"You're holding it wrong." Anyone who's ever filmed anything using their phone has probably been told off for shooting vertically. It seemingly winds people up more than climate change and Brexit combined, based on the kinds of comments you'll read beneath a vertically-shot YouTube clip.

Turns out Motorola has had enough, and decided its next phone will put an end to such controversy.

The One Action gets a camera lens dedicated purely to video, flipped 90-degrees so you can hold it naturally and still get TV-friendly footage. There's more to this mid-ranger than video, though, with a stripped-back version of Android, a keen price and a film-focused screen with bezels that have been on a crash diet. Whether you're a wannabe filmmaker or not, it could be something of a smartphone steal.


No shortcuts have been taken with the styling, with slim screen bezels up front and a simple yet sleek crosshatch pattern on the rear. The One Action looks like a more expensive phone than it is, and at 176g feels reassuringly weighty, although get it in your hand and you'll feel plastic instead of metal.

It's slim and fairly skinny, despite making room for a sizable 6.3in screen, and the fingerprint sensor on the rear is perfectly placed for where your digit naturally rests when picking the phone up. The triple-lens camera array sits off to one side, and protrudes slightly from the phone. Not so much you'll constantly be catching it on things, but maybe enough that you'll want to use the bundled silicone phone case to keep it free from scratches.

The screen's stretched aspect ratio does make it tricky to reach the top with one hand, but it isn't so tall you'll struggle to slide it into your pocket. A cutout for the selfie camera helps keep the top bezel on the small side, but it's simply massive - so big, in fact, the status bar had to be bumped down by Motorola's software bods so it has enough room to render correctly.


If you're gonna name your phone after its killer feature, it had better be a good one - or at the very least unique, and on that front the One Action comes up trumps. One of its three rear cameras is designed purely for video, with the sensor rotated 90-degrees so it films horizontal video while you're holding the phone in a more natural vertical orientation. Electronic image stabilisation helps cut down on camera shake, and it's wide-angle too, letting you fit more in the frame than a typical smartphone shooter.

The 16MP sensor uses pixel binning to sharpen your footage, dropping down to 16:9 at 60fps, or screen-filling 21:9 at 30fps. It won't do 4K, for which you'll need to switch to the 12MP main camera. And then remember to rotate the phone to avoid vertical video anyway.

Take it out for a walk and you'll get impressively smooth footage from the dedicated video lens, with largely accurate colours (if slightly oversaturated) and fairly wide dynamic range. Detail could be better, though, with a noticeable drop in sharpness when switching from 30fps to 60fps. It had a tendency to focus hunt a lot, too. Confusingly you can't take ultra-wide still photos with the action cam - only 3MP snaps ripped from your videos while recording. It seems a bit of a waste, given a lot of customers are going to take more photos than videos. And then there's the whole app ecosystem that has been built around vertical videos.

Instagram TV, Snapchat or Tik Tok user? You'll have to flip the phone horizontally if you actually want to shoot a vertical vid. When it comes to snapping stills, the One Action does a pretty good job as long as you feed it enough light. Seeing how the 5MP third sensor is dedicated to depth sensing, it's essentially a 12MP snapper with no algorithmic cleverness going on the background a la Google's Pixel 3a.

Images are clean and detailed in daylight, with good dynamic range even in particularly bright conditions. Colours appear to be artificially boosted in the final images compared to what's shown in the viewfinder, but results are for the most part easy on the eye.

Low-light shooting introduces lots of noise grain and a significant drop in detail. Colours appear muted, too - with no dedicated night mode, you won't want to be snapping once the sun goes down.

Portrait snaps don't appear to be any more accurate than those created entirely through software, with edge detection struggling with finer details such as hair. More impressive is the 12MP selfie sensor up front, which can also shoot 4K video - still a rarity in this price range. Pictures are sharp and detailed, retaining facial features even in bright outdoor scenes, but more effective HDR processing might have helped even out the dynamic range, which was a lot more varied.

It's largely par for the course for a mid-range phone, although video doesn't perhaps impress as much as you'd expect given it's the whole point of the handset.

Motorola One Action sample photos


Movie fans averse to letterboxing, take note: the One Action's 21:9 aspect ratio screen might look like Motorola has stretched it out with a steamroller, but it's the perfect size for ultra-wide video.

Netflix, Amazon, Google Play and Youtube have a growing list of films and TV available to stream, which is great if you really, really hate black bars. Sure, you'll have to put up with the selfie camera cutout, but it's rarely distracting.

At 6.3in it feels pretty tall, but with teensy top and bottom bezels it fits better in your hand than the much more expensive Sony Xperia 10. You get an LCD panel at this price, rather than OLED, so black levels take a hit and contrast is only average, rather than spectacular, but as long as you're not in direct sunlight videos look fairly punchy. A 2520x1080 resolution is plenty for Full HD, and creates a decent impression of detail.

