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Hands on: Moto G Stylus (2021) review

A revamped stylus toting Moto G phone

What is a hands on review?
Moto G Stylus 2021
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Moto G Stylus (2021) offers a stylus for a lower price than any smartphone from Samsung, and that's likely a big draw for many who want that experience from their phone. Whether it's notably better than the 2019 Moto G Stylus remains to be seen.

For

  • Comes with a stylus
  • Refined design

Against

  • Limited stylus interaction
  • Incremental improvements

The Moto G Stylus (2021) is a refinement of the Moto G Stylus launched in early 2019, with a few design improvements at the same price. Unlike a few of the other Motorola phones launched at CES 2021 that drop a few features to come in at specific price tiers, this phone looks to be an upgrade on its predecessor – if only incrementally.

The biggest change is in the display, an expansion from 6.4 to a massive 6.8-inch Full HD Plus screen. 

That’s more screen real estate to sketch on or enjoy media, with a 20:9 ratio that is frankly feels nearly too big for one-handed use, but notably sits between the Samsung Note 20 (6.7-inch) and the Note 20 Ultra (6.9-inch) in sheer size.

Moto G Stylus 2021 price and release date

The Moto G Stylus 2021 is priced at $299 (around £220 / AU$384) in the US, and we've yet to have confirmation on whether the phone will be available in the UK or Australia.

For those in the US, you're able to pre-order the handset now from a variety of retailers, and it'll be on sale from January 14. Carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Google Fi, and various MVNOs will begin offering the device in the coming months, according to Motorola

Moto G Stylus 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The stylus is slightly changed compared to the 2019 device. Instead of having to pry it out of its slot with a fingernail, the new G Stylus 2020’s writing implement has a pop-out tab at the end, just like the Note series’ S Pen.

There’s still no button or other smart functionality from the stylus, but it seems reasonably responsive. And when you remove it or slide the stylus back in, the G Stylus vibrates slightly to let you know it’s slid free or locked in place.

Moto G Stylus 2021

(Image credit: Future)

It’s the software that’s been improved most, Motorola has told us: Moto Note has been expanded with more color options and the ability to load up images to mark up with the stylus. 

A new Moto Gesture lets you split the screen to sketch on one half and open an app on the other, while other apps have added or will add stylus-recognizing functionality, Motorola says, including big names like Evernote and Among Us. 

Moto G Stylus 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The new G Stylus inherits plenty from its predecessor, like 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, though its Snapdragon 678 is an upgrade on the older G Stylus’ Snapdragon 665. 

The triple rear camera array seems largely unchanged, with a 48MP main shooter, 8MP ultra-wide lens (admittedly half the megapixels of the older phone’s ultra-wide lens) and 2MP macro camera, as well as a 16MP selfie shooter. 

The lock button on the right side has been augmented with a fingerprint scanner, which we enjoy; this was seemingly inherited from last year’s Motorola One 5G.

Moto G Stylus 2021

(Image credit: Future)

The phone seems to inherit more from the One 5G, including a glassy rear cover, which is smooth but for the rectangular camera block. There’s a volume rocker button above the aforementioned lock button on the right side, with a slot for a microSD card on the left side, USB-C port on the bottom-middle and a 3.5mm headphone jack to the left and a speaker to the right – and to the right of that is the stylus slot. 

Early verdict

Ultimately, there’s a lot here that feels similar, but the upgrades feel worth it for anyone who wants a modern phone with stylus functionality – and the extra functionality in the software is promising. 

Given the $299 (around £220 / AU$384) pricetag is virtually unchanged from its predecessor, the G Stylus feels again like a good bargain among budget phones to get neat functionality for anyone who wants to draw on their phone like it’s the Palm Pilot days.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.