Motorola jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon, heavily discounting a long list of phones. The recently-launched Motorola One, the phone you’re reading about right now, has been reduced to only £200 – that’s £90 off the original price.
Not sure if the Motorola One is the right phone for you? Our original review continues below.
With phone prices steadily creeping up year by year, the border between budget and mid-range handsets is constantly shifting. As the spiritual successor to the mighty Moto G6 Plus, Motorola’s latest handset, the Motorola One, edges narrowly into the borderlands of budget territory. In 2018, where flagships now routinely cost the best part of £1,000, £269 can be (just about) considered small change.
Initially revealed at IFA 2018 in Berlin, the One didn’t receive the most favourable of introductions. Those at the launch event, myself included, had been expecting the Motorola One Power, which had leaked some weeks before, and we were disappointed when we learned that the Power was going to be an India exclusive.
Though more ordinary than its India-only namesake, which has a 6.2in display and a gargantuan 5,000 mAh battery, the Motorola One is no smartphone chump; with outstanding battery life and Android One software updates, it looks on paper to be a formidable budget option.
Motorola One review: What you need to know
The Motorola One is the closest thing we’ve seen to a Motorola Moto G6 Plus follow-up. It’s the same price as Moto G6 Plus was upon launch, has the same 5.9in display size and, like its predecessor, also packs dual rear cameras. Unfortunately, one thing has changed for the worse: it now has a sub-par screen resolution of 1,500 by 720, which puts it a rung below the Full HD display of the G6 Plus.
On board, the Motorola One is an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor (the Moto G6 Plus had a Snapdragon 630), 4GB RAM and 64GB storage which is expandable up to 256GB. The software here is Android 8.1, but it’s also an Android One phone; the Motorola One will receive Google’s monthly security updates and will continue to see OS refreshes until Android 10.
Motorola One review: Price and competition
At £269 the Motorola One hits exactly the same price as the Moto G6 Plus, putting it right on the border between the budget and mid-range categories. There’s more than enough here to justify that price tag, but it’s important to consider what you could get for the same amount.
Obviously, there’s the Moto G6 Plus, a very similar phone in terms of size and specs, but that doesn’t come with Android One – and as you’ll find out later on in this review, its battery can’t go the distance with the Motorola One. Honor’s affordable flagship, the Honor Play is a worthy contender in the CPU and graphics department; it’s only a tenner more than the Motorola One and definitely worth considering.
Though over a year old, the Samsung Galaxy A5 from 2017 is another fantastic option in the £200-£300 bracket. While it launched at £369 it has since dropped in price to under £250 on Amazon. That’s an incredible bargain for a smartphone with an AMOLED Full HD display. While the speeds of its Exynos 7880 may lag a tiny bit behind, it makes up for it with its battery life, which leaves its rivals in the dust.
Motorola One review: Design
This is a boring device to look at. You wouldn’t call it ugly, but it’s not going to set any pulses racing. My review sample came in a plain black finish, but there’s also a white version available. The slick, glassy back of the Motorola One gets grubby pretty fast, so I’d expect this to be worse on the white models.
The face of the phone is spoiled by a prominent notch. This gives the top of the phone a crowded appearance because the display notifications get bunched up either side of it. The chin bezel bears the Motorola name, but there’s no home button; that’s found in the on-screen nav-bar.
The left edge of the phone holds the SIM and microSD slot, while the right contains the power and volume functions. On the back, Motorola has ditched the quirky circular camera housing seen on the Moto G6 and G6 Plus, instead shunting the dual cameras and flash into the top left corner. The fingerprint reader, which doubles as the Motorola logo, is centrally placed about two-thirds of the way up.
You’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, and the micro USB charging port and speakers are at the bottom. Although there are grilles either side of the micro USB slot, only the ones on the right-hand side produce any sound – cover them up and you won’t hear a thing.
Now, this is more of a personal preference, but I don’t especially like the ‘hand-feel’ of the Motorola One. The way the sides meet with the front and rear of the phone’s metal casing is a bit ragged, as if the seams haven’t been pressed together correctly. It’s a minor niggle, absolutely, but it’s not something I’ve noticed often on other handsets.
Motorola One review: Display
As disappointments go, the Motorola One’s 1,520 x 720 IPS display is a big one; any phone at this price really ought to have a Full HD screen. Even the £220 Moto G6 managed that much. In a bizarre game of one-upmanship, Motorola has gone for a 19:9 aspect ratio, which allows you to “see more” than on the 18:9 screens seen on most phones in 2018. Watching YouTube videos and browsing the web in Chrome, I can’t say I noticed the difference.
