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As smartphone manufacturers continue to push the limits of pricing, Motorola has gone in the opposite direction. There is a market for affordable smartphones, and Motorola has carved out a niche in this area. With the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), the company is aiming to create a midrange smartphone with a built-in stylus. Not many midrange smartphones offer this functionality — or smartphones in general for that matter — so this feature alone makes it in the running to be one of the best budget smartphones this year.

To capture that crown, it'll have to not only beat other budget smartphones but also the cheaper version of itself: the Moto G Stylus (2023). The latter is a sub-$200 phone that also features an inbuilt stylus, although it comes with a worse processor and a low-resolution display. So, if you like the idea of the Moto G Stylus 5G, you'll have to figure out whether you need midrange specs for $200 more than the cheaper Moto G Stylus.

But throughout my time with the Moto G Stylus 5G, I found myself asking if anybody even wants a stylus inside this kind of smartphone at all. It's really hard to make a stylus useful because you need a combination of hardware and software that work seamlessly together. While the inclusion of a stylus in a midrange phone is cool and unique, I struggled to find a single use case where it was more convenient than just typing something out. So unless you're craving a built-in stylus on a budget, you'll probably be disappointed with the Moto G Stylus 5G.

About this review: This review was written after two weeks of testing a Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) provided by Motorola, who did not have any input in this review.

moto g stylus 5g 2023
Source: Motorola
Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)
7 / 10
$300 $400 Save $100

This stylus-equipped Moto G has long battery life, 5G connectivity, and a Snapdragon 600 series CPU. It's a solid midrange phone, but it begs the question of whether a stylus is useful at this price point.

Snapdragon 6 Gen 1
6.6-inch FHD+, Full HD+ (2400 x 1080), LTPS 120Hz, 20:9 aspect ratio
256GB and up to 2TB microSD card
5000mAh, 20W wired charging
USB-C, 3.5mm headset jack, microSD card
Operating System
Android 13
Front camera
16MP (f/2.45, 1.0µm) l Quad Pixel Technology
Rear cameras
50MP (f/1.88, 2.0µm) | Ultra Pixel Technology 8MP (f/2.2, 1.12µm) | Ultrawide + Macro Vision + Depth
5G (no mmWave), 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
162.83x 73.77 x 9.19mm
Micro SD card support
Fingerprint reader, Face unlock
  • Great battery life
  • Solid Android software with Motorola's slight touch
  • A great screen, when it's used indoors
  • Camera suffers in low-light conditions
  • Stylus is hard to use without palm rejection
  • Screen is just about useless in bright conditions

Pricing and availability

Motorola's latest Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) will be available for purchase starting June 16. The smartphone retails for $400, and you can register for the device on Motorola's website today. It's available in Cosmic Black and Rose Champagne colorways, and as the name would suggest, features an inbuilt stylus. There is only one configuration of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), with 256GB of internal storage, but you can expand that with a microSD card slot up to 1TB. When it releases, it'll be available for purchase at Best Buy and Amazon, as well as direct from Motorola.

Hardware and design

Nothing out of the ordinary, until the stylus pops out

The Moto G Stylus (2023) in hand in the blue colorway.
Photo: Brady Snyder

If you've seen a Motorola phone in the past — barring the Razr foldable lineup — you know exactly what you're getting in the Moto G Stylus 5G. That even includes the company's latest Motorola Edge+ (2023) flagship, which looks strikingly similar to the Moto G Stylus 5G, at least from the rear. On the back, you'll see a matte plastic finish that looks and feels like aluminum. There's a slight camera bump that houses the Moto G Stylus 5G's two cameras, but it isn't as prominent as other flagships. Still, the presence of a camera bump at all means that you'll get some slight wobble when using the Moto G Stylus 5G on a table.

The frame of the Moto G Stylus 5G is also made out of plastic, but that's to be expected at this price point. The front is made out of glass, but Motorola doesn't give us any clues as to its durability. Similarly, though the company says the Moto G Stylus 5G has a "water-repellant design," the phone isn't certified for any IP rating or durability standard.

