Motorola One Action hands-on preview: Capture the action like never before

Motorola One Action
Motorola One Action (Image credit: Android Central)

Motorola is known for making some interesting devices, even if the company hasn't been fighting on the flagship front recently. The Motorola One Vision provided the company's first CinemaVision display on a phone, while the Moto Z range offers Moto Mods that expand the phone's capabilities. Its latest device – the Motorola One Action – takes a very different approach to phones and will appeal to you if you like to capture your world in an extreme way.

Building on the success of action cameras like the GoPro, the Motorola One Action brings the world's first ultra-wide action camera on a smartphone. The 16MP camera features 117° field-of-view so you can capture everything in stunning detail and uses pixel binning technology to output 4MP photos with 2µm pixel size for better low light photography.

The camera is only for video, but it fits much more in the frame compared to regular cameras, thanks to the ability to record and watch in 21:9 aspect ratio. What makes this super interesting is that Motorola turned the camera sensor horizontally, so you can record videos with your phone in portrait and play them back horizontally at 21:9. You can set the action camera to record in either 21:9, 18:9 or 16:9 according on your own preferences. It's a unique approach to the age-old problem of portrait video and large black borders, and it works exactly the way that Motorola intended.

Beyond the action camera, there's also a 12MP main camera with 1.25µm pixel size and f/1.8 aperture, which should deliver a solid, if not unspectacular, camera experience. Much like other Moto phones, you can take a photo and change the focal point before or after capturing thanks to the 5MP depth camera. Other features we love from Moto phones, such as Cinemagraph and Spot color, also both make it onboard.

Going beyond the cameras, the rest of the Motorola One Action is the base for a solid experience, especially considering the expected €259 ($285) price point. The phone features a 6.3-inch Full HD+ CinemaVision 21:9 display, which offers a pretty immersive experience. There's also an added bezel around the 12MP selfie camera – which offers f/1.8 aperture and 1.25µm pixel size – to avoid light bleed in the camera which can sometimes be a small issue on other devices.

Interestingly, Motorola avoided using a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, opting for the Exynos 9609 processor instead. When asked why, the company said that ultimately at this price point, the Exynos delivers the AI features needed in the camera and other places, whereas a Snapdragon chipset capable of delivering this experience would have resulted in a higher price tag. Those AI experiences includes things like smart battery life, adjusting performance based on your usage, and Google Lens integration in the camera.

The rest of the phone features a specs list that's impressive given the intended price point. The Motorola One Action has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which can be expanded by a further 512GB with a microSD card. There's limited water resistance, although Motorola says the water-repellant nano coating should survive getting caught in the rain.

There's also a headphone jack, with Motorola conceding that although they were the first to remove the headphone jack, they've listened to customer feedback and bought it back. More importantly, the company also committed to including a headphone jack where possible in upcoming and future devices. The whole package is powered by a large 3500mAh battery, which should deliver more than a day's battery life. There's also 10W TurboCharging when you do need to top it up, which has proven to be fast enough in the past.

Unlike previous Motorola One devices, the Motorola One Action doesn't run Android One in the US, but it will feature Android One outside of the US. For those worried about Motorola's less-than-spectacular update record, the Motorola One Action is guaranteed one year of software updates, with Motorola evaluating – but crucially, not committing to – any platform updates beyond this.

The Motorola One Action is an interesting phone as Motorola is doing something different. As the name suggests, it's designed for capturing action on the move, although the electronic stabilization won't be as good as optical stabilization for capturing action videos. Instead of buying a GoPro for more money, you could essentially buy the Motorola One Action and get a phone alongside your action camera. At least that's what Motorola is hoping, but we'll have to see if the company actually delivers on this.

The Motorola One Action will come in three colors: Denim Blue, Pearl White, and Aqua Teal. It's launching today globally at around €259, although the exact price depends on local markets. For those stateside, the Moto One Action will launch in the U.S. this fall, although the exact price is to be determined. What do you think of the Motorola One Action? Would you buy one over a GoPro or other action camera?

Nirave Gondhia

Nirave Gondhia has been writing about the mobile industry for over a decade and began his career selling and fixing phones in the UK. He's used every flagship smartphone over the past five years and carries at least two phones at all times - currently, he's using the iPhone 11 Pro, [Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola RAZR. Say hi to him on Twitter at @nirave.