There are two display modes on the Motorola One: standard and vibrant. The latter simply enhances the saturation of every colour on screen, but whether or not it looks better is up for debate. I tested both modes for colour accuracy and gamut coverage, and the results were nigh on identical.
Both modes produce just under 82% of the sRGB colour gamut and oversaturate the same colours. The standard mode’s Delta E was marginally better at 3.71 compared to the vibrant’s 4.09, meaning higher accuracy, but it could definitely be better – the Moto G6 Plus certainly was.
On the bright side, a measured maximum luminance of 460 cd/m2 means that the Motorola One is nice and vivid in all lighting conditions. There will be no squinting at Google Maps while out and about with this phone, that’s for sure.
Motorola One review: Performance and battery life
To my pleasant surprise, the Motorola One outdid the Motorola Moto G6 Plus in our GeekBench CPU tests despite being powered by a technically inferior processor. The G6 Plus runs on a Snapdragon 630, but the Snapdragon 625 of the Motorola One achieved slightly faster speeds in this instance. Only slightly, mind you.
If you want fast, the real winner here is the Honor Play. As demonstrated by the CPU chart above, it flew past its competition with multi-core speeds of 6,542 to the Motorola One’s 4,385.
In GFXBench, the Motorola One was able to play the Manhattan graphics benchmark tests at 18fps in the on-screen tests and 10fps in the off-screen tests. That puts it ahead of the Moto G6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy A5, but the improvement is so small that it won’t translate into a better gaming experience. The Honor Play wins this round too, cranking out an impressive 48fps in on-screen and 47fps in off-screen tests. Its potential as a gaming machine was its primary selling point, and if that’s what you’re after then it does a much better job.
Last but not least comes battery life, which many might argue is the most important test of all. Here, the Motorola One goes for broke: it lasted a full 17hrs 30mins in our standardised video playback test, which is no mean feat. For reference, even the £1,000 iPhone Xs Max only made it 12hrs 45mins. Only the herculean Samsung Galaxy A5 lasts significantly longer, playing continuous video for over 22hrs.
Motorola One review: Camera
While some manufacturers are going crazy with triple and quadruple camera setups on their mid-range phones, Motorola is perfectly content to stick with just two.
The rear camera is a 13MP f/2.0 backed up by a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor camera. You get video recording up to a maximum resolution of 2K at 30fps, or HD at up to 60fps. Pretty standard fare, then.
According to Motorola, the camera software in the Motorola One is its most “advanced” so far. Flick through the features, though and there’s nothing really new apart from a ‘Cinemagraph’ tool. This allows you to create your very own gifs, but while novel, it’s far too fiddly to be fun.
Google Lens comes pre-installed with the Motorola One and can be accessed directly from the camera software with the touch of a button. Thankfully you can get rid of it with a tap in the camera settings. Again, Motorola seems oddly proud of this Google Lens inclusion, but since it can be downloaded for free on any Android phone it’s hardly worth crowing about.
Though nothing spectacular, the HDR camera quality of the Motorola One’s photos is pretty good. I pitted it against the camera on the Sony Xperia XA2 and, as you’ll see in the image comparisons, it’s like night and day, especially in the dark indoor conditions. Where the XA2’s snaps appear dull and lifeless (borderline black and white, in parts) the Motorola One photos have vibrancy, decent colour separation, and a minimal amount of image noise.
Motorola One review: Software
Android One isn’t as special or as complicated as Google makes it out to be. What it boils down to is simple: you get monthly security updates and guaranteed software updates for two years after the phone’s release.
This means that, although it comes with Android 8.1 out of the box, the Motorola One will get updates all the way up to Android 10. Essentially, that’s one of the main reasons you’d choose this phone over any other similar budget handset. If you’re playing the long game, the Motorola One is a safe bet.
Besides Android One, there isn’t a lot else to say about the software of the Motorola One. The typical Google apps come pre-installed, all your pictures and videos are stored in Google Photos by default, and there’s a Moto app which teaches you how to perform Moto Actions shortcuts. Long-term Motorola lovers will be pleased to hear that the “double karate chop” torch function is back, too.
Motorola One review: Verdict
Is the Motorola One a major improvement on the Motorola Moto G6 Plus? No, not especially. I’m not a huge fan of the notched display, but it’s the non-HD resolution which irks me most. For a £269 smartphone, in 2018, it’s disappointing.
That said, the Motorola One does have plenty to recommend it. Camera quality is good, battery life is outstanding, and its performance is about right for the price too.
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