Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Motorola One/P30 Play (Revisited in 2020)

The Motorola One (known as P30 Play in the far-east) was released in Autumn 2018 running Android 8.1. It's an AndroidOne device so will stay bang-up-to-date with Google Security Patches until Autumn 2021, though it has most likely finished with major OS revisions on Android 10 after two, and won't get 11.

The leap between Android 9 and 10 was the significant one, not 10 to 11, so as far as I can see, this phone is good to be used safely and with full functionality for another year from now and beyond. I reviewed this back in spring 2019 and highlighted what a good phone it was, very well priced. People would struggle to find a new version of this now - and if they did, a battery sitting on a shelf for this long probably wouldn't be very good! But that's not the purpose of this post.

I still have this phone here and in the last week, I have made it my main device again so have come back to report how the experience is - and more importantly, highlight the issue that devices released under the AndroidOne Programme can serve their user for a good 3/4 years, close to what Apple users can expect from their devices. I continue to wonder why it is that there are not more out there - and conclude the reason to be that phone manufacturers don't want devices to last 3/4 years, but rather get more money from people replacing phones within a much shorter time-frame.

Quickly running through the specs finds us a phone which is slightly bigger in all directions than a Pixel with a plastic frame and back but Gorilla Glass flat front panel. It benefits from the usual Moto internal coating to make it splash-resistant and is Dual SIM with and additional space for a microSD Card.

The LCD panel is 720p - but hang on a minute before switching off - my late-50-year-old eyes are finding this to be perfectly adequate for general use, laying aside the battery benefits. I can't see the pixels! The brightness is very good to my eyes, on auto and when manually hiked-up. It's a 5.9" 19:9 screen which goes pretty much to the top with a small chin at the foot and a smidgeon on the sides, colours are good and saturated almost like OLED. For its day, it was excellent in these respects and for me, remains so!

The SnapDragon 625 chipset sounds woeful in 2020, but in reality, in practice, in everyday use, it's really perfectly fine for 90% of people. Of course, it's not going to stand up to the demands of gaming for long, but the target market here was never about that - and let's not forget the battery benefits of stepping down. There's 64GB of onboard storage and I have it playing nicely with my 512GB microSD Card, so storage is of little concern even though most baselines have moved onto 128GB.

There's a mono loudspeaker firing out of the bottom with Dolby-tuned Moto Audio with many options to make the sound better. This is no Razer or ROGII but it certainly is very good indeed for personal use, again, for 90% of uses for 90% of people. I've now tested this in-car and it can be heard perfectly well. The 3.5mm audio-out socket is present and although there's no fancy audio-enhancements available beyond the aforementioned Dolby, it's perfectly loud and certainly good quality enough - even better for those prepared to hook up with Bluetooth. There's even a recording FM Radio!

There's NFC for Google Pay, USB-C (not microUSB) and a very fast rear-mounted fingerprint scanner for security. The battery is a 3000mAh unit and with my 10% reading screen-on test I'm getting 1 hour 20 minutes, so about twice as long as the Pixel 3(!) and about the same as, say, the Nokia 8 Sirocco. The phone needs to be really caned through the day not to get to bedtime. There's no Qi charging of course, but there is a TurboCharging brick. There's a basic camera setup which will be fine for the 90% again, as they post to social media, not looking to make posters for bedroom walls. A 13MP f2 shooter with 2MP f2.4 backup for depth and an 8MP f2.2 Selfie.

The point of this post though is not about the specs, but the value of AndroidOne and how this can serve users going forward. We've seen Nokia now (via AndroidOne) and even Samsung promising 3-year+ updates to devices because they seem to be realising that this is the next Apple catch-up they need to assure users about going forward if they are to sell their phones. AndroidOne provides a super clean version of Android with promises of longevity and specific support ranges.

Furthermore, the UX is also a clean one - no bloat whatsoever except (what I consider to be) useful additions to the front-end with chop-chop for torch and twist-twist for camera gestures amongst some others. The best one is having access to Moto's Peek system for locked screens. As Notifications come in, they are splashed on the screen briefly and the user can interact with them by slides and long-presses, getting to the information. There's no Approach here, that seemed to come a bit later for LCD Moto devices, but a nudge or lift wakes the screen if you don't want to go right in by touching the fingerprint scanner.

The whole experience is pure and clean. The device is just the right size in the hand for one-handed use when needed and big enough for extended reading at other times. There is a whacking great big notch at the top, which does interfere with status-bar icons, but you get used to it. Two years on, with Android 10 in place and still another guaranteed year of Security updates, puts many, many other devices to shame. If you can find one, grab it!

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