The Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G is a phone you may have put together, but with a stylus and 5G built-in. It’s a 4G-only, slightly upgraded version of the 2021 Moto G Stylus (sorry, this phone actually has its name).
The Stylus 5G includes several hardware upgrades in addition to 5G connectivity, including a larger battery, more storage and RAM (256 GB and 6 GB in the versions tested respectively), and the latest Snapdragon 480 processor. There’s a fun new stylus-friendly GIF creation mode. Good fun! But it feels almost like the same phone. The rear camera array is identical except for the other macro sensors, the 6.8-inch screen is the same, and the overall dimensions are similar.
This puts the G Stylus 5G in a kind of awkward place. At $399, it’s somewhere between the $279 G Stylus and the $1,000 Galaxy Note 20 (which takes it to the next level if you want a stylus for your phone), but it’s definitely not enough to offer more than a budget-friendly version. Performance and battery life are a bit better, but that’s not really a weakness in the 4G version.
Having 5G is fine, but considering that the G Stylus 5G is only guaranteed 2 years of security updates, the value decreases. This is when 5G is starting to get better in the US, so most of us won’t have 4G devices in the next few years.
All this makes for a good phone without a strong case to recommend.
Moto G Stylus 5G screen and performance
The G Stylus 5G is a large phone with a capital B. The 6.8-inch display is pretty much the same, at least until all phones are folded and begin to expand into weird Transformers-style tablets. It’s a decent 1080p LCD panel. The contrast of OLED is not good, but it can be used even in bright daylight conditions.
The battery life is very good thanks to the large capacity 5,000mAh cells. When used over Wi-Fi, the screen on time became 4 hours and reduced to 36%. It can be used for two days, including relatively heavy use of cellular data, and even very demanding use throughout the day seems reasonable.
Performance is also good. Navigating between apps is fast and smooth, and heavy tasks like zooming in and out of Google Maps display a bit of stuttering. The camera app has a minimal but noticeable shutter lag, which feels like a problem this phone shouldn’t have, but it’s not good enough to ruin your day.
The G Stylus 5G comes with Android 11 and is only supported by 1 major OS platform update and 2 years of security updates. Unfortunately, they are short-lived. Especially considering that Samsung’s Galaxy A series phones are currently backed by four years of security updates. For $400, you should actually get at least two years of support for your device.
A few notes about 5G connectivity on the Stylus 5G: At launch, it will work on 5G networks from Verizon and T-Mobile, but only for 4G from AT&T. Motorola says AT&T 5G support will be available “in the next few months”. It’s not compatible with mmWave 5G (fast, hard-to-find variety) of the network, but it’s not a huge loss. more importantly will Verizon and AT&T, both working on C-band 5G frequencies, will start using them at the end of the year.
The Stylus 5G’s stylus function is basic but adequate. The capacitive stylus is spring-loaded in the lower right corner of the phone and, upon removal, automatically displays a quick options menu. If you’re on the lock screen, it’s handy to jot down notes without unlocking your device. You won’t find any productivity features or neat tricks like a series of notes, but you can find handy shortcuts for taking GIFs or graffiti to screenshots. Useful and fair for the price.
Moto G Stylus 5G Camera
The Stylus 5G features three rear cameras (48 megapixel f/1.7 standard wide, 8 megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide and 5 megapixel macro) along with a 2 megapixel depth sensor and a 16 megapixel selfie camera. The 4G G stylus has a 2 megapixel macro camera, but that’s the only difference.
Like the 4G version, the Stylus 5G takes great photos in rich lighting with an incredible level of detail thanks to the way it handles 48-megapixel images into 12-megapixel files. Ultra wide-angle cameras may result in slightly noisy images in demanding lighting conditions, but despite the slight resolution boost, macro cameras are still overwhelming.
The main camera tends to experience some abrupt color changes even with slightly different compositions of the same scene and subject. At one time, my orange cat is orange, and in the next photo, when shot from a slightly different location, it suddenly appears blue. This happens more often in mixed lighting conditions where many cameras will struggle, but it’s happening so often that it annoys me in testing.
The 4G-only G Stylus is a good price for $279, and while the $399 G Stylus 5G doesn’t have any major issues, it’s hard to justify the higher cost. With only two years of security updates guaranteed, this phone will likely see the beginning of a true 5G in the US. It’s a good step-up option if you prefer a stylus phone and the Note doesn’t fit your budget, but for most people it’s better to stick with or look for a 4G-only model for two years. As a 5G phone with a slightly longer life.
If you’re more interested in a bigger screen and battery than a stylus, you can save quite a bit and go for the Moto G Power (2021). The processor isn’t that great and you miss the ultra-wide camera, but if you want to cover the basics for a few years, I’ll do it.
On the other hand, if you can afford to spend a little more and want to use your phone for more than a few years, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is a good choice. It has a big, nice screen, 5G and comes with a generous support policy. Stylus lovers on a budget will find a good option on the Moto G Stylus 5G, but most others can do better elsewhere.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge