Motorola One Power review: Moto’s best phone of 2018 is a battery beast

Motorola One Power 1

Moto One Power Rating: 8/10

Yay:

  • Insane friggin battery life
  • Comes with a case in the box
  • Well-calibrated IPS LCD panel
  • Superb haptic feedback
  • Stock Android with Moto Actions and Moto Display

Nay:

  • The camera software is super slow
  • Lacklustre image quality 
  • Slightly slow fingerprint scanner
  • Could be big and bulky for some

Introduction

Let’s not beat around the bush, Motorola’s smartphone pricing game in India has been rather weak in 2018. The brand badly needed a shot in the arm to bring the focus back to the Moto of yore: one that started the whole e-commerce boom with the Moto G back in the day. 

Well, it looks like Motorola’s answer to naysayers is the Moto One Power. This phone is a rebranded Moto P30 Note (first launched in China) with the Android One branding. Motorola’s product manager clearly explained at the briefing that the One Power is their new online-exclusive series. This series is expected to thwart competition from the likes of Xiaomi, Realme, and ASUS. 

But, does it have the ‘power’ to ‘one’ up the competition? 

Motorola One Power design: a hulking behemoth

There’s no denying that the Motorola One Power is a massive chunk of metal and glass. This phone is a hulking behemoth just like the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1. While the One Power is significantly heavier at 205g compared to the 180g weight of the ZenFone Max Pro M1, it is still ever-so-slightly slimmer than the ZenFone. Not that you are going to notice the 0.1mm difference in thickness. Also, the One Power is shorter than the ZenFone but it incorporates a bigger 6.2-inch display thanks to the notch. Yay, to more screen estate!

If you are wondering why I am making such direct comparisons with the ZenFone Max Pro M1, it is because both these phones have a lot in common. In fact, the industrial design is strikingly similar. On the rear, you have a massive backplate with plastic running along the top and the sides. Even the curvature on the inside of the plastic strip is pretty identical. That said, the Motorola One Power has a bit of a camera bump despite the hulking body, which is a letdown. Thankfully, the One Power comes with a silicon case in the box that can hide the bump. 

Motorola One Power 15

Also, you will forget about that bump when you take a look at that ingeniously placed Moto logo inside the fingerprint scanner. It looks classy. The setup for the fingerprint scanner is fast and easy, but the fingerprint scanner is not the fastest one around. While it takes less than a second to actually recognise your fingerprint, the phone takes a tad too long to wake up the display. And, this is the only biometric security option that you get with the phone. There is no face unlock option.

The power button and the volume rocker are placed on the right edge. Also, the buttons are slightly flush with the edge making it mushier than usual. Furthermore, I would have liked ridges on the power button to distinguish it from the volume rocker. The 3.5mm jack and a microphone sit on the top edge. At the bottom, you get a USB Type-C port – which is awesome – with two grilles flanking it on the left and the right. Only the right one has the speaker driver for audio. The SIM card tray is placed on the left edge. This is not a hybrid SIM tray and you get a separate slot for your microSD card. Open the confetti explosion box! 

Motorola One Power 4

All in all, the Moto One Power is a big device that feels sturdy and looks like it can take a few falls. But you will have to give up on attractive looks for a functional design. It is a good thing then that it feels good to hold and use daily. 

Motorola One Power display: well-balanced, well-tuned IPS LCD

The front of the One Power is unlike any other Moto phone you’ve seen in the past. Why? Because this is the first phone from Motorola that includes a notch – a modern trend that has caught on like wildfire. This enables Motorola to achieve a screen-to-body ratio of 81.7 percent. 

While there is a notch, there’s also a slight chin at the bottom. It is slimmer than chins on many other phones I’ve seen this year. And, Motorola has made the most use of this chin by slapping a logo in that cramped space. Honestly, it looks slightly forced in my opinion. The notch cuts through a 6.2-inch IPS LCD panel which has a layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch protection. In fact, Motorola has also pre-applied a screen protector for good measure. 

Motorola One Power 2

When you start the phone, you will notice that the One Power’s IPS LCD panel is crisp and vibrant. It is unlike LCD panels to be so vibrant and contrasty. And therefore, I headed into the display settings to find out if anything was amiss. Voila! The display is by default tuned to be more vibrant with a neutral colour temperature. I switched to Standard and it looked more colour accurate if a little dull. However, it is really cool that Motorola provides you with the option to switch to a colour profile of your liking. 

Motorola One Power 12

Honestly, this IPS LCD panel is one of the better ones I’ve used under Rs 20,000. I faced absolutely no colour shifts or viewing angle issues. And, the brightness level and visibility under direct sunlight is good. The only flaw with the display is the Ambient sensor is iffy and it definitely needs another round of software tuning for it to perform well. 

