Moto G hands-on: Motorola just announced two budget phones, and one has a stylus

We go hands-on with the new Moto G Power and its behemoth battery, and the Moto G Stylus, which is basically a budget Galaxy Note 10.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
4 min read

The latest G family phones from Motorola: On the left, the Moto G Stylus; on the right, the Moto G Power, which has a 5,000-mAh battery.

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The Motorola Moto G family of phones has a history of finding that sweet spot between well-considered necessities and an affordable price. Over the past three years, the Moto G5 Plus, Moto G6 and Moto G7 showed us just how good budget phones can be. Last year, the budget landscape got more crowded when Google launched the Pixel 3A and 3A XL. And recently there's been an uptick in rumors that Apple will release a budget iPhone 9 (aka the iPhone SE 2). So it's important for Motorola to keep pushing its G line of phones ahead. And to its credit, the Chicago-based company took a significant step forward Friday by launching two new additions for US and Canadian customers: the $300 Moto G Stylus and the $250 Moto G Power.

The phones aren't a radical reimagining of smartphone design like the Motorola Razr foldable phone. But after using both handsets for a few hours, it became obvious how many similarities the Moto G Stylus and G Power have. Both have a 6.4-inch full HD screen. And instead of a notch, the phones have a hole-punch display for a selfie camera. It's similar to what Samsung did on its Galaxy phones in 2019. I can't wait to see what custom wallpaper people make for that hole.

Power-wise, each has a Snapdragon 665 processor, 4GB of RAM and runs Android 10 with Moto's thoughtful extra touches. There's even a new gaming mode called Moto Gametime that limits distractions for a better mobile gaming experience.

On the back is a fingerprint sensor, on the front is a 16-megapixel selfie camera and on the bottom is a headphone jack. The new phones lack the generational naming of previous G phones. For example, the successor to last year's Moto G7 Power isn't the Moto G8 Power and is instead just the Moto G Power. But there still isn't just a plain Moto G, aka a Moto G8, to fill the hole between the Moto G8 Plus and Moto G8 Play that were released in October 2019 outside the US.

Moto G Stylus is a lower-priced Galaxy Note

The most obvious difference between the two phones is that the Moto G Stylus has… well… a stylus. And the Moto G Power doesn't. The stylus fits into the bottom right corner of the phone and hooks open easily with a fingernail.

There are only a couple phones that come with a built-in stylus. Probably the best-known one is the Galaxy Note 10, which costs more than three times as much. There's also the 2019 LG Stylo 5, which like the Moto G Stylus costs $300 (though you can find it on sale for half that, or even less).

Unlike the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note 10, the Moto stylus doesn't connect with Bluetooth and relies solely on capacitive touch for interactions. When you pull the stylus out, you can set it to trigger the Notes app to open without unlocking your phone, or have it open a stylus menu with shortcuts.


The capacitive stylus can be used for navigation, writing, drawing and photo editing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Notes app is pretty basic, but you can create drawings, write notes or just doodle. For years, Motorola has had a camera feature called Cinemagraph that allows you to record a video and then choose parts of the video to remain static. If you've ever been on Instagram, you have most likely seen an ad that does something similar. You can use the stylus to shade out parts of the video with much more precision than you can using your finger.

The stylus can also be used to navigate the phone, markup screenshots and edit photos. I hope Motorola creates more unique and fun ways to take advantage of the stylus.

The Moto G Stylus also has a triple rear camera. There's a 48-megapixel main camera, which combines groups of four pixels to create a 12-megapixel photo. The idea is to help improve image sharpness and brightness. There's also a 16-megapixel ultrawide "action" camera and a built-in macro camera that lets you get as close as 2 centimeters (just under an inch) to your subject.

The G Stylus has 128GB of storage and a 4,000-mAh battery that Motorola claims will last two days of regular use on a single charge.

Moto G Stylus is a sleek note-taking machine

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The Moto G Power has a behemoth battery

If you're looking for even more battery life than the G Stylus offers, then you should consider the Moto G Power. It packs a 5,000-mAh battery that Motorola claims can last over three days of regular use after a single charge.

The G Power also has 64GB of storage and a triple rear camera. There's a 16-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultrawide-angle camera and a built-in macro camera. Obviously, not all cameras are equal and more cameras doesn't necessarily mean better photos.


The Moto G Power in Chicago on a snowy day.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Both phones will be available this spring unlocked and we look forward to testing out the cameras, the batteries and that stylus once we get our hands on them again.

The Moto G Power packs an enormous battery into a slick package

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Originally published last week.