Hands on: Motorola One review

An iPhone X look-a-like for a third of the price

What is a hands on review?
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For

  • Premium look
  • Large, bright display
  • Will get Android Pie quickly

Against

  • Glass feels a little cheap
  • 'Only' 720p resolution

The Motorola One is a new mid-range smartphone boasting pure Android, a large display and iPhone X styling for less than half the price.

It has the likes of the HTC U12 Life and Honor Play for company, all three of which launched at IFA 2018, and the Motorola One is pushing its pure Android experience with the very latest software on board.

You get a 5.9-inch display, Snapdragon 625 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, microSD slot, dual rear cameras, Android 8.1 Oreo and a 3,000mAh battery.

Motorola One release date and price

The Motorola One price is €299 (around $350, £270, AU$480) SIM free, putting it towards the bottom end of mid-tier smartphones.

There's currently no word on a Motorola One relase date, as all we've been told is it will arrive "in various countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific in the coming months."

Design and display

The Motorola One features a premium glass build which adds a touch of class to the handset, although picking it up and feeling the material it doesn't feel as premium as the glass used on the flagship smartphones of the moment.

It feels a little hollow, and the lightweight nature of the Motorola One is another nod that this isn't a top tier device - even if it does look suspiciously like the iPhone X.

Motorola is far from the first to adopt the screen notch, but it's opted for a much wider notch than many of its Android competitors, which automatically draws comparisons with Apple's flagship.

Round the back the vertical stacked cameras in the top left corner again are reminiscent of the the iPhone X, but there is a some on the Motorola One that Apple's smartphone can't boast - a fingerprint scanner.

It's well placed as we were easily able to land our finger on it, and the rounded edges of the phone allow it to nestle comfortably in the palm. 

The glossy glass rear of the Motorola One is a fingerprint magnet though, so if you're not planning on slapping a case on this phone you'll find yourself wiping it down frequently.

You'll find the volume and power keys nicely located on the right of the One, while the SIM tray is on the left. There's good news in terms of a headphone jack as it can be found on the top edge, while a speaker and USB-C port adorn the base of the handset. 

The 5.9-inch display dominates the front of the Motorola, and with a 19:9 aspect ratio it's tall too. While that's great for video playback and gaming, when held in portrait those will smaller hands will struggle to stretch their fingers to the top of the screen.

It only has a HD display which, on such a large screen, doesn't provided the crispest of images. It's still bright and colorful though, and text is still easy to read. You'll only really notice the lower resolution when it comes to watching movies and playing games. 

While most of the front of the Motorola One is screen, there is a sizable chin at the base, which is another sign that this isn't a top-tier device as reducing bezels further costs money.

Motorola One hands on gallery

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Camera, power and battery

There's a 13MP dual camera system on the rear of the Motorola One, with the second camera acting as depth sensor for the Bokeh portrait mode and selective focus function.

Motorola has added a couple of nice features to the camera app on One, the first of which is called Spot Color. Here you tap a certain area of the viewfinder on screen and the Motorola One will only keep that color in the shot, changing everything else to black and white. 

It makes for some striking shots, but it works best outdoors in good light. Inside, the camera on the Motorola One struggles for light and produces muddier shots.

The second feature is Cinemagraphs, where you capture a short video clip and then select an area of that video to animate as a GIF, while the rest of the image remains static. Again, good light is required if you want clear shots.

You also at get an 8MP front camera which also boasts a portrait mode, but this time it uses imaging processing smarts to calculate the background blur rather than depth data from a second snapper.

Out of the box the Motorola One runs a stock version of Android 8.1 Oreo, but Motorola says it will be one of the first phones to get the Android 9 Pie upgrade when it launches later in the year.

The Motorola One has a 3,000mAh battery which features Turbo Power giving you six hours of use after just 15 minutes of plugged-in time.

It also has Dolby Audio support, which enhances the sound through the in-built speaker and via the headphone jack, although we were unable to test during our hands on preview.

Early verdict

The Motorola One is an attractive mid-range smartphone with a strong feature set that should help it stand out from the crowd.

Comparisons will always be drawn to the iPhone X in terms of looks, but at a much lower price the Motorola One is a very different proposition and is one to look out for when we get it in for our full review.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 

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.