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motorola one action review

Motorola One Action review: Action camera hero or budget flop?

Motorola's Android One device brings a GoPro-like action camera to a budget smartphone.

Published onOctober 1, 2021

Motorola One Action

Motorola's experimental budget phone doesn’t entirely stick the landing, but if you want a cheap handset with smooth performance, clean software, and a quirky, GoPro-like video camera, the Motorola One Action is well worth a look.

What we like

Action camera is good fun
Stylish looks
Smooth performance
Great price
Android One is still ace

What we don't like

Awkwardly long display
Massive punch hole
Only IPX2 rated
Mediocre main camera
Average battery life

Motorola One Action

Motorola's experimental budget phone doesn’t entirely stick the landing, but if you want a cheap handset with smooth performance, clean software, and a quirky, GoPro-like video camera, the Motorola One Action is well worth a look.
This device is no longer widely available. The Motorola Moto One Action is now unavailable to buy from most retailers. If you are looking for an alternative device, check out our list of the best Android phones you can buy and the best Motorola phones.

Up until very recently, Motorola had fallen behind some of its rivals in the flagship arena, but its budget phones have been going strong for years. One of the more recent affordable handsets from the Lenovo-owned company is the Motorola One Action.

Related: Motorola Edge Plus review: Not perfect, but on par

With so many cheap Motorola phones now on the market, you might be wondering what’s so different about the Motorola One Action, and whether it’s worth a purchase. Find out in Android Authority’s Motorola One Action review!

Motorola One Action
Update, July 13, 2020: Added new alternatives and changed price to reflect recent reductions.

What is the Motorola One Action?

motorola one action review display

The Motorola One Action is a member of the ever-expanding Motorola One range. The product family kicked off with the Motorola One and Motorola One Power in 2018.

Things picked up for the One series in 2019 with the arrival of the pretty decent Motorola One Vision and then the Motorola One Action. Originally priced at $349 in the US, you can now buy it for $249 direct from Motorola or from Amazon. The cheapest phone in the Motorola One family goes for £199 in the UK.

Unlike Motorola’s other mid-to-budget phone family, the perennially popular and mostly straightforward Moto G series, the lower-end Motorola One phones have their own unique gimmicks and all run Android One. For some reason, the Motorola One Hyper, One Zoom, One Macro, and One Fusion run skinned software. Go figure.

The One Action’s big trick is in its name. Rather than loading the phone with regular video recording hardware, the One Action has a dedicated video shooter inspired by action cameras like the GoPro.

How good is the “Action” camera?

The Motorola One Action’s “action” camera is a 16MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and a 117-degree field of view.

In an interesting move, Motorola has flipped the entire lens by 90 degrees, meaning you can shoot landscape video while holding the phone in portrait mode. If this sounds like it’d be a bit weird, well, it is.

The strangest thing about using the action camera is seeing landscape video recording on your phone in such a small viewfinder window.

If you can get past that, though, being able to record wide-angle video without needing to flip your phone or use two hands is kind of great. This is especially useful if you’re out running or adventuring and want to grab some high-action shots.

The camera maxes out at Full HD resolution at up to 60fps. You also have the option to shoot in 21:9 to match the One Action’s display. In addition, the camera is bolstered by some impressive electronic stabilization tech which keeps video nice and smooth even if your hands are a little shaky!

In a strange move, Motorola has made it so you can only shoot video using the camera, so if you’re after wide-angle photos then you’ll be disappointed by the Motorola One Action.

What’s good about the Motorola One Action?

motorola one action review software

Aside from the titular action camera, the Motorola One Action has plenty of other things going for it. Here are the other features we liked:

Performance — The Motorola One Action ditches the Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs we see in so many other phones for Samsung’s Exynos 9609. Backed by a decent 4GB RAM and Android One’s streamlined software, the One Action won’t be winning any benchmark contests, but its real-world performance is impressive for the price.

Android One — Motorola is one of the few manufacturers making phones running Google’s near-stock version of Android. The bloat-free software comes with the promise of two years of guaranteed OS updates and security patches. It’s pretty barebones, but the speedy updates and performance tweaks more than make up for the lack of customization options. The Moto One Action received the Android 10 update in January 2020.

Design — Want a budget phone that doesn’t look cheap? Aside from a loose-feeling volume rocker, the One Action’s curved glass and sturdy metal frame belie its low price tag. It looks great in Denim Blue, Aqua Teal, and Pearl White.

Price — Speaking of price, there aren’t many phones in the sub-$250 price bracket that can compete with the Motorola One Action as a total package.