You'll find stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the display, but they're unusable for anything but phone calls. When listening to videos or music, the Moto G Stylus 5G doesn't separate the lows, mids, and highs, instead blending them together. It's easily the tinniest-sounding phone I've used in the past year, but I use earbuds or dedicated speakers most of the time anyway, so it's an easy problem to solve. There is also a headphone jack here.

The Moto G Stylus (2023) with the stylus beside the phone.
Photo: Brady Snyder

Of course, you won't go long without noticing the Moto G Stylus 5G's namesake. The stylus lives in the bottom right of the phone, and it's clearly designed for right-handed people. When you're holding the phone in your left hand, you can easily eject the stylus with your right hand and start writing. The reverse is a bit trickier since the stylus will be blocked by the groove of your palm. I'm one of the 10% of the population that's left-handed, so I found the Moto G Stylus 5G's placement less convenient.

Otherwise, storing and ejecting the stylus worked well. You push in on the stylus to release the end of it, which can be used to fully take out the stylus. This is great because although I found that the end of the stylus could get ejected in my pocket, there was never a time when the stylus completely fell out. Best of all, the stylus replaced my AirPods case as my favorite piece of tech to fidget with in my pocket.

Display and stylus

A screen that's hard to see and a pen that suffers from bad software

The Moto G Stylus display in-hand at night.
Photo: Brady Snyder

The Moto G Stylus 5G's display might be the most disappointing aspect of this phone, but not for the reason you might think. It features a 6.6-inch display with an FHD+ 2400x1080 resolution, and the screen looks like that figure in daily use, especially indoors or at night. Plus, it features an LTPS panel capable of reaching 120Hz refresh rates, which is impressive on a phone at this price. The problem is that as soon as you get outside, you'll struggle to even see what's on the screen.

I took a photo of the Moto G Stylus 5G's display at full brightness, and as you can see, it doesn't look great. For some perspective, I took a photo of the sky — and it wasn't even a bright or sunny day out. It's unfortunate because the display is legitimately impressive in favorable lighting conditions.

We can't talk about the display without mentioning the stylus. The hardware is good, and although the stylus is a bit thinner than I would like, it's great for a built-in pen. Writing felt smooth, and the display was responsive, but the experience all fell apart when it was time for the software to pull its weight. There's no palm rejection, so you'll have to try to write with the stylus without touching the display with your hand. It's tricky and unnatural.

Drawing on the Moto G Stylus.
Photo: Brady Snyder

You can write in any text field with the stylus and have it automatically convert to text, which was a cool feature. However, the keyboard disappears when this mode is active, which is a problem. That means the text field moves to the very bottom of the screen, making it very hard to write accurately in the area. I would've liked to see the entire keyboard space be used as a place for drawing for text, as I think it would have eliminated some spelling errors and been an overall more natural experience.


The UI looks like a Pixel, and that's absolutely a good thing

Software on the Moto G Stylus.
Photo: Brady Snyder

The Moto G Stylus 5G's software is mostly stock Android, which is an excellent choice. Motorola did include its own elements here, and the additions are fantastic. The company's approach to skinning stock Android is one that other manufacturers should take note of, especially Samsung. The Moto G Stylus 5G ships with Android 13, but don't expect too many software updates from budget Motorola devices. You'll get one OS update, along with security patches.

With Motorola's My UX, you can customize the way your system looks. Those settings are found in the Moto app, where you can also customize gestures, personal security features, and the display. Though it can be confusing to have settings and options in two different places, it works fine on the Moto G Stylus 5G, in part because you never need to use the Moto app. It's just there if you want to use additional features.

There's also a menu that opens anytime you remove the stylus, which can be disabled. By default, the menu offers shortcuts to Moto Note, screenshot, Gif maker, and handwriting. I quickly changed the default options to Microsoft OneNote, and it was pretty useful. If you remove the pen when the display is locked, it'll automatically open a new Moto Note.


About what you'd expect

The Moto G Stylus (2023) against a brick background.
Photo: Brady Snyder

The Moto G Stylus is powered by a Qualcomm SM6450 Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 processor paired with an Adreno graphics chip and 6GB of RAM. Overall, the specs of the Moto G Stylus 5G aren't all that impressive, but I never ran into any problems with performance in my daily use. From browsing social media to using the web or Microsoft 365 apps, everything felt familiar when compared to other smartphones with much more powerful silicon.

