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Motorola One Vision review: all good, except for one big slip

Update: Final review!
Motorola One Vision review: all good, except for one big slip

The first Motorola One, launched in 2018, was met with kind of a "meh" response. Despite the success of the device, the mid-ranger offered an ok package, but it was just ok, nothing more than that. This year, however, Motorola decided to revamp the phone, delivering a better finish, more useful tech, and some new features. There is an abyss that separates the first One from the One Vision, so let's have a look at what is new.

Rating

Good

  • Solid performance
  • Clean, quick Android One software
  • Design and build quality are good
  • Moto gestures are still great

Bad

  • 21:9 does not work with a hole punch
  • Battery life is not great
  • Camera quality is just ok

Perfectly pitched price point, at least in Europe

The Motorola One Vision is available for pre-order now and is due to ship any minute. It costs £269.99 in the UK (about $340). That's for the 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage version. Those who pre-order before June 1st will get a free pair of Motorola VerveBuds 500 wireless earbuds. The UK price makes sense on paper, but if this thing costs only $60 less than a Google Pixel 3a in the US, it's in trouble.

Motorola adopts the design trends of 2019

When you look at the Motorola One Vision you can see bits and pieces  of smartphones that are making moves out there on the market, like those from Oppo, Xiaomi and Huawei. The phone I tested was in 'Sapphire Gradient'. The shades of color are most visible through the reflections on the back that form elegant lines and contours.

androidpit motorola one vision buttons
The sides at the back are curved. / © AndroidPIT

Despite the 21:9 ratio screen, the One Vision sits nicely in your hands due to two reasons: reduced front bezels and curved rear sides. Of course, reaching all parts of the screen with just one hand is not an easy task, but the handling of the phone itself is comfortable thanks to Moto Actions' One-button nav feature. It allows you to swipe in different directions on the home button, meaning you can navigate through your phone without ever having to reach the top of the screen.

Fortunately, Motorola removed that logo from that used to be at the bottom of the screen on its phones and so that the bezels could be smaller. The rear camera sensors are stacked in a protruding frame, followed by the horizontal LED flash. There's also a biometric fingerprint sensor on the back with the Motorola logo in it, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C port, a mono speaker and physical power and volume buttons.

androidpit motorola one vision bottom speaker usb c
USB Type-C and a mono speaker are along the bottom. / © AndroidPIT

The first Motorola One came to market with a wide notch at the top of the screen while the Moto G7 series brought a more compact version in the popular dewdrop format. The One Vision offers a "hole" in the top right corner of the screen, similar to that of the Galaxy S10.

This is the most discreet option for 'hiding' the front camera (apart from a pop-up camera), but it is also one of the worst design choices I have seen on a smartphone for a while. More on that later in the display section. For those who have problems with smartphones that use glass cladding, Motorola has put a silicone cover in the box of the One Vision.

androidpit motorola one vision front camera
The display features a hole punch design. / © AndroidPIT

A baffling display decision I just can't understand

Motorola  joins Sony in switching to a 21:9 ratio display, which is a favorite among Hollywood film directors and producers. The gains from this screen format are numerous. You can, for example, read lengthy texts and conversations without having to scroll through the screen too much. Android Pie's split-screen mode is also another function that adds more value to this format.

Although the display is more stretched than other formats, such as the traditional 16:9 or 18:9, the content that is displayed on the Motorola One screen does not appear distorted. The hole punched part of the screen does not overlap with the system interface and applications (at least some of them) which do not occupy 100% of the screen area. There are some exceptions such as videos, games, Google Maps etc. In these cases, the hole is noticeable, especially as the bezel around the lens itself is massive.

androidpit motorola one vision hero
Long and narrow, that's the 21:9 format for you! / © AndroidPIT

Among the screen settings, there are three predefined color profiles: natural, boosted and saturated. I liked the 'boosted' the best. It keeps colors vivid and balanced highlighting the sharpness. For games, however, the 'saturated' option may be the best.

The Motorola One Vision LCD display is certainly one of the strengths of this phone with deep whites and well represented dark tones. It is clear that for a device that goes all-on the display, OLED technology would be better, but the LCD is suitable for the price range of the product and other competitors in the market.

Unlike with the Sony Xperia phones, where we quite liked the 21:9 format, Motorola has completely ruined it with the hole punch. The two design choices are completely at odds with each other. This is what happens when manufacturers try to cram too many 'flagship features' into one device without considering the user experience.

Moto gestures are still great

The One Vision may run on very clean Android software, but you still get Motorola's quirks and little touches in the OS , and that's a good thing. Moto Actions and Moto Display offer small but usable gestures that become automatic after using the phone for a while. The Peek Display feature is useful, and I got so used to Quick Capture that I am guilty of picking up my Google Pixel and trying to twist it twice quickly to open the camera app...

moto display moto actions
Moto Actions and Moto Display are still great. / © AndroidPIT

Three years of Pure Android

As part of the Android One program, the Motorola One Vision is great for those who care about the health of the software in the long run. In addition to the Moto experiences, such as Moto Display and Moto Actions, the camera application is customized by the manufacturer to meet the main camera features of the model. The software is very similar to that found on Google Pixel smartphones. I used the One Vision alongside a Pixel 3a and the two felt almost like for like.

motorola one visions screenshot1
The interface of Motorola One Vision is very similar to pure Android. / © AndroidPIT

According to Motorola, the One Vision has guaranteed upgrades to Android Q and R, plus three years of monthly security updates starting next month (June). Among the unique functions of Android is Digital Wellbeing, which helps you monitor and manage how much you use your device.

