Motorola One, First Take: Affordable, with regular Android updates

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The Motorola G6 and G6 Plus are only a few months old, and were widely lauded as key handsets in the budget realm, coming in at £219 and £269 (inc. VAT) respectively at launch. I certainly felt that the Motorola G6 Plus was a smartphone to be reckoned with.

Now here we are not with a G7, but a new line altogether -- the Motorola One, whose £269 launch price matches the higher-end Moto G6 Plus.

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The Motorola One costs £269 (inc. VAT) -- the same as the Moto G6 Plus.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Arguably the key feature here is Android One, the version of Android that's guaranteed to be updated over time. For those who want the very latest Android tweaks, and feel hampered by phones that don't get immediate updates, this will be important. Google has guaranteed that Android One users will get regular security updates, and Android software updates through to Android 10.

If you don't like lots of extras on your handsets, you should be happy as there's little here by way of extras on top of Android. What you do get is the ability to have notifications that fade in and out when the screen is off, and Moto Actions -- gesture-based extras such as twisting the handset to open the camera and doing a double shake, or what Motorola rather aggressively calls 'karate chop motions', to activate the torch. (Don't try this with winter-cold hands unless you're sure you won't propel your handset with some force towards the ground.)

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Among the few software extras on the Motorola One is Moto Actions.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Motorola has equipped the Motorola One with a decent-sized 3,000mAh battery, which the online spec sheet says can deliver a 'full day' of uptime. The Geekbench battery test saw the battery last for 9 hours 37 minutes with screen dimming off and adaptive brightness on. The handset supports fast charging at 15W, giving up to 8 hours of power in 20 minutes of charging according to Motorola.

Budget handset makers don't tend to major on camera functionality, but the Motorola One has a two-camera setup at the back with 13MP and 2MP sensors and f/2.0 and f.2,4 lenses respectively. These take a passable photo and there are some interesting features: I like spot colour, which washes everything except the selected colour out to black and white, for example, but there's nothing startlingly new here. The 8MP front camera has an LED flash which doubles up as a front-facing torch. Google Lens is preinstalled.

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If Motorola has pushed the boat out a little with the battery capacity, it has compromised slightly on the screen. It's large enough at 5.9 inches, although some will find the front camera notch rather wide. On the left side there's only room for the time and one icon, while there are four icons on the right. Still, it does look bang on-trend.

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Colour settings on the Motorola One.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

However, screen resolution leaves a bit to be desired at just 720 by 1,520 pixels. The notch means the aspect ratio is 19:9, but with just 287 pixels per inch (ppi) I did find text a bit fuzzy to read. The Motorola G6 and G6 Plus managed 1,080 by 2,160 pixels in a 5.7-inch (424ppi) and 5.9-inch (409 ppi) screen respectively, delivering a far superior viewing experience in both cases. There is a Night Light mode that can be configured to come on at a set time and reduces blue light; users can also select between two different colour modes, standard and vibrant, with the latter creating a bit more colour 'pop'.

It's good to see that two SIMs and a MicroSD card can all be in place at the same time. The latter will come in handy to boost the 64GB internal storage. Out of the box, 12.41GB was used, leaving just 51.59GB free. The Snapdragon 625 chipset and 4GB of RAM coped well enough with what I asked the handset to do.

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The 5.9-inch, 162g Motorola One is comfortable to hold, even if you have relatively small hands.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

With dimensions of 72mm by 150mm by 7.97mm and weighing 162g, the Motorola One is comfortable to hold, and the reasonably tall bottom bezel, complete with Motorola logo, isn't surprising at this budget end of the market. There is a fingerprint sensor at the back, sitting inside a reflective glass backplate that tends to pick up fingerprints. It's slippery too, and the handset slid off my chair a couple of times during the review period until I fitted the provided plastic bumper. This deals with the slipperiness problem but also reduces the allure of the glass back.

Motorola says the phone is splash-resistant thanks to a coating, but it isn't fully IP rated. Fans of 3.5mm headsets will be pleased to see a connector here, along the top edge, with USB-C charging on the bottom edge.

So, here's the thing. A straight point-for-point comparison with the Motorola G6 or G6 Plus puts the older phones slightly ahead of the newer one. The key feature that inclines me to the older phones is their superior screens. If you're looking for the Android One guarantee, you might be swayed; otherwise you may want to look elsewhere for a bargain.

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