Motorola Moto One initial review: Mid-ranger sports Android One

It seems to be the time of year for mid-range phones: from the HTC U12 Life to the long-rumoured Moto One. Yup, Motorola’s Android One phone is finally here. But with more powerful and cheaper phones also appearing – the excellent Honor Play being a prime example – can this Moto hold its own?

Design & Display

  • 5.9-inch LTPS LCD, 18.5:9 aspect ratio, 720 x 1520 resolution
  • Rear-facing fingerprint scanner
  • Black or white colour options
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 150 x 72 x 8mm; 162g
  • P2i water protection

Motorola is turning down a different path with the One.

Sure, it embodies many of the brand’s known signs – the batwing “M” logo within the fingerprint scanner on the rear, for example – but with a notched screen (the black-out ‘dip’ to the top of the panel), it’s a different fit within the company’s line-up.

Pocket-lintMotorola Moto One review image 10

Having been using the aforementioned Honor Play for a fortnight, handling the Moto One made the Motorola device feel almost small in the hand. At sub-8mm thick and with a 5.9-inch display it could hardly be considered dinky, rather a fitting one-handed device that’s well balanced in proportions. Thing is, it’s not especially high ranking on the specs front.

That display, while phone and a low power consuming panel, is of limited resolution. It’s just HD+, which isn’t quite up to speed for a panel of this size. At least the bezel has been kept fairly trim.

The Moto doesn’t have the ‘chin and forehead’ mass of the HTC U12 Life, for example, while there’s no front-facing fingerprint scanner to take up space either. Why the ‘motorola’ brand name is still written across the front, however, we don’t know.

Pocket-lintMotorola Moto One review image 6

Available in black or white, we saw the noir model, which has a glass rear and therefore attracts some fingerprinting. It’s not as much of a smear-magnet as the HTC though, to its credit.

Hardware, Software & Battery Life

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, microSD expansion
  • 3000mAh battery with USB-C Turbo Charge fast-charging
  • Android One operating system
  • Moto Experiences app

What really sets the One apart from its siblings – and it makes the name make even more sense – is that it runs on Google’s Android One platform.

Designed to be clean, easy-to-use and update ready – it’ll be upgrading to Android Pie soon after shipping, according to Android One’s Director – the software is free of bloat and should see everything run smoothly. It comes with free Google Photos online storage too, which is one of the perks.

Pocket-lintMotorola Moto One review image 7

Moto has just a single additional app pre-loaded, which handles the company’s ‘experiences’: Moto Display and Moto Actions handle what displays and when, or how physical actions will cause a reaction (silencing on flip, switching the torch on with a karate chop motion and so on). Nothing out of the ordinary here.

With Google in command, however, there’s no Moto Voice to be found in the One, it’ll be Google Assistant only. In terms of power the Moto One isn’t super-powerful, but it’s not lacking to the point that it’ll cause any issues during use. Thing is, with the Honor Play costing less cash and having a more powerful setup, the Moto does feel a step behind.

Pocket-lintMotorola Moto One review image 14

The One’s combination of software and hardware ought to last for a decent length of time thanks to a capacious battery and fast-charging compatibility.


  • Dual rear cameras: 13MP with f/2.0 aperture (1.12um pixels) & 2MP with f/2.4 aperture (1.75um pixels)
  • 8MP front-facing camera, f/2.2 aperture (1.12um pixels)
  • Portrait mode, Spot Colour, Cinemagraph animated GIFs

On the cameras front, the Moto One has a dual rear offering, with each camera clearly separated into its own individual circular lens to the upper left corner.

We prefer this positioning compared to the centre disc design found in the Moto G6 Plus, for example, so hopefully it spells the future of Motorola’s design department.

Pocket-lintMotorola Moto One review image 2

In terms of specs the cameras are, again, fairly middling. With a 13-megapixel main and f/2.0 fast aperture, it’s not the most capable camera that Motorola offers in its line-up. There are some fun shooting modes, though, from blurred-background Portrait, to single colour highlighting, and animated GIFs where you can freeze all of the image bar a given area (it’s called a Cinemagram).

To the front there’s an 8-megapixel snapper for selfie fans, which can also incorporate blurred-background software mode (although it doesn’t do it in the same way as the rear cameras, as there’s no depth camera up front).

First Impressions

With all the rumours around the Moto One, there was a time when we thought it would be the stand-in new flagship for the brand.

But that’s not the case, instead think of this mid-ranger as a Moto G6 Plus with a notched screen and Android One software.

Now that sees it sit in reasonably good stead, with a clean design and software arrangement, but with the likes of the Honor Play knocking on Moto’s door for even less cash, perhaps this phone ‘is notch the One’, eh?

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