When you first pick up the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), the all-plastic build, loose-fitted stylus, and unmistakably cheap vibration motor make it clear what price tier of a phone you’re dealing with. With this, Motorola isn’t gunning for the iPhone Pro’s or the Samsung Galaxy S series’ lunches.
Instead, it wants to dominate in the ever-so-competitive downmarket, where manufacturers must play the balance game, strategically adding and removing features to reach a value package good enough to win the hearts of budget-minded shoppers.
Despite the cuts to the hardware — which is a story we’ve seen before; Apple sells the $449 iPhone SE with a nine-year-old design — Motorola actually gets a lot right with the new Moto G Stylus 5G. There’s a new and better processor in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1, a new camera system with larger pixels, and most importantly, a new price tag that’s lower than last year’s: $399.
Altogether, I feel good enough to say that this is the $400 phone to beat in 2023. And at its current discounted price of $299, it’s a no-brainer for most people, budget shopping or not.
Moto G Stylus 5G (2023)
One of the few phones on the market with a built-in stylus, and the $299 price point gets you 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, too.
The Moto G Stylus 5G is one of the few phones on the market that still has a built-in pen for precision inputs. It’s a key differentiator from the other slabs on the mid-range market and one that should entice visual learners, journalists, and users who prefer to write things down instead of typing them.
The stylus is siloed on the bottom right corner of the phone, which I’d argue is a better location than the left-side favoritism that Samsung has with its Ultra phones, and I love that I can just eject it while the Moto is locked and a notepad naturally appears.
Keep in mind, the stylus experience on the Moto G Stylus is not perfect; there’s no palm rejection when you’re writing against the new, smaller 6.6-inch display, and the pressure sensitivity is next to zero. But, for stylus-supported classics like Bejeweled and Fruit Ninja, there’s no beating this at the price point.
And like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, you can make a case for buying the Moto phone even if you don’t plan on using the onboard accessory. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 processor powering the unit, day-to-day apps and services run very fluidly. Sure, the YouTube feed takes a second longer to load compared to a more expensive phone, but I was generally impressed by the snappiness of Moto G Stylus and how well it maintained its 120Hz refresh rate.
Then there’s the exceptional value you’re getting with memory and storage; the $399 model comes with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, beating its closest competitors, the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G (128GB), Google Pixel 7a (128GB), and iPhone SE (64GB). You also have the option to expand the memory via microSD card.
Motorola took a gamble with this year’s camera setup, opting for a 50MP main sensor and a new 8MP ultrawide that doubles as a macro lens in place of last year’s two low-resolution macro and depth sensors, and it’s paid off — sort of.
Undersaturation is still a problem with Moto’s camera system, and the lack of optical image stabilization in the main lens makes it harder to capture static, low-light photos (because the phone will ask you to hold the phone still for a good 2-3 seconds every time). But in the most common cases, which is what most people will care about, I found the 50MP main sensor reliable enough for family photos, scenic views, and quick flicks of social-worthy experiences.
With the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023), the company is committing to the usual one OS version upgrade (from Android 13 to Android 14) and three years of security support. That’s a tier below what Samsung and Google offer for their mid-rangers, but if access to the latest software features and a year or two less of security patches means little to you, then I digress.
Ultimately, you’re getting a lot for how little you’re paying for the newest Moto G Stylus. We’re seeing an influx of well-rounded, more-than-enough smartphones in this sub-$500 price range that I can easily recommend three to four picks that were released within the past three months alone. And within that list, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2023) — I promise this will be the last time I type the full name out — sits at the top if you’re shopping for a phone for less than $400.