Another kickass thing about the display is Moto Display. It is incredibly useful. You can actually reply to notifications directly without even waking up the screen. It is the most feature-rich setting for a display you can find on any phone. Period. As a matter of fact, Motorola is so proud of this feature that it claims that notification LEDs on phones will be a thing of the past soon. 

Motorola One Power 17

Motorola One Power software: clean stock Android with Moto Actions is a treat

The Motorola One Power runs on the Android One program. The name gives it away, doesn’t it? What does this mean for end users? Well, you get support for Project Treble, the promise of three years of confirmed security updates, and two years of OS updates. Meaning, your Moto One Power is assured to get support till Android Q. Currently, it comes with Android Oreo 8.1 out-of-the-box. And, Motorola has promised that Android Pie will come by the end of this year, latest. For those who have been worrying about Motorola’s lacklustre state of updates, this should come as a pleasant surprise. 

Motorola One Power 7

As for the software itself, it is your standard stock Android fare with clean, minimal animations and buttery smooth performance. The only additions are two Moto Actions in the form of chop-chop to trigger the flashlight and twist twice to open the camera. Motorola decided not to add more Moto Actions in order to ensure that you get your updates on time.

I love the whole stock Android experience. I firmly believe that the Moto One Power is on the top of the mobile operating system pyramid, along with other phones with stock Android, of course.  

Motorola One Power 6

Motorola One Power camera: the camera app needs some work

The One Power has dual cameras on the rear. The main camera is a 16MP sensor with a 1.12-micron pixel size. Attached to this camera is an f/1.8 lens. There is a secondary 5MP depth sensor as well. On the front, you get a 12MP camera with a larger 1.25-micrometer pixel size. These are standard specs, not the best-in-class. 

Motorola One Power 13

Coming to the app, it has been redesigned and updated. The camera modes are sparse, with the option to switch to Portrait mode or Expert (Manual) mode. It is a fairly easy-to-use app but it has problems. Also, the app doesn’t show a very good live preview when the phone works as a viewfinder. Another problem with the camera is that the Portrait shots take ages to process. And note this, by default the camera is set to shoot 18:9 aspect ratio images at a lower resolution. You might want to switch it to the standard 4:3 aspect ratio the moment you get it.

Furthermore, it looks like Motorola wants to play up the Google Lens integration in the camera more than anything else. Google Lens does a decent job of recognising objects but it still has a long way to go for sure. 

As usual, let me break down the image quality for you guys. 

  1. If you take a lot of landscape and wide shots, you can expect the One Power to take fairly accurate colours but I will suggest using the auto-HDR mode on by default. Because with HDR off, the dynamic range is literally dead. Also, the phone doesn’t capture a whole lot of details. I found the details to be soft. And, there is an aggressive noise compression algorithm that kills even more details around the edges. Honestly, the Mi A2 and the Redmi Note 5 Pro are far better cameras when it comes to detail retention.

  2. If you go close to a subject, ensure that you are extremely stable else you will end up with a blurred shot. The One Power is a very slow shooter. When you do get a good shot, the details are still lacking and there is no depth in the image quality either. 
  3. As far as the rear portrait mode is concerned, it is alright at best. There are issues with edge detection and it is not very clean honestly. But, the respite here is you can adjust the blur when taking the shot. 
  4. Low light performance is not worth it. I am not even going to discuss it. Just buy the Mi A2 if you want a phone for great low light performance. 
  5. The HDR mode definitely does a good job of improving the details in the highlights and shadows but it is a little too dramatic. And, it affects the colour science slightly. Still, the HDR mode is the redeeming factor of the camera. 
  6. The 8MP front camera can take crisp and detailed selfies in good light, not so much in less than ideal lighting conditions. The portrait mode once again has some problems with edge detection.

  7. The rear camera can also shoot 4K 30fps videos but without EIS. In fact, the 1080p mode does not have EIS either. The colour science in the 4K videos is completely off and the dynamic range is not great either. The 1080p video offers slightly better details and colours, but the lack of EIS really kills the fun. BTW, the phone can record stereo audio using the camera and it is of good quality. So, that’s definitely a plus point. 

Motorola really needs to do some work on the software side of things to improve the camera performance. Maybe a camera2api port for the One Power and Google camera could possibly fix things in the near future. For now, the biggest drawback of the One Power is its lacklustre camera performance. 


Motorola One Power performance: dependable but not the best-in-class

The Moto One Power has a Snapdragon 636 SoC. It is a very capable performer and is apt for this price range anyway. The best you can get under Rs 20,000 is an SD660 as far as Qualcomm chips are concerned. So, this is still very good because the performance difference is not immediately apparent. 

