Calling the 2021 Motorola Moto G stylus the cheapest stylus phone feels like a backhand compliment. Competitors for that title, the LG Stylo 6 is too short to recommend. But the G stylus doesn’t win by default. It’s actually a versatile and capable phone for under $300.
It offers a large 6.8-inch 1080p screen, a generous 128GB of internal storage, and a Snapdragon 678 processor with 4GB of RAM. Motorola launched earlier this year with an MSRP of $299, but is now sold for $279 by manufacturers and other retailers.
Other highlights include a 48-megapixel main camera that comes with an ultra-wide and macro rear camera, a 4,000mAh battery, a “water repellent” design, and a fingerprint sensor built into the concave power button. Even without considering the headline features of the G Stylus, it’s a versatile set of features for budget gadgets.
Moto G Stylus (2021) Stylus features
The main selling point is definitely the stylus of the G stylus, so I’ll cover it first. Like the Stylo 6, the G Stylus includes a built-in electrostatic stylus that fits in the lower right corner of the device. When it pops out, you’ll see a quick shortcut menu for stylus-friendly apps.
It has a note-taking app and a shortcut to take screenshots and annotate. You can even write quick notes without unlocking the screen. Basic feature set. It’s not too advanced as the Galaxy Note series offers, but there are some neat bonuses.
First, the messaging app supports handwriting to text conversion. These are Gboard settings that can be enabled on all Android devices, but are available on the G Stylus by default. Pressing the “Earth” icon on the left side of the space bar will open the handwriting panel. Write your message and see if it appears in the text line above.
Another trick for Moto G Stylus is its ability to create a cinema graph, which is a still image with moving elements. To make one, basically hold the camera still and take a short video clip. Then use the stylus to draw an area of the scene with motion. The rest is fixed as a still image. You don’t necessarily need a stylus for this, but the added precision helps. Results can be saved as MP4 or GIF. The app does a decent job of stabilizing the handheld image for a more convincing end product, but the resulting clip is quite low resolution. It’s fun to play with though.
The LG Stylo 6’s stylus features are a bit more fun and focused on creativity, but the Moto G is a bit more ridiculous. Of course, there are coloring apps out there that do the neat trick of using AI to identify rudimentary sketches of cats and convert them into templates for digital “crayons”. But where are the creators of animated GIFs? Or can you text your friends and show off your crazy doodle skills with an app that records while sketching? These things undoubtedly exist in third party apps. However, the basic feature set, good or bad, feels a bit more adult.
Moto G Stylus (2021) screen and performance
The stylus’s screen isn’t flashy (standard 60Hz refresh rate LCD). It’s a fairly bright and large 6.8-inch 1080p display. The phone itself, of course, has become large and heavier too, but the edges of the back panel are slightly rounded, making it more comfortable to hold than the size suggests. It looks a bit ridiculous in the pocket of your yoga pants, but this stylus wrapper is by no means something you can put in your pocket.
The G Stylus uses a Snapdragon 678 processor with 4GB of RAM, and this combination is perfect for everyday tasks. Apps load quickly, and it feels like jumping between apps. There are occasional hiccups and slight slowdowns when scrolling through media-rich apps like Twitter, but nothing is too frustrating.
The battery life is also good. It’s not excellent, but it’s good enough. Motorola claims that the stylus can get two days on a single charge, which in my experience feels like a bit of a stretch. More importantly, I had no problems using it all day, including more than 2 hours of screen time, and the remaining battery life was sufficient. Motorola comes with a 10W charger and when connected it is called “Turbo Power”. The charging rate is more average than “Turbo”. A 10 minute charge added an extra 10% and it took a total of 40 minutes to fully charge the 80% battery.
Moto G Stylus ships with Android 10 and will be updated to Android 11. Motorola does not reveal the exact timing, but G Stylus owners can find more information on the company’s software update page. Motorola’s budget device support isn’t that great. This phone will receive just two years of security updates ending in January 2023. Samsung recently announced that even budget A-series Galaxy phones will now have a four-year security update guarantee. Hopefully that’s a policy that more manufacturers like Motorola will consider adopting.
Moto G Stylus (2021) camera
The G Stylus’ triple camera is the same as the $400 Motorola One 5G Ace with an added dedicated depth sensor. To sum up, it includes a 48 megapixel f/1.7 main camera that produces 12 megapixel images, an 8 megapixel f/2.2 ultra wide, and a 2 megapixel macro camera.
There is nothing surprising here. Like the Ace, the G Stylus can achieve good quality images, especially in the bright light of the main camera. Downsampling from 48 megapixels to 12 can capture a lot of detail, but if you look closely you will see a crunchy clarity. Colors are well reproduced without oversaturation. Exceptionally, the camera seems to increase saturation and warmth when identifying a subject as food. Even if it is a little unnatural, the result will be tastier.
Unfortunately, the ultra-wide camera is not good. Even photos taken in bright light show details and ugly noise. The city street photos I took have a peculiar purple hue, while the photos from the main camera at the same point look a lot better. This is all obvious even with smaller image sizes for social sharing, which is unfortunate. The macro camera isn’t good, but the selfie camera is a bit sharper and better than you’d expect on a budget phone. Beat some and lose some.
Ace’s camera system was a bit disappointing, but it feels right on the less expensive Moto G Stylus. You can’t find amazing night mode or top-notch picture quality here, but if it’s a phone under $300, it works fine.
The Moto G Stylus is a versatile low-budget phone with a stylus. Of Motorola’s 2021 budget devices we’ve tested so far, this one offers the best balance of features and cost-saving measures. It offers a large display, stylus function, excellent battery life and solid everyday performance. The camera is flawed, but enough to overdo it.
This is a natural choice for anyone looking for an inexpensive stylus phone, but we hesitate to recommend it to everyone else. The $299 OnePlus Nord N10 5G offers a faster refresh rate, better camera, and slightly better performance for about the same price. If you can spend a little more, the $349 Google Pixel 4A will provide better software support and a great camera.
If you are a stylus enthusiast or have a strong curiosity about styli, then the Moto G stylus is a good choice. However, if you are less ambivalent for your stylus, you may be better off using one of these other options.
Photo of Allison Johnson / The Verge