Hands on: Motorola One Action review

Like a Moto G, but better

What is a hands on review?
Motorola One Action

Early Verdict

Motorola continues to impress us with its budget handsets, and the Motorola One Action looks to take a lot of what makes the Moto G7 great and pack it into a slightly better looking body with an improved camera.

For

  • Impressive screen
  • Latest software

Against

  • Not waterproof
  • 21:9 display not for everyone

Motorola is a specialist in budget phones, and while handsets like the Moto Z4 continue to innovate at the high-end of the market, its main focus remains on cheaper handsets like the Moto G7 family.

Alongside the Moto G7, the company has introduced the Motorola One Action. This is a handset that costs a bit more than the Moto G handsets, but tries to offer a bit more for that added cost in a slightly more premium form.

We’ve had the time to try out the One Action for ourselves, and below we have our first thoughts on the new phone and what it offers you.

Motorola One Action release date and price

You can buy the Motorola One Action in the UK and other countries in Europe now. In the UK, the phone is on sale from a variety of retailers including Argos, John Lewis and Amazon, but it’s a different story for those in the US.

The handset won’t be available until October there, and we’ve yet to learn whether the phone will ever be available in Australia.

As for the price, it’s set to cost £219 (about $265, AU$390) in the UK and we’ve yet to get official confirmation on the prices for those in the US. This is unlikely to be a phone most people buy on contract, and we’ve yet to hear of any contract details.

Design and display

The Moto One Action is a long phone thanks to its 21:9 aspect ratio display. If you’ve got smaller hands, it may be a struggle to reach all around this display, but we found it sat comfortably in the palm of our hand.

The front of the phone is mostly covered by the display which is a 6.3-inch Full HD screen. That makes it 423 pixels per inch. Its screen to body ratio is only 84%, and that’s mostly because there’s a small chin along the bottom of the phone that houses the Motorola logo.

Motorola One Action

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Motorola’s display technology here seems vibrant, and it’s an impactful display that is suitable for watching TV shows or navigating around the phone's user interface.

You shouldn’t expect the best phone screen you’ve ever seen, but considering the price of this device we were quite surprised with how good it looks.

The front-facing camera is in a cut-out on the top left of the display, which you may love or hate as a design choice. This is an alternative to having a notch, and some believe having the camera tucked away to the side makes the screen look better overall.

The body of the Motorola One Action itself feels more premium than Motorola’s other budget handsets, but as with the specs of this phone you shouldn’t expect it to feel great on your palms as it isn’t the best that money can buy.

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(Image credit: TechRadar)
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(Image credit: TechRadar)

The design is IPX2 water resistant, so this isn’t going to survive a drop in a swimming pool, meaning you’ll want to be careful with it when you’re around water.

It weighs in at 176 grams, which is around what you’d expect for a phone of this type, and it has dimensions of 160 x 71 x 9.15mm.

You’ve got the choice of Denim Blue or Pearl White for the phone in the UK, and some markets around the world are likely to get an Aqua Teal version of the handset too.

OS and specs

Motorola One Action

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Motorola One Action comes with the latest Android 9 Pie software on board, and Motorola has kept it looking slimline with relatively few changes on top of the software. Motorola has added a few extra apps, but the phone is part of the Android One program.

That means the software is close to stock Android and you’re guaranteed to get software updates on the phone for at least two years, as well as security upgrades for the next three years. We’ll dig further into the software and how it works at the time of our full review.

We’ve had a limited time to test out the power behind the One Action, but it seems to work well in our time trying out the phone. It has a Samsung Exynos 9609 chipset inside, which is paired with 4GB of RAM.

That should be enough to play a variety of games and access all of the features you’d expect on the phone, but it’s not going to be a top-end experience like you may expect from some high-end devices.

One big surprise is that there’s 128GB of storage in this handset as standard, and if you need more you can get microSD cards up to 512GB to put inside it.

Camera and battery

Motorola One Action

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The battery inside the Motorola One Action is a 3,500mAh cell, which should be strong enough to power this handset through a solid day. It also comes with a 10W rapid charger in the box, which will allow you to pump it full of extra battery at moderate speeds.

We’ll be sure to properly test how the battery works on the One Action in our upcoming full review.

The camera is where Motorola has put a lot of its effort in the One Action. It’s a triple-lens rear shooter that combines a 12MP main camera with a 5MP depth sensor for bokeh effects.

But there’s also an action camera among the lenses, which is designed to film video. All video is filmed directly through this camera, and it allows you to film in landscape orientation even when you’re holding the phone in portrait.

That means you’ll be able to get a landscape video shot without having to hold your phone in an uncomfortable way. It’s an interesting idea, and something we enjoyed testing during our short time with the handset.

There wasn’t any noticeable drop in quality when filming like this, and watching back the video made it looked like it was filmed in the normal landscape orientation.

Motorola’s front camera for this handset meanwhile is a 12MP shooter that seemed to be capable enough for the average selfie.

Early verdict

Motorola One Action

(Image credit: TechRadar)

While there’s nothing groundbreaking on the Moto One Action, it seems to be a solidly built handset for those who are looking for a strong budget choice that offers something more fashionable than the Moto G7 family.

We’ll have to wait for our full review before we can give a final verdict, but at first look this seems to be another success from Motorola in the cheaper phone market.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.