What’s not so good?

motorola one action review punch hole

There are always going to be some concessions when you pick up a budget phone like the Motorola One Action. Here are a few of the things we didn’t like about it:

Display — The One Action has an extra-tall display with a 21:9 aspect ratio. This makes it great for watching supported 21:9 content (mostly on Netflix), scrolling through social media, and multitasking. Unfortunately, the resulting lanky form factor makes it a little awkward to hold. Regular video also gets saddled with huge black bars which are a bit of an eyesore. The LCD display doesn’t get all the bright either and the adaptive brightness is a little too aggressive with its dimming habits.

Massive punch hole — The One Action’s display is also lumbered with an enormous punch hole. While you do forget it’s there sometimes, it’s still a very thicc boi that gets in the way while gaming and watching movies.

Battery life — 3,500mAh is a fairly modest battery size for a budget phone, but the One Action really falls behind on endurance. Expect around 5-6 hours screen on time on average.

Low IP rating — The One Action settles for an IPX2 rating, which means you’re getting very minor protection against liquids and no rating for dust. Considering the phone’s aspirations to be an action camera phone, it seems strange it isn’t better prepared for the elements.

Camera quality — The action camera is great fun, but the rest of the camera suite is a little underwhelming. Shots from the main sensor often have washed out colors and the quality drops significantly in low light. There’s also no wide-angle or zoom lens (just a depth sensor), so it lacks versatility too. You can check out a few camera samples below:

Motorola One Action vs Motorola One Vision: What’s the difference?

Motorola One Vision rear in hand

The main difference between the Motorola One Action and the Motorola One Vision is the camera setup. While you don’t get the action camera on the One Vision, you do get a 48MP main sensor (made by Samsung) which produces pixel binned images down to 16MP. The selfie camera is also only 12MP on the One Action compared to the 25MP shooter on the One Vision.

Motorola One Vision review: Challenging perceptions
Motorola One Vision Motorola Logo

The One Action supports 10W charging, while the One Vision goes up to 15W and has a 15W TurboCharger in the box. The One Vision is also rated IP52 which means you’re getting dust resistance too.

Otherwise, the two phones share the same chipset, RAM/ROM configuration, display size and resolution, rear fingerprint sensors, and they both have a headphone jack.

What alternatives are there?

Moto G7 and G7 Power rear panels

If you’re already sold on buying a budget Motorola phone there are plenty to choose from. Aside from the One Vision and the One Macro, there’s also the G series to consider. The Moto G8 Plus is the de facto main phone in the series and it’s another solid mid-ranger. It can also be found for $259 in the US or just under £200 in the UK, though the official retail price is £239 ($311). There’s also the E series if you want to go even cheaper, though you’ll lose a lot of processing power.

Read more: The best phones under £200 in the UK

Non-Motorola alternatives vary wildly depending on regional availability. If you can get your hands on one, the realme 5 Pro is an absolute beast with four cameras and a massive battery, all for under £200. There’s also the Redmi Note 9 which matches the realme 5 Pro in basically all areas for a similar price. While you don’t get the action camera on either phone, the One Action is no competition in every other department.

Motorola One Action specs

Motorola One Action
6.3-inch IPS screen 2,520 x 1,080 resolution
21:9 aspect ratio
Samsung Exynos 9609
octa-core at 2.2Ghz
Mali-G72 MP3

Expandable (up to 512GB)
Main: 12MP, f/1.8 aperture, 1.25 micron pixels, PDAF
Secondary: 5MP depth sensor
Action camera: 16MP, f/2.2, video only

Main: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30/60fps
Action camera: Up to 1080p at 60fps, slo-mo (120fps), timelapse, hyperlapse, electronic stabilization

Front: 12MP f/2.0, 1.25 micron pixels
3.5mm audio port
Bottom-firing speaker
10W fast charging
IP rating
IPX2 splash resistance
Ambient light sensor
Fingerprint (rear)
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz + 5GHz, Wi-Fi hotspot
Single nano SIM
Android Pie
(Android One)
Dimensions and weight
160.1mm x 71.2mm x 9.15mm
Denim Blue
Pearl White
Aqua Teal

Should you buy the Motorola One Action?

motorola one action review rear

Like the One Vision before it, the Motorola One Action is a budget phone with a bit of ambition that isn’t afraid to have a little fun. At a time where most phones — especially cheaper handsets — are dull and derivative, the One Action is a breath of fresh air.

The Motorola One Action is a budget phone with a bit of ambition.

It doesn’t entirely stick the landing with some of its more outlandish features and it won’t appeal to everyone, but if you want a cheap phone with smooth performance, clean software, and a quirky video camera, the One Action is well worth a look.

Motorola One Action press render
Motorola One Action
If you're someone who takes portrait videos, stop and think about life. Once you're done, look at the Motorola One Action. It's perfect for sport-y people, since they can record ultra wide-angle videos while holding the phone in portrait.

And that’s it for our Moto One Action review. Will you buy this phone?

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