Apps run without modification in the 21:9 format of the Motorola One Vision. There are few distortions and apps are well adapted to the display which is narrower and taller. There are usability features that make it easy to operate the system with just one hand, although this is not very efficient most of the time, and not all apps are supported.

motorola one visions screenshot2
21:9 aspect ratio screen allows you to see more content and get more out of split-screen mode. / © AndroidPIT

Audio comes with built-in Dolby Audio technology. There's no dedicated sound equalizer but adaptive profiles that optimize playback between cinema, music and a smart mode.

A new processor for new features

The leaks were right: the Motorola One Vision is the first Motorola smartphone that carries a Samsung Exynos processor. It's an unusual choice, but one that Motorola executives said was necessary to meet the Artificial Intelligence capabilities of the system and the new camera software. The company also confirmed to us that the Exynos 9609 on this device is a newly launched processor, which matches Qualcomm's Snapdragon 700 series in terms of performance.

At least among Galaxy smartphones in Europe, Exynos processors deliver good performance and good battery life, even running under the One UI user interface, which is considerably more complex than Android One Pie. We also have 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage here.

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Android One means a very clean version of Android is used. / © AndroidPIT

I really didn't have anything to complain about in terms of performance with the Motorola One Vision. It's something I notice time and time again with Android One phones, but the clean software certainly helps mid-range phones deliver almost flagship-like performance in terms of daily usage. It's only when you really push the One Vision with games or the split screen mode that it slows down. You can see the benchmark results below.

Motorola One Vision: benchmark results in comparison

Device Google Pixel 3a Motorola One Vision Nokia 8.1
3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.1 1813 1336 1830
3D Mark Sling Shot Volcano 1747 1365 1745
3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0 2647 1756 2688
3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited 26945 23025 28942
Geekbench 4 (Single/Multi) 1494 / 5912 1607/ 5234 1837 / 5934
Passport Mark Memory 12456 12945 12509
Passport Mark Disk 54076 65136 51940

Good camera on paper, but in real life...

The Motorola One Vision proposes to do more accurate work in terms of photography using the resolution of the sensor differently. The camera at the rear is a dual setup, with a 48MP (f/1.7) and 5MP (f/2.2) sensor, and optical stabilization helps ensure clearer, less blurred or blurred images.

The software does not generate 48MP images due to the Quad Pixel technology that combines four pixels into one 'super pixel', creating a 12MP photo. The idea of this organization is to merge layers with exposures, details, colors and different constructs to deliver a more balanced end result. In fact, at first glance, the Motorola One Vision camera looks very promising in this regard.

androidpit motorola one vision dual camera
Sony's famous 48MP sensor is used on the back. / © AndroidPIT

Motorola did not renew the interface of its camera app but brought in some additions, such as automatic scene detection which uses Artificial Intelligence. The software recommends the best mode, such as portrait mode, for example, according to the situation when recognizing the scene or objects and faces.

Of course, Night Vision is the most interesting function of the camera. This mode captures and combines different photos with different exposures to eliminate noise, blur and distortion. The ultimate goal is to add light to scenes without optimal lighting. You can see the results for yourself below. The shot with Night Vision is on the right:

The second rear sensor, a 5MP, also works to optimize Night Vision, but its main goal is depth detection to provide a more professional background blurred portrait mode. In the case of the 25MP (f/2.0) front camera, the retro effect is offered with software processing. In the camera app, there are tools for selective focus, black and white background and other effects and features.

Here are just a couple example of photos I took with Night Vision. They're fine, I suppose, but this is not in the same league as what Huawei and Google are doing on the P30 and Pixel phones.

IMG 20190514 202414848
IMG 20190514 202419698
Without and with Night Vision. / © AndroidPIT

Overall, camera performance on the One Vision is fine and many users will be satisfied with this for the price of the phone. The portrait mode, in particular, is really rather good. However, others are getting more out of Sony's 48MP sensor that Moto is right now. Once again, we have learned that software is what counts when it comes to smartphone photography these days.

Enough battery for one day, just

The Motorola One Vision battery has 3,500 mAh of capacity and promises to deliver one day's use without problems. In the box, there is a 15W charger that can offer up to seven hours of use with only 15 minutes of charging. The Exynos delivers relatively good power efficiency compared to other processors, and battery life is enough for one day. Intensive use days suffer. At the Formula E event in Berlin, where I was taking a lot of photos, recording audio and video and using Slack and WhatsApp constantly to communicate with the office, I had around 25% of battery left by 19:00 after starting the day on a full charge.

Motorola One Vision technical specifications

Dimensions: 160.1 x 71.2 x 8.7 mm
Weight: 180 g
Battery size: 3500 mAh
Screen size: 6.3 in
Display technology: LCD
Screen: 2520 x 1080 pixels (435 ppi)
Front camera: 25 megapixels
Rear camera: 48 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 9 - Pie
RAM: 4 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.2 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Final verdict

There is a large base of users who are no longer satisfied with what the Moto G series offers every year, or with the Moto Z line. The Motorola One Vision arrives with the objective of offering the most demanding users an option within the company's portfolio that carries the main market trends with small innovations.

The phone is loaded with modern trends, but that's also Motorola One Vision's biggest weakness. The hole punch in a 21:9 display just doesn't make sense to me. Why would I want to watch 21:9 content with an obstruction? The aim of this phone is to open up space where the brand can offer new features, innovations and experiences to an audience that wants to have access to the best product at a reasonable price, and for the most part, it is fine. But the insistence of cramming in as many popular gimmicks as possible has led to the ultimate downfall of the smartphone.

The retail price in the UK is not exactly at the low-end of the mid-range, but it's still quite attractive for what the phone delivers.

So, what do you think of Motorola One Vision?

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  • It looks like Lenovorola is out of the flagship business. They have already stated no Z4force, huh. They have become a budget phone company, yikes! To me that's a crying shame!