Smartphones have largely replaced point-and-shoot cameras for most folks, and with the addition of wide-angle, telephoto, and depth-sensing cameras, they can even replace a DSLR in some situations.

Now Motorola is taking aim at one category of standalone cameras that hasn’t really been challenged by smartphones yet: GoPro-style action cameras.

The Motorola One Action has three rear cameras that use a “combination of hardware and software innovation” designed for folks that want to use their smartphone to capture sports and other high-action video.

Motorola is launching the phone in Brazil, Mexico, and select European countries for 259 Euros (about $285). It’ll be available in additional markets in the coming months, with a US and Canada launch set for early October.

The Moto One Action features a 6.3 inch, 1080+ IPS LCD display with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a small hole for the 12MP front-facing camera in the upper left corner.

It’s powered by a Samsung Exynos 9609 processor and features 4GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS storage plus a microSD card reader for up to 512GB of  removable storage.

Other features include a 3,500 mAh battery, a 10W USB-C charger, and a headphone jack. The smartphone comes in blue or white color options.

It’s the rear cameras that are the phone’s stand-out features though:

  • 16MP wide-angle (117 degree) camera with 1080p/60fps support and electronic image stabilization
  • 12MP F/1.8 primary camera with 4K/30fps video support and phase-detection autofocus
  • 5MP depth-sensing camera

In addition to letting you capture stabilized wide-angle video, Motorola notes that the wide-angle camera supports “quad pixel technology,” which means you can capture up to four times more light for brighter images if you’re willing to settle for lower-resolution pictures.

Another nifty trick? You can shoot landscape video while holding the phone in portrait mode.

Not-so-nifty? That’s apparently the only way to shoot in landscape using the action camera. Engaget notes that the camera is actually positioned at a 90-degree angle because apparently Motorola figured that’s how a lot of people hold their phones when shooting video these days.

Still, it means you’re going to see a tiny, letterboxed preview while you’re actually shooting video.

While Motorola is positioning the smartphone as an action-camera replacement, it’s not exactly rugged. According to GSM Arena, the phone supports IPX2 water resistance, which means that it can withstand dripping water when tilted at a 15 degree angle and… that’s it. You’ll also probably want to put the phone in a rugged case if you plan to use it in settings where there’s a chance it’ll fall on concrete or gravel.

Still, for a sub-$300 phone, the Motorola One Action doesn’t look bad on paper. It may not be a true action camera killer, but the wide-angle camera sensor with video stabilization isn’t a feature you’re likely to find on a lot of other phones in this price range. So if that’s a high priority feature for you, I suppose it’s nice to have the option of picking up a phone that doesn’t cost $1000.

The Motorola One Action is an Android One device that will ship with Android  Pie and receive at least two years of regular software updates.

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4 replies on “Motorola One Action is a smartphone designed to replace an action camera”

  1. I really enjoyed my previous Moto phones although now I have a Pixel 3 which takes great stills. I don’t know how people will react to the windowed video during capture but anything that prevents morons from taking vertical videos is worth trying.

  2. A phone isn’t going to replace an action camera until you can bolt it to a moving object without worrying about breaking it, and hold it securely without worrying about dropping it. That’s not going to happen until they STOP PUTTING GLASS BACKS ON PHONES.
    Things like kevlar, carbon fiber, and zillions of other strong polymers and composites exist, that don’t get in the way of wireless charging and NFC. Aside wanting your customers to break the phone, why not use them? Not shiny enough?
    Also, it can’t be shaped like this. The screen has to be completely flat with the edge of the body protruding slightly above the screen to protect from drops, and there should be texturing on the corners, to avoid drops.
    A good example of this is the galaxy s5 sport. A phone so well designed that it actually lasts way TOO long. You have to actually TRY to drop it thanks to the rubber back. Oh, and despite the removable battery, it’s actually more waterproof than this thing.

    1. Yeah, completely agree about the design aspect. The entire smartphone industry started turning around 2013 and made a full direction-shift around 2016. Going from high-quality consumer-friendly goods, to low-quality anti-consumer products. There’s a reason why we’re seeing less devices with High-grade IPS screens, Removable Battery, and Unlockable Bootloaders: Planned Obsolescence.

      At the +$800 price range, there’s enough margin to have a Sapphire Display, a Titanium Alloy subframe, and a Military-grade Kevlar backplate. Excellent for 120Hz-1440p screen, Assisted-OIS camera, QSD 855 chipset, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage.

      At the +$400 price range, you can step down to a Gorilla Glass 6 Display, a Stainless Steel subframe, and an (7000-series) Anodised Aluminium backplate. Great for 120Hz-1080p screen, OIS camera, QSD 730 chipset, 6GB RAM, and 128GB storage.

      At the +$200 price range, you can further reach down to DragonTrail Display, a Aluminium subframe, and an Aerospace-grade Matte Polycarbonate backplate. Good for 60Hz-1080p screen, EIS camera, QSD 665 chipset, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage.

    2. Kyocera has had a line of action camera rugged phones for years called Duraforce. I don’t know why this Motorola phone line is newsworthy.

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