Motorola One Macro Review – A Good Try?

The Motorola One series used to be its line-up of Android One powered smartphones however a couple of devices ago, that is no longer true, with the One branding losing its meaning. The series still continues with the following devices in the line-up consisting of the One, One Power, One Vision, One Action, One Zoom, One Macro and One Hyper.

The One Macro’s standout point is that it boasts an additional macro lens targeting it towards users that take a lot of close up photographs. 

Motorola One Macro
+ FOR
  • Long Lasting Battery
  • Fingerprint Scanner Inclusion
  • Decent Day-to-Day Performance
- AGAINST
  • Poor Camera Performance
  • Speakers
  • Android 10 Update Unknown

Buy on Amazon UK Now – £175

Thanks to Motorola for sending the Motorola One Macro on a 4 week loan period. Craig tested out the Motorola One Action back in October and you can take a look at the unboxing for that below:

Unboxing

The phone comes in a unique purple box which is part of the branding Motorola uses for the entire One series. Inside the box, we have the phone itself, some paperwork, a generic silicone case, a USB A to C cable, a SIM ejector and a 10W 2A USB power plug.

The phone has a screen protector on the front highlighting its key features including AI Camera System + Laser Autofocus, Macro Vision Camera, 2.0Ghz Octa-core Processor, 4000mAh battery with rapid charging, 6.2-inch HD+ plus display and lastly 4GB RAM & 64GB storage. All of these seem pretty impressive considering the sub £160 Amazon price tag at the time of writing.

Specs: 

  • Android 9.0 Pie
  • MediaTek Helio P70 Octa-Core Processor
  • 4GB DDR4 RAM
  • 64GB Storage (Expandable with 512GB Micro SD Card)
  • 4000mAh battery with Rapid Charging over USB C 
  • 6.2 Inch HD+ Display (720 by 1520)
  • IPX2 Water-Resistant
  • 13MP Main Rear Camera, 2MP Macro Camera, 2MP Depth Sensors, Laser Autofocus System
  • 8MP Front Facing Camera
  • 3.5mm Headphone Jack
  • Dual Nano SIM cards

Around the Device

If we take a look around the device, one the back we have the macro lens separated from the other cluster, then we have 2 more camera lenses, the laser autofocus system and lastly, the single LED flash. There is also an M logo in the centre which is also the rear-facing fingerprint scanner. The entirety of the rear is covered in a blue gradient going from an extremely dark navy blue to a much lighter shade towards the bottom which I am a big fan of. The regulatory information and ‘motorolaone’ branding is also at the bottom. 

Motorola One Macro Rear Text

The right-hand side houses the textured power button and volume rocker which is way too high for normal usage and I would have much preferred it to be on the left-hand side. 

On the top there is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone, the left side has the multifunction SIM card tray which is a weird design as you have to push the ejector tool in, and it will only eject the tray about 1mm and then you have to use a fingernail to drag the tray out of its very snug holder. This holder can either hold dual nano-SIM cards or a single nano-SIM card and a Micro SD card slot for cards up to 512GB. 

On the base, there is the mono downwards facing speaker, the USB C port and the other microphone. The front houses the teardrop front-facing camera and earpiece and a slightly larger than expected chin.

The entire chassis of the phone is made out of plastic, but I can’t say it feels very premium with a fairly budget feel, but considering the price tag, I can’t complain. Most people will use some sort of case or skin on their phones so the actual slightly slippery finish won’t affect them. 

Display

Let’s venture into the display first of all, even though it’s a 720P display I couldn’t say I noticed the lower resolution unless I specifically looked for pixels on elements such as the app icons. The 270 PPI density does strike as low when reading text and watching videos, this would especially be noticeable when coming from a higher resolution display such as the Reno 2 which boasts a significantly higher 401 PPI or the iPhone XS Max at 458 PPI. But, the target market for this device is significantly different to those so I don’t see this as a major concern as very few devices around this price point have a 1080P display from an established smartphone brand. 

The display seemed plenty bright inside with even direct lighting not affecting the LCD display, however outside is a bit of a different story. In an overcast but bright early December day, I did struggle to see the display fully unless covered under some sort of shadow.

The phone does have a 0.6mm bottom bezel which isn’t the chunkiest but definitely would result in this phone being called anywhere close to bezel-less. 

Beneath the front-facing camera and top bezel, there is a black shadow which is common in the lower-cost LCD displays that have some sort of cut out in them and the teardrop also follows this trend. It’s not that noticeable unless you are looking out for it on a white background. 