I never faced a single performance hiccup in my time with the phone. It is extremely fast, fluid, and responsive in day-to-day usage. The RAM management is great too. I achieved an AnTuTu score of 1,12,239, which is on par for phones with SD636. By default, the phone plays PUBG at low settings. I ran GameBench and found out that it achieved an average of 26fps, which is again on par for phones with SD636. But, the kicker here is my Gamebench testing revealed that the One Power can last an approximate of 9 hours and 2 mins of continuous gameplay until the battery dies. That’s just insane! But, more about the battery later. 

And, as far as casual games like Temple Run or Alto’s Odyssey go, they play like a charm on the One Power. 

Motorola One Power multimedia: powered by Dolby

Moving on to the multimedia performance, first things first – the One Power has support for Widevine L1 DRM. This means that you can watch Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon Prime in Full-HD. This might come as a huge sigh of relief for many folks. Apart from this, the phone has Dolby support built-in natively in the phone. There’s a separate app to tune the equaliser according to your preference, or it will do it for you with preset settings for Movies, Music, and Games. I fiddled around with the settings but honestly, it did nothing to fundamentally change the listening experience on the single mono bottom-firing speaker of the One Power. The speaker can get loud enough for most use cases.

Motorola One Power 5

Although, the Dolby settings definitely change the sound signature in games, and the change is perceptible. The sound quality through the inbuilt DAC on the SD636 is standard fare. It is good enough for most people, but the Mi A2 is more audiophile-grade. But the Moto One Power has support for Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX. It definitely improves Bluetooth audio performance by leaps and bounds. 

The One Power will easily fit into my top 5 phones for best multimedia performance under Rs 20,000. Thanks to the big screen, Dolby audio performance, and the marathon battery life. Just sit back, put the One Power on a stand, get a bag of popcorn, and watch your favourite show on Netflix. Life sorted. 

Motorola One Power network performance: Motorola phones have always been reliable

The One Power has a great earpiece with superb call quality. I have literally no complaints whatsoever. In my lift test for call quality, the phone didn’t face a call drop and the noise cancellation in phone calls is great too. Let it be known that I was using Airtel’s network in Gurgaon with regular calls, not VoLTE. 

But, the phone does come with support for Dual VoLTE for those who are worried about it. I tried it with a Jio SIM in the slots and it showed VoLTE support on both.

Motorola One Power 14

Moto One Power battery life: Duracell bunny on crack

The phone has a massive 5000mAh battery. The only other phone with such a big battery inside is the ZenFone Max Pro M1. In this price range, I will take a bigger battery over a slim form factor any day. 

This battery is a monster! I easily managed 9 hours of SoT on a couple of occasions, that too with at least 3 hours of PUBG in the mix. Moreover, you can easily extract 2 days of battery life on regular usage. This in itself is going to be a big selling point for a lot of folks.

Motorola One Power 11

Motorola has also added its proprietary Turbo Charging fast charging feature. As per my testing, Turbo Charging can charge the massive 5000mAh battery from 0 to 100 in anywhere between 2hrs and 30mins and 2hrs and 45mins. For a battery of this size, the charging time is very good. 

Should you buy the Motorola One Power?

The Moto One Power is a battery monster like I said before. I would easily recommend it to anyone looking for a phone with great battery life. Furthermore, you get stock Android with it and the fairly powerful SD636 SoC with the phone is the cherry on the top. This is by far Motorola’s best phone in 2018. Only if it had better cameras…

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, we don’t have the price. But, it is expected to be priced anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000. I think it will be around the Rs 17,000 and Rs 18,000 price range, which will help us build some perspective.

Poco F1 17

Now, let’s compare with its closest competitors in this price range.

  1. Asus’ ZenFone Max Pro M1 is the closest in terms of looks and specs. The battery life is going to be similar on the Max Pro M1 but it doesn’t have a modern notched display like the One Power, if that is your thing. And, the 6GB variant has better cameras than the One Power for sure. But, both the camera apps are a travesty. Overall, get the Max Pro M1 if you want better cameras or the One Power if you want a better multimedia performance. 

  2. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro is still our top pick for the best phone under Rs 20,000. But, it doesn’t have a more modern notched display like the One Power. And, the One Power’s battery will definitely last longer. 
  3. The Mi A2 is the phone to buy if you want the best cameras under Rs 20,000. That said, there are issues with the phone in the form of battery life and no headphone jack. The One Power leads the pack in those features. 

Motorola One Power 14

Obviously, you have phones like the Poco F1 and the Honor Play with flagship-grade performance. But, these phones are priced closer to the Rs 20,000 mark. So, if your budget is tight and you are willing to compromise on the performance jump, then the other phones still stand a chance. Oh and let’s not forget, the Realme 2 Pro with SD660 is coming soon. That should ruffle some feathers too.

Overall, the Motorola One Power is a great comeback from the brand. It needs some work in the camera performance, but in every other area, I have literally no complaints. 

More power to One Power!

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?