is also where the Snapdragon 625 suffers. For example, Asphalt 9 isn’t supported so I couldn’t test the phone out using my standard range of games. However, games like Sky Force Reloaded, Major Mayhem 2 and Dead Trigger 2 actually ran really smoothly. As for Into the Dead 2, I had to lower down the graphics settings because the game would lag even in the menus if I set it to the highest quality. On a more surprising note, Injustice 2 actually ran decently albeit with a little input delay and lag. It was still sort of playable.

Motorola One benchmarksMotorola One benchmarksThere’s also nothing much to write home about when it came to the scores it produced in synthetic benchmarks. It would have been good if we were still in 2017.

If you do consume plenty of multimedia on your smartphone, the One also does just alright in this regard. The display gets very bright and produces natural colours but due to its 720p resolution, images and texts just aren’t as sharp as they should be. The bottom firing speaker can get quite loud at maximum setting but it is easily blocked by fingers especially in landscape mode. So, using your headphones to watch videos would be highly recommended.

Battery performance of the One, though, was actually really good for me. Again, I am not a very heavy user and on a daily basis, I usually rely on my device for messaging on Whatsapp and Telegram, reading articles on Bleacher Report or the internet, streaming music on Spotify over Bluetooth for about an hour, watching videos on YouTube for about an hour as well and with some gaming in between.

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With this kind of usage, the 3,000mAh battery usually had about 40-50% of battery left. My standard Screen On Time would range between four to five hours. Most of the time, my days begin at 8.30am and end at 12am. On less “hectic” days, the phone actually had about 70% of battery left before I called it a night. So if you’re a very light user, the One could last you a full day or more.

If you do find yourself running low on juice though, TurboPower charging should get you back up to full in no time. In just about two hours, it managed to charge up 60% of juice, which I think is really nice.

Camera

Once again, the camera is another area where the One really doesn’t do well compared to the competition. To be honest, it isn’t horrible. In good lighting, photos weren’t too bad with fairly accurate colours, sharpness and dynamic range. As always, it’s when it gets darker that the camera totally goes to crap. Colours are washed out, details are smudgy and overall images are blurry.

Motorola One sample photoInstead of the stock Google Camera app though, Motorola have thrown in their own camera app, which comes with some very nifty features such as the spot colour model and Cinemagraph. The former lets you choose a particular colour and then isolating it while the rest of the image turns black and white. The latter is also fun as it lets you choose which parts of the image you want to animate, so you can create a GIF of sorts.

Motorola One sample photoThere’s also a dedicated portrait mode which makes use of the secondary 2MP camera. Portrait mode is actually quite well done as edge detection was quite accurate. What’s nice about Motorola’s implementation of portrait mode is the ability to choose how blurry you want the background to be with a slider.

Motorola One sample photo

The front-facing 8MP camera is average at best and images do look okay in decent lighting but with a little hand shake, photos got blurred quite easily.

Last but not least, when it comes to video, the One is able to record videos at [email protected], which is quite surprising for a device of its price range . It even supports Electronic Image Stabilisation for smoother and less jittery photos. Overall, video quality was actually quite good in terms of audio and image quality.

Motorola OneIn the box

  • Motorola One unit
  • USB-C 15W TurboPower charger
  • USB Type-A to Type-C charge cable
  • Headphones
  • Protective cover
  • Screen protector
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Manual and warranty documentation

Pros

  • Android One is clean and snappy
  • Moto functions
  • Easy and comfortable to handle
  • NFC
  • Battery life is great
  • TurboPower charging
  • Triple card tray

Cons

  • Dated CPU
  • Camera is just okay
  • Plasticky build quality

Verdict

The Motorola One isn’t a horrible smartphone by any means but compared to the competition such as the Redmis, Realmes and ZenFone Max Pros of the world, it’s a lacklustre offering. Those devices come in at almost the same price point yet offer a lot more in terms of value, be it higher resolution cameras, bigger capacity batteries or even more RAM and storage space.

If the Motorola One had been released say a year or two ago, I would recommend it easily to anyone due to its good battery life, snappy performance and Android One experience. But in 2019, there are just so many other devices that give you a better bang for your buck.

Pricing and availability

The Motorola One retails for MYR799 and is available for purchase exclusively on Shopee. For more info, check out the Motorola One product page.

Contents

SUMMARY & RESULTS

The Motorola One is by no means a bad Android smartphone. It has snappy performance, good battery life and guaranteed two years of major updates with Android One. However, compared to the competition, it just isn't a very compelling device in terms of overall features and price point.

3.2

One perplexing Android

Review

  • Design + build

  • Hardware

  • Software

  • Performance

  • Pricing + value for money

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  • Loves tech but loves gaming and writing more. Is on a constant journey to learn new things and being a tech writer is his current new thing.

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