Rear-Facing Camera

The macro camera was touted to be the ace of spades of the Motorola One Macro, with a separate 2MP camera with a minimum distance of just 2cm to allow you to get super close to your subject. But the images produced, whilst low resolution still managed to produce some sharpness sorely lacked the final effect that you would use it for. This would likely be more utilitarian such as reading small text than for any photographic marvels. I would also find that the sensor got confused sometimes and prompted that you switched to the macro lens whilst taking standard photos and sometimes the shortcut for the macro camera disappeared, this was quite confusing and hopefully, it is a simple software fix. 

The additional 2MP depth sensor was almost pointless, it seemed like any depth of field effect was purely a digital effect and I would have rather Motorola just omitted this entirely. 

Rear of Motorola One Macro showing the camera cluster and fingerprint scanner

The standard lens was meh, the 13MP lens lacked sharpness no matter where you looked at in a photo. From afar the photos looked decent but any zooming results in the photo falling apart pretty quickly. For a quick shot of your family or video calls, I think this would be fine, but if you are purchasing this solely for photography, I would advise looking elsewhere. The colours did tend to be more on the colder side with extra saturation added which is a common software trend in lower-end cameras to make the image look ‘nicer’. 

Photo of buildings

The laser AF system did work fairly well and focused on the correct subject pretty much the majority of the time. It did take a second or two for it to react but it worked well. I would say that this significantly counters for the lack of software smarts which my iPhone XS Max has. The time the iPhone took was very similar but it is over 5 times the starting price of the Motorola One Macro so fair play to Motorola here. 

Front Facing Camera  Motorola One Macro Front Facing Camera

The front-facing camera played much better with colour accuracy if a bit on the warm side. It was also wider than my iPhone XS Max which was nice as it helps when taking group selfies. 

There is also a dedicated ‘portrait’ mode which gives you a slider at the bottom to change the bokeh level. This at 20-30% is very workable but I would’ve rather had this as an option rather than a specific camera mode, as it would encourage me to use it more. 

The clarity was severely lacking though, rather than 8MP, it seemed like VGA resolution and apart from the occasional Snapchat story, I would not want to use this for too many selfies. 

Speaker

This is nothing remarkable, to be frank. When cranked all the way up it’s incredibly tinny and the mids are very murky. A more usable volume is about 60% as its 103 maximum decibel limit is almost painful. It is easily blocked at the base and then the earpiece and display output the muffled audio instead. 

Charging

I found that even though the charging technology was marketed as ‘Rapid Charge’, it was severely lacking in that department. I did my charging test using the included 10W USB power adapter and USB A to C Cable. I started my tests at 0% with the battery fully drained, and the entire test was done with the phone turned off and the battery charging while the device is powered off to limit the external factors affecting speed. 

Motorola One Macro Charging port

The device took 5 minutes to reach 4% which seemed normal, but 9 minutes on it crept slowly to 12%. To reach 50% it took 54 minutes, 65% took an hour and 12 minutes with a full 100% charge taking an hour and 48 minutes. This seemed fairly slow for the ‘Rapid Charge’ claim, but since Motorola hasn’t provided any official claims apart from ‘Rapid charging gives you hours of power in just minutes of charging, so you can get going fast’ so we can’t hold them responsible for anything specifically. 

Battery Life

Whilst testing the Motorola One Macro, I found that battery life was one of its biggest advantages. The phone was ending up with between 40% and 60% battery life at the end of the day depending on my usage. You could definitely end up with 2 days out of this phone if you paid attention to your usage. The standby battery loss wasn’t incredibly heavy but you could expect the phone to lose around 8-10% overnight, but as you have read above, you would not want to leave charging to the last minute.

Moto Actions

Within the Moto app on the home screen, there are a few Motorola features that are designed to help make your life slightly easier. These have been carried across from Moto phones past such as the Moto X from 2013. 

 

The highlight features include 2 wrist twists to activate the camera for no matter where you were on the phone, when repeating this step from within the camera app, you swap from the rear-facing to the front-facing camera and vice versa. This was pretty neat and removes the need for a dedicated button for any shutterbugs out there. The other highlight feature was access to the torch app using 2 karate chops. The Moto actions were consistent and pretty much always worked. 

The one thing I did find that was annoying was the lack of ability to reassign what the movement did in relation to the corresponding action. I get that it’s so that no matter what Moto device you pick up, the action is always the same. But if you would like the karate chops to activate YouTube or the wrist twists to activate the music app, you are stuck, the app just allows toggle on and off for the predetermined function.

