Hands-on with the Motorola One Vision: borrowing from the big boys
The first Motorola One, launched in 2018, elicited few strong opinions. 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, useful tech, and some new features. There is an abyss that separates the first One from One Vision, so let's have a look at what is new.
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Motorola adopts the trends of 2019
When you look at the Motorola One Vision and be reminded about smartphones that are making moves out there on the market, like those from Oppo, Xiaomi or Huawei. The phone I tested was in the bronze color (the device pictured is the blue version) but its tone is as dark as a conventional black. The Bronze shades are most visible through the reflections on the back that form elegant lines and contours.
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. 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.
The first Motorola One came to market with a wide notch at the top of the screen, in the style of the iPhone X, while the Moto G7 series brought a more compact version in the popular dewdrop format. The One Vision offers a more refined option using 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) for consuming multimedia content. It does not cut out a considerable portion of the video, for example, and does not leave the system layout inconsistent. For those who have problems with smartphones that use glass cladding, Motorola has out a silicone cover in the box of the One Vision that is able to protect it and even make the smartphone more comfortable to handle at times.
A cinema screen in your pocket
Motorola joins Sony as a manufacturer that is willing to offer 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, since much of the space at the top of the display is dedicated to the system notification icons and the region where the notch would be. Therefore, the hole punched part of the screen does not overlap with the system interface and applications (at least some of them) 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, but it depends on the type of content that is displayed as to how much it gets in the way.
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.
My first experience with a 21:9 screen was with this Motorola One Vision (I have not used the Sony Xperia phones) and I confess that I was surprised by the possibilities and usability of this new size. It is certainly a way to enlarge the display without compromising the size of the device.
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 the that found on Google Pixel smartphones.
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 no 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.
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. Navigation via gestures is available in two ways, one with the back button fixed and the other without.
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.
Super vision, even at night
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 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.
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. The result is impressive, as shown below:
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:
Enough battery for one day
The Motorola One Vision battery is a 3,500 mAh 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. As I commented on the hardware section, the Exynos should deliver relatively good autonomy compared to other processors, so I'm curious to fully measure One Vision's battery life in the coming weeks.
A vision of the future
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. It has a better camera than the Pocophone F1 (in my opinion), the same kind of night mode as the Huawei P30 Pro and a screen with the same type of "hole punch" that Samsung uses only on its flagship models.
Despite being a model loaded with these trends, the Motorola One Vision does not sacrifice originality, on the contrary, the essence of Motorola is present in the device in different ways, such as in parts of the design and software. It will please those who care about Android updates and those who want to have a multimedia experience with a 21:9 screen.
When talking to Motorola executives I got a real sense that the Motorola One Vision did not come to compete with its other lines that rely on cycles of upgrades. The aim 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.
The retail price of 300 euros for the One Vision 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?