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When the very first Moto G landed way back in 2013, it was a phone that undeniably turned head. Not because it was big, fast, or chocked full of incredible and innovative features, but because it was cheap. The G series has come a long way in the intervening seven years (yep, it's really been a while), but over that period, we kind of felt the G lost its way more than once, getting too expensive or missing out on key budget phone trends. Thankfully, these new G series phones correct some of Moto's missteps—they're legitimately good values. Last year's Moto G series was pretty plainly overpriced, so it's good to see Moto has readjusted its philosophy in 2020 with the G Power and S Stylus.
These phones are fast enough, but they won't come close to the experience of a flagship phone. The cameras get the job done, but you'll never best a Pixel or OnePlus phone. The displays? Hey, you won't hate looking at them, but Samsung's OLEDs blow them away. But starting at $250, the new Moto G phones are a step in the right direction for Motorola and a good value for budget phone buyers.
|Display||6.4-inch 1080p LCD|
|Rear cameras||16MP (f/1.7, 1.12μm), 2MP (f/2.2, 1.75μm) macro, 8MP (f/2.2, 1.12μm) 118° ultra-wide angle|
|Front camera||16MP (f/2.0, 1μ)|
|Dimensions||159.85 x 75.84 x 9.63mm, 199g|
|Display||6.4-inch 1080p LCD|
|Rear cameras||48MP (f/1.7, 1.6μm), 2MP (f/2.2, 1.75μm) macro, Action Cam 16MP (f/2.2, 2.0μm, 117-degrees FOV)|
|Front camera||16MP (f/2.0, 1μ)|
|Dimensions||158.55 x 75.8 x 9.2mm, 192g|
|Battery life||These phones, particularly the G Power, will run ages on a charge.|
|Design||Looks more modern with the punch hole camera and slimmer bezels. No annoying front-facing branding.|
|Software||You get a clean, efficient build of Android with a few nice extras like Moto Actions.|
|Price||The $250 price is a good value for the G Power.|
|Updates||Motorola is not great about update support on budget phones.|
|Charging||Despite the large batteries, these phones only support 10w charging.|
|NFC||Still no NFC for mobile payments.|
|Materials||Glossy plastic is probably my least favorite material for a phone body.|
|Stylus trade-offs||The G Stylus loses a lot of battery capacity and the wide-angle still camera.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box
The G Power and G Stylus have a lot of basic design features in common, so much so that it can be hard to tell them apart at a glance. Motorola has made its latest G phones look much more modern with hole-punch displays and slimmer bezels. The camera hangs out in the upper left corner, and three of the four sides of the screen have roughly equal bezels. The bottom "chin" is still a bit larger to make room for the LCD drivers, but it's much smaller than last year's G-series. There isn't even room to cram in a Motorola logo!
Moto G Power
The G Stylus and Power have plastic backs, which is a step down from the glass design of last year's G7. That said, the plastic is lighter, and they don't feel cheap. They do, however, very much feel like plastic. There's a fingerprint sensor on the back with the Motorola logo inside. That's the only branding on the phone, which I quite like. The power button and volume rocker are on the right edge. They're tactile enough, but they jiggle a bit. Down on the bottom, you have the speaker (stereo with the earpiece), a USB-C port, and an increasingly rare headphone jack.
These devices are a bit on the heavy side (just shy of 200g), but that's the consequence of having huge batteries even with a light-weight plastic shell. Motorola still refuses to add NFC to its budget G-series phones in the US. So, these phones can't do mobile payments via Google Pay. Although they do still pester me to set up Google Pay, which seems very unnecessary.
Moto G Stylus
On the G Stylus, the eponymous stylus docks into the bottom of the phone. There's no spring-loaded ejection mechanism a la the Galaxy Note, so you have to catch the end of the stylus with a fingernail to remove it. I feel like I'm constantly jabbing myself trying to take the stylus out, and it's rarely worth it when I do. The stylus is tiny and not comfortable to hold, and it lacks any sort of pressure-sensitivity. It's just a little capacitive nub that's only slightly more accurate than your finger.
Note the shadow around the camera.
Both phones have the same 6.4-inch 1080p LCD panel. The colors and brightness are middle-of-the-road among smartphones, but that's what I'd expect for the price. In "saturated" display mode, things look punchy, but the display lacks the richness of a good OLED. Motorola's display exhibits some consistency issues around the hole punch, which is typical whenever you take a bite out of an LCD panel. It looks like a slight shadow surrounding the opening, which can be a bit annoying on light backgrounds.