The phone also packs a 5,000mAh battery, and Motorola says it can last up to two days. I used the Moto G Stylus 5G as my daily driver — with an AirMessage server relaying all of my iMessages to that phone — and got pretty close to Motorola's estimates. I finished every day with 20-40% of the battery remaining, which is more than enough for my usage. I don't get a full day on my iPhone 14 Pro, so this is a welcome addition to my workflow.

To quantify the Moto G Stylus 5G's performance, I ran a Geekbench 6 benchmark, but keep in mind that benchmarks don't always represent daily performance. I compared those results to the Google Pixel 7a, which sells for $100 more than the price of the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023). But, for reference, I added some comparisons to the Moto G Stylus and Samsung Galaxy A14 from our review of that phone last month. Put simply, the Moto G Stylus 5G impresses considering its price tag, and outperforms a lot of similarly-priced phones on the market.




Motorola Moto G Stylus (2023)



Motorola Moto G (2023)



Samsung Galaxy A14 5G



Google Pixel 7a




Passable, until it starts to get dark out

The camera system on the Moto G Stylus (2023).
Photo: Brady Snyder

Cameras are typically the downfall of budget phones, and the Moto G Stylus isn't any different. The phone has a dual-camera system, with a 50MP wide camera and an 8MP ultrawide camera. But, the main camera is the only one you'll actually want to use since any 8MP sensor isn't great in 2023. On the front of the phone, you have an 8MP wide camera sensor, which fits into the display with a hole-punch cutout.

Photos taken with the Moto G Stylus 5G were typically solid when capturing a relatively close subject, but wide shots lacked focus and detail. Night photography was considerably worse than in conditions with favorable lighting, but photos did turn out decent with Auto Night Vision is enabled. This lengthens the exposure time and does some post-processing, making low-light photos better than I expected — but still not great.

I took the Moto G Stylus 5G and the Google Pixel 7a out to a baseball game and an amusement park to grab some photos, and here's how they turned out.

Moto G Stylus (2023) on the left, Pixel 7a on the right.

As you can see, photos seem a bit overexposed on the Moto G Stylus 5G. But, Motorola does give you manual access to the zoom, aperture, and exposure levels, so you may be able to correct this issue on your own. Here are some low-light photos captured on the Moto G Stylus 5G.

Overall, the cameras on the Moto G Stylus 5G are really hit or miss. Some photos I took with the phone I loved, and others I was disappointed with. But, in solid lighting conditions, the cameras on the Moto G Stylus 5G are definitely passable for a phone at this price point.

Should you buy the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)?

The Moto G Stylus (2023) on the grass.
Photo: Brady Snyder

You should buy the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) if:

  • You need a built-in stylus in a midrange phone
  • You like Motorola's My UX Android skin
  • You don't do many intensive tasks

You should not buy the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) if:

  • You need better cameras in a smartphone
  • You spend a lot of time using your phone in direct sunlight
  • You want faster performance

Budget smartphones have been getting better over the past few years, and there's a good argument for choosing one over a flagship. These cheap Android phones provide many of the same key features as phones double or triple the price but lack premium or quality-of-life features. But do you need those extra features and are you willing to spend hundreds of dollars more for them?

Holistically, I was impressed by the Moto G Stylus 5G. It delivers a lot of good features for around $400, and the compromises that come with it can be compensated for with relative ease. If you're looking for a simple budget smartphone with a stylus, there's no better choice than the Moto G Stylus 5G. But like with any budget smartphone, know the compromises that you'll be facing on a daily basis and figure out whether you can live with them or not. Motorola got a lot of things right, and I did enjoy using the smartphone and its operating system. But it failed to get right the one thing it needed to: the stylus.

moto g stylus 5g 2023
Source: Motorola
Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)
Good midrange phone
$300 $400 Save $100

This stylus-equipped Moto G has long battery life, 5G connectivity, and a Snapdragon 600 series CPU.