Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022) review: a good bargain

The 2022 edition of the Moto G Stylus has a clearance shelf vibe as it’s likely to be one of the last new phones to go on sale in the US without 5G. But if Motorola makes room for a new season of 5G devices, then that makes the 2022 G Stylus one hell of a bargain.

The G Stylus is theoretically $299, but it looks likely to be a permanent price drop to $279. That’s exactly on par with last year’s version of the G Stylus, but Motorola has made a few upgrades to this year’s edition, including a larger 5,000mAh battery, an increase from 4GB to 6GB of RAM, and a 90Hz Screen for faster update.

It still offers a huge 6.8-inch 1080p screen and, of course, the eponymous integrated pen. There’s another processor – a MediaTek Helio G88 – replacing last year’s Snapdragon 678 chipset. A headphone jack, a microSD card slot to expand the 128GB storage, and an included charger are all included, handy features that are slowly being phased out by manufacturers, starting with flagships and trickling through to the mid-range. Get them while you can.

In general, the lack of 5G is a small disadvantage. 5G networks in the US are starting to get much better and this will continue for the next few years. But depending on your carrier, where you live and how you use your phone, having a 4G-only phone might not be a big deal at all. That’s the value proposition of the Clearance Rack; It’s not the latest and greatest, but if it’s right for you, it could be a winner.

Removing the stylus opens Motorola’s basic Notes app.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

For its eponymous feature, the 2022 Moto G Stylus packs a massive canvas: a 6.8-inch 1080p panel with a 90Hz refresh rate. It’s an LCD panel, and it’s on the dark side. I used the phone more indoors than outdoors, but I still had to crank the brightness up to 80 or 90 percent. Visibility isn’t great in direct sunlight, but just good enough to see what you’re doing. The faster-than-default refresh rate is nice, and you’ll notice a little more smoothness when scrolling.

As you might have guessed, that huge screen makes the whole phone big. Very large. There’s no chance of comfortably operating the thing with one hand, and it looks ridiculous sticking out of my sweatpants’ pocket. I got used to it over a couple of days, and the big screen certainly suits a lot of content, but it’s definitely a lot of phone.

The stylus feature set covers all the bases. There’s a straightforward note-taking app, which is the first thing you see when you pull the stylus out of its silo on the bottom of the phone. There’s also a coloring book and a shortcut to take a screenshot so you can jot down or doodle the image. Nothing is as outlandish or as advanced as the many much The more expensive Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra can do the job, but a nice tool if you want to jot something down without unlocking your phone, even if you don’t use it often. In fact, my own mom, a Motorola devotee and owner of the G Stylus 2021, sealed hers with a sleeve that completely covers the stylus silo. She is perfectly happy with her stylusless phone. To each his own.

Motorola claims the G Stylus’ 5,000mAh battery lasts up to two days on a single charge, so I took that as a challenge. After the first day of testing the phone, the battery was about 50 percent drained, but I didn’t charge it overnight and trusted it to last the next day. It did and overall I had about 6.5 hours of screen time and was down to 18 percent by the end of the second day. I spent a lot of time on Wi-Fi, which probably helped, but I increased the screen refresh rate to the highest setting to boost it a bit. Either way, that’s impressive endurance, and even heavy users would probably get through a full day without needing to charge the battery.

The overall performance is also good. There is stuttering here and there and slight hesitation when opening apps and scrolling through video- and image-heavy screens, but nothing that detracts from my day-to-day use. The phone’s 6GB of RAM keeps many apps running in the background and I’m amazed at how easily I can go back to an app I was using hours ago and pick up right where I left off. You can Run a graphics-intensive game such as Genshin Impact, expect only noticeable stuttering and dropped frames. But that’s not really what this phone is for anyway.

Most new phones in 2022 will ship with Android 12 at this point in the year, but the G Stylus still comes with Android 11 preinstalled. Motorola says the phone will be updated to Android 12 – which will be the only OS version upgrade – but doesn’t offer details on the timing. The company also promises security updates every two months for three years, which is a year longer than last year’s model. That’s an improvement, but still falls short of Samsung’s four-year commitment (and even five years for some of its budget A-series phones).

That’s usually the case if I were covering what 5G bands this phone can use, but in this case it’s a simple answer: none of them. Unlike a year or two ago, you should consider 5G connectivity when buying a new phone. T-Mobile’s 5G network is already pretty strong; Likewise, the networks of Verizon and AT&T will improve in the next few years. For the most part, this means significantly faster speeds compared to 4G, so the Moto G Stylus doesn’t get to take advantage of that.

It’s a strike against the Moto G Stylus, but not a deal breaker. 5G expansion in the US will initially focus on major cities. So if you live more in the countryside, a 5G device is probably not a priority now or in the near future. And if you’re otherwise happy with 4G speeds, or spend most of your time on Wi-Fi anyway, then a 4G device will do just fine for you for years to come. The Moto G Stylus isn’t really designed to last much longer anyway.

The Moto G Stylus has a 50MP main camera and an 8MP ultrawide rear camera.

There appear to be three cameras on the rear of the G Stylus, but one of them is a 2-megapixel depth sensor that you can ignore. There’s a 50-megapixel f/1.9 standard wide camera and an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera, as well as a 16-megapixel selfie camera. Last year’s model had a dedicated macro camera; This time the Ultrawide is doing double duty as a macro sensor.

Overall, the G Stylus’ cameras produce balanced images without overdoing color saturation or HDR effects in high-contrast scenes. Both rear cameras do a decent job in good lighting, but there’s a noticeable amount of noise in images from the 8-megapixel ultrawide taken in moderately low light. There’s also a noticeable lag between tapping the shutter button and actually taking a photo, which is fairly common on a budget phone. Night vision is useful in very low light when your subject is not moving. It doesn’t work miracles, but at least this budget phone has a night mode – unlike another one I reviewed recently.

Video recording is only available in 1080p, which is unusual. (Most phones can shoot 4K video these days.) There’s a fairly aggressive crop, too, even if you turn electronic stabilization off. I can’t imagine that the lack of 4K resolution video will bother many people buying this phone, but 4K is more or less the new standard for high-resolution video. So this is something to keep in mind if videos are important to you. Otherwise, 1080p clips are fine, and the smaller file sizes are easier to share anyway.

If you can live without 5G for the next few years, then the Moto G Stylus is a good bargain.

You won’t find the Moto G Stylus on the shelves of any Verizon or T-Mobile store. The major carriers are far too keen on getting 5G phones into the hands of their customers to waste that precious retail space on a 4G device. And it’s not all marketing gibberish anymore; real 5G is really coming and it will really be faster than 4G. But just because carriers think it’s the right time to pick up a 5G device doesn’t mean you necessarily have to buy one. If you’re happy with 4G and will be for years to come, then the Moto G Stylus is a great deal.

For under $300, it offers good performance, a huge screen, competent enough cameras, and great battery life. That’s not even considering its headline feature: the stylus. It’s practical, and even if it doesn’t get much use, the phone is still reasonably priced without it.

If you want something a little more future-proof, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is a good option while it’s still in stock. For the same price as the Moto G Stylus, it offers similar performance and just as good battery life. On the downside, the screen is smaller and lower resolution, it only has 64GB of storage and of course there’s no stylus.

If you’re not concerned about future-proofing the next generation of wireless technology and a big phone with a big screen is your size, then the Moto G Stylus is the bargain for you.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verand