Colour accuracy could be better, and Google's limited choice of Natural, Boosted and Saturated can't create true-to-life hues. Expect a twinge of blue to white images in every mode. Brightness is only average, and only just enough to see the screen outdoors, but we've seen worse for this kind of money.

It's slightly frustrating that the auto-dimming is so keen to step in when it probably doesn't need to, but you can at least turn it off and change brightness settings yourself. It's not difficult to muffle the single speaker at the bottom of the phone, depending on how you hold it, but there's plenty of volume here and quality is pretty decent.

You've got to really crank it up to spot any distortion, so you won't need to instantly reach for a pair of headphones. Plus when you do come to plug in some buds, you won't need a dongle to do it - there's a good ol' fashioned headphone jack.


CPU geeks might get a kick out of the fact Motorola has gone with a Samsung Exynos chipset for the One Action, instead of the usual Qualcomm or Mediatek silicon you'd normally find in a mid-range phone.

Everyone else? They'll just be happy it's a capable performer. Four cores ticking along at 2.2GHz and another four at 1.6GHz are enough to keep Android running perfectly smoothly, even with 4GB of RAM rather than the 6GB that's rapidly becoming the norm for mid-range phones.

There might be a little wait when swapping between open apps, and it's not going to keep pace with a flagship handset, but you won't be waiting around for things to open, either. The Samsung CPU can't give the One Action a leg up over its rivals when it comes to gaming, with lower frame rates than we've seen elsewhere for similar money. Still, more demanding titles like Asphalt 9 and PUBG: Mobile still ran well enough and were largely stutter-free.

The one place it does feel sluggish is in Wi-Fi downloads - but not so much that YouTube gets upset when you tap the button for 1080p quality streaming.


With an eight-core CPU hiding behind that stretched-out screen, the One Action was always going to be fairly thirsty when it came to battery life.

A 3500mAAh cell isn't huge, and streaming addicts in particular will see their standby time plummet. You can expect to see around 10 hours of video playback, which is several hours less than rival phones like the Realme 3 Pro.

More typical daily use will see you get from breakfast to bedtime, but only just - there's rarely enough juice left to leave it unplugged overnight.

Android's built-in battery saver can now be set to kick in at a percentage you choose, which helps keep battery anxiety at bay, but we'd still rather have a bigger battery. Wireless charging would be asking too much from a budget phone like this, and while you do at least get a USB-C port instead of old-hat microUSB, the bundled charger isn't all that rapid. Expect a bit of a wait if you're topping up from empty.


A hands-off approach to Android has always been the Motorola method. It's the same story here, and we're certainly not complaining. You get Android One Pie, the latest, Google-approved and non-messed-with version of the OS, with barely any extras or apps beyond the ones Google supplies. That means no custom skins, no confusing app icons, and no rearranged Settings screen - just everything in place, as Google intended.

Stock fans will love it, but those after more customisation will need to head to the Play Store and add their own launcher or icon pack. Motorola has added a few optional tweaks, though. Peek Display can put notifications and the current time onscreen without waking the phone, and Moto Actions let you karate chop your phone to turn on the flashlight, or do the twist to open the camera app. The biggest shake-up is One Button Nav, which is now so similar to the updated gesture navigation in Android Pie there's not much reason to bother with it.


It isn't going to replace your GoPro, but quirky camera sensors aside, the Motorola One Action is a fairly well-rounded phone for not a huge amount of money.

You get a modern design, decent performance and respectable picture quality, plus one of the simplest versions of Android around short of buying a Google Pixel.

On the flip side, a so-so screen and sub-par battery life stop it from earning an outright recommendation. Still, if you're on a modest budget and want to stick with a familiar brand, rather than try your luck with an upstart from China like Redmi, Oppo and the rest, there's plenty to like here. Especially if you're allergic to vertical video.

Tech Specs 
6.3in, 2520x1080 IPS LCD w/ hole punch camera, 21:9 aspect ratio
Exynos 9609 octa-core
12MP, f/1.8 main, 16MP, f/2.2 (video only), 5MP depth-sensor rear w/ PDAF, dual-LED flash. 12MP, f/2.0 front
128GB on-board, microSD expansion
Android 9.0 Pie w/ Android One
3500mAh non-removable
160x71x9.2mm, 176g
Stuff says... 

Motorola One Action review

Camera gimmicks aside, the Moto One Action is a well-rounded phone for sensible money. Vanilla Android and a sizable screen make up for middling battery life and only average quality photos
Good Stuff 
Ultrawide screen puts cinema-style viewing in your hand
Great performance for the cash
You'll never take a vertical video again
Bad Stuff 
Battery can't go the distance
Can't miss that humongous hole-punch
Rotated snapper is useless if you don't shoot video