These are budget phones, so you wouldn't expect any bonuses in the box. And you'd be right. You get the phone and the charger. That's it.
Software and performance
Motorola adopted a stock Android UI years back when it was part of Google, and the company has maintained that interface as part of Lenovo. The Google-era Moto was also innovative with software features. Sadly, that has not continued under Lenovo. There's less to make The G Power and G Stylus stand out as the core Android experience has crowded out custom features like Moto Voice and Moto Display. I've long cited Moto Display as one of my favorite things about Motorola's phones, and it's still good—it's just not dramatically better than the always-on display functionality on most other phones. The new G phones don't even wake Moto Display when you wave a hand over it like older Moto devices.
While Moto is coasting on past software ingenuity, the overall experience is still above average. There aren't duplicate bloatware apps or adware, it ships with Android 10, and the home screen has Google Discover. I will also note that Moto Actions is still a great little bonus on the G-series phones; the chop to activate the flashlight is so useful that I'm surprised no one has copied it. These features are available on both phones, but the G Stylus has a few minor additions related to, you guessed it, the stylus. When you remove the stylus, you get a small floating icon similar to Samsung's Air Command. It links you to apps like the new Moto Notes, but you can customize it as you see fit.
Motorola has a sordid history with Android updates, but it's hard to find a sub-$300 phone that doesn't. These phones will probably just get one major OS update and a few quarterly security patches. The OS update will probably be quite late, too.
Moto's clean software experience helps keep the performance at acceptable levels. The G-series phones with the Snapdragon 665 are certainly fast enough. Nothing happens as fast as it does on a phone with higher-end 800-series chips, but you can get used to the small delays. I very rarely saw real lag on these phones, and that was mostly when installing or updating apps in the background.
Battery life is one of the primary selling points here. The G Power has a humongous 5,000mAh battery, which keeps it running for about three days. It's freeing to be able to just use your phone without any hint of range anxiety. The smaller 4,000mAh battery in the G Stylus lasts about two days, and that's good overall. It's just not as special as the G Power's longevity. Honestly, I don't think the smaller battery is a good trade-off for the stylus. Unfortunately, charging the G Power and G Stylus is a bit disappointing. These devices only support 10W charging—Motorola insists on calling this "rapid charging," but that seems awfully kind. It takes ages to recharge the batteries in these phones.
I don't think anyone is expecting a budget phone to take amazing photos, and the new G-series phones don't. They do, however, take surprisingly okay photos. The G Stylus has a 48MP primary sensor, and the G Power is just 16MP. Despite that, the difference in photo quality is negligible. The software processing is just as important as the sensor these days, and Moto isn't really taking advantage of the higher resolution in the G Stylus. That said, both phones take solid outdoor shots with low shutter speed and accurate colors.
In middling light, the G Stylus does manage to keep shutter lag lower because of its pixel binning. So, you get fewer blurry shots and better (usually) lighting. Again, the difference between the phones is not dramatic, but the G Stylus is the winner.
Both phones have a wide-angle camera sensor, but only the G Power uses it in the way you'd expect. It takes wide-angle photos, but the G Stylus uses it exclusively for wide-angle "action cam" video. Similar to one of the company's Motorola One devices, you can hold the G Stylus in portrait and capture ultra-wide video. It looks cool, but I'd probably prefer to have a still camera. Both phones also have a 2MP macro camera, which produces disappointing photos. You need excellent lighting to have a chance of getting something even vaguely usable.
Should you buy it?
Maybe. We all know this is a tough time to launch a phone with the global economy on the decline and uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic. For a lot of people, a cheaper phone makes sense right now, and the new G-series phones are well-positioned to take advantage of that. They offer incredible battery life, solid performance, passable photo quality, and even a stylus if you're into that. And the G Power is still cheaper than last year's Moto G7.
A phone like the OnePlus 8 or Galaxy S20 will be faster and better at almost everything than the G-series phones. They'll also cost you several times more. Given the choice between the two Moto phones, the Moto G Power is the winner. It's just $250 and has a larger battery than the G Stylus. If the Stylus were more than a tiny capacitive nub, it might have more value. As it stands, this is a niche feature that's not worth sacrificing battery life. The increased storage is probably the best upsell for the G Stylus, but you've got an SD card slot in the G Power.
Buy it if...
You want a cheap, reliable phone that runs almost forever on a charge.
Don't buy it if...
You want a fast phone with more features, and you don't mind paying more to get it.