Performance

The phone is powered by the MediaTek P70 which is a chip I am not too familiar with but I waited before installing Geekbench and Antutu so that I could get a feel for what the chip can do. I did read later on that it is equivalent to the Snapdragon 660 and Kirin 710. I initially believed that the One Macro was on the Android One platform so that it would get quick and consistent Android updates.  But upon later reading into it, that promise was dropped with the One Vision, but that did not mean the phones suddenly gains excessive, heavy skins. It just means that Motorola isn’t as quick with its updates to the more value-oriented devices.

The phone was running Android 9 Pie with the most recent security patch being 1st October 2019. Hopefully, the Android 10 update should hit this phone shortly with improvements that have already been seen on other Android 10 devices.

Rear of phone

I was shocked at the overall fluidity and speed of this phone, it was just buttery smooth throughout. I probably shouldn’t have been especially since the Honor View 20 which I have had for around a year now and the Reno 2 being much cheaper devices but don’t falter compared to their flagship counterparts at double the price. It was just that I didn’t expect a sub £160 phone to do so well. I did have a few random app crashes, but they were rare and few between. Apps rarely closed with 4GB of RAM being managed pretty well by the OS, and all interactions were done without a hitch. The lower-powered processor far exceeded what I expected.

It was refreshing to see how Google intended for Android Pie to look and feel. Within the sea of heavy skins and optimisations made by the plethora of other players, it differentiates the phone on that basis alone. For more on the software front, take a look at Kurt’s Motorola G8 Plus review where he takes a deeper dive into the software experience.

First comes Geekbench 5. I got a single-core score of 278 which is similar to the Galaxy Tab S3 with the Snapdragon 820 and not too different from the original Moto X from 2013. This surprised me so I ran the test again to make sure I did not get an anomaly. But I got a marginally lower score of 276 on my second test. 

The multi-core performance was 1416 which was very close to the fairly recent Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e and slightly below the S8. So definitely the inclusion of 8 cores helps the phone to at least keep its own in one way, with similar performance to a 2-year-old flagship Snapdragon. 

Running the Antutu benchmark, it gets a total score of 163781 which is only better than 16% of the users. This again surprised me since in day to day usage it seemed much better than that. I think in this case it might be better to omit the overall results from your perception of the device and they genuinely don’t tell the real story of the performance of the phone. 

Other Quirks

The Macro has facial unlocking built-in with the front-facing teardrop notch. I found that it worked pretty much flawlessly throughout, but it is probably not incredibly secure. I ended up just using the fingerprint scanner the majority of the time because it was positioned very well.

The One Macro’s fingerprint scanner was about 60%-80% accurate and it failed pretty regularly on the first try even though I had the case on which helped guide my finger to the correct location. Even if you choose to use the phone without a case, then there is a slight recess on the back of the phone to guide your finger around the M logo. But the inclusion of the fingerprint sensor is still a welcome addition to the phone. It is of the always-on variant so you can wake the phone by placing your finger over the sensor which is handy, but any swiping features are omitted such as a pull-down to drag the notification panel down which is included on the Honor View 20. 

I didn’t like the position of the headphone jack at the top of the phone. I appreciate it being included but it makes it very awkward to have headphones and a USB C cable plugged in at the same time whereas if it was on the base of the phone, it’s much easier to hold and looks more visually appealing to me.

The phone for some reason recognises itself as ‘motorola one macro’ in all lowercase in the settings and even Geekbench and Antutu picks up those details which is bizarre as the entire name consists of proper nouns and so every word should have been capitalised. But the branding on Motorola’s website even has the naming in lowercase throughout their phones. With the One series the only using the full Motorola name and the rest of the alphabetised line-up being branded under the ‘moto’ branding.

The textured power button is useful if you don’t use the case, as the inclusion of all of the buttons on one side sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate between them easily. But I would still have much rather the power button remains on the right and the volume button being placed directly opposite on the left-hand side. The button depth is also a little bit lacking and I would have liked the buttons to have more tactility as without the case it seems mushy.

The vibration motor is also incredibly loud, and this gets pretty annoying as most other devices have short sharp vibrations on notifications, but this is ever so elongated and for some reason much louder. This may be due to the fact that this is a plastic chassis compared to the glass and metal smartphones I have tested previously. 

Conclusion

Motorola has pleasantly surprised me with what they have been able to do with a phone for such good value. Whilst it is by no means perfect, I would say this is probably the perfect first smartphone for a child or somebody slightly older as this would introduce them to the world of Android. It is future-proofed with USB C, a fingerprint scanner, facial unlocking and also a headphone jack which they would more likely use with the included earphones. Its affordable price tag and modern design mean that it is a must-buy for the aforementioned target market, but I personally would struggle to use this in the long term.

About Siddu Munjal

Reviewer & Partner Outreach for MobileTechTalk - Tech is a key part of my everyday life and I would probably be extremely lost without it.

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