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The best stylus phones (aren't all Samsung)

The best stylus phone offers precision, functionality, stylus support, and ease of use. ZDNET tested handsets from Samsung, Motorola, and more to find the top performers.
Written by June Wan, Reviews Editor and  Sean Jackson, Contributor
Reviewed by Emery Wright

Gone are the days of slide and swivel phones. Now, handsets that can fold and flip come equipped with a stylus to bring your penmanship into the digital age. Whether you're a business professional, student, or artist, stylus-supported smartphones are invaluable due to the added precision and tactile feedback -- features that a finger simply can't touch. 

You don't have to be a professional to see the use of a stylus phone. Many devices nowadays offer extensive features that utilize the stylus for more than just scribbling, like Samsung's new Galaxy S23 Ultra and its built-in S Pen, which can be used as a remote shutter for taking pictures. 

Also: Best stylus tablets

So, if you're in the market for a stylus-supported smartphone, these are the best ones to consider.

Pros & Cons
  • Integrated S Pen stylus for enhanced functionality
  • 256GB base storage leads the competition
  • Most complete smartphone, let alone stylus phone
  • Reliable quad-camera setup
  • Phone can be unwieldy for some, especially with a case
  • Fast charging is still capped at 45W
  • Pricier than most Android phones
More Details

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy | Display: 6.8 inches, 3,200 x 1,440 pixels | RAM/Storage: 12GB with 256GB/512GB/1TB | Cameras: 200MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP with 10x optical, 10MP with 3x optical, 12MP front | Battery: 5,000mAh

Samsung's latest Galaxy S23 Ultra is undeniably the best stylus phone that you can buy. The company's signature S Pen is intuitive as ever with up to 4,096 pressure levels, filled with productivity features like off-screen memos and Smart select, and is conveniently stationed at the bottom of the handset.

Samsung's Notes app, which is the core of the stylus writing experience, has also improved since the early Galaxy Note days. Now, you can collaborate with other users on the same document at the same time, and it's never been easier to just drag and drop files and images into the note-taking app.

Review: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Believe it or not, we've only scratched the surface of the S23 Ultra's stylus experience. There are subtle improvements to this year's Ultra model that make an excellent phone overall, like the large and less-curvy 6.8-inch display, the massive 5,000mAh battery that keeps the lights (and digital ink) on, and a bump in base storage to 256GB, allowing you to store even more memos and files than before.

Pros & Cons
  • Large display
  • Great for multitasking and content creation
  • 2.8 millisecond latency on the built-in S Pen
  • An ultra-flagship smartphone
  • Pricy
  • Slightly bulky
More Details

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 | Display: 6.8 inches, 3,200 x 1,440 pixels | RAM/Storage: 12GB RAM with 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Cameras: 108MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP with 10x optical, 10MP with 3x optical, 40MP front | Battery: 5,000mAh

The Samsung Galaxy Note line has long been the perennial option for stylus fanatics, and while the company seems to have discontinued the Note moniker, its spirit lives on through the Galaxy S22 Ultra. 

While the Galaxy S22 Ultra is no longer Samsung's poster child, it's still a competent stylus phone that you can probably buy for less than its successor, with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, a massive 6.8-inch canvas, 5,000mAh battery, and the unrivaled built-in S Pen. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Most importantly, the Galaxy S22 Ultra's S Pen carries a breadth of nifty features aimed to improve your productivity and content creation. The stylus is housed and charged within the device and carries a latency of just 2.8 milliseconds. That means every tap and stroke across the display produces a near-instant input.

Pros & Cons
  • Armor Aluminum material for a lighter yet more durable design
  • IPX8 water resistance
  • S Pen support with the large 7.6-inch display is a killer pairing
  • Still expensive
  • S Pen is sold and stored separately
More Details

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 | Main display: 7.6 inches, 2,208 x 1,768 pixels | Cover display: 6.2 inches, 832 x 2,268 pixels | RAM/Storage: 12GB RAM with 256GB/512GB | Cameras: 50MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 10MP with 3x optical, 10MP front, 4MP main display | Battery: 4,400mAh

While the S Pen isn't built into Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 4 like the aforementioned picks, the expansive 7.6-inch main display and stylus pairing may be enough to entice your penmanship endeavors. Like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, having the S Pen gives you the power to use Air Commands and gesture controls, with up to 4,096 pressure levels for precise inputs. 

Review: Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 4

Still, the optional stylus shouldn't be the only reason you buy the Galaxy Z Fold 4. At the base level, the Z Fold is a dual-screen handset that can literally transform into a tablet. 

With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, 12GB of RAM, and an IP-rated design for water resistance, this may just be your best bet for a stylus-supported tablet experience without buying an actual tablet.

Pros & Cons
  • Dependable display performance
  • One of few non-flagship phones with a built-in stylus
  • Relatively affordable
  • Cameras are nothing to write home about
  • Curvy form factor can be slippery
  • Android software support is lackluster
More Details

Moto G Stylus 5G tech specs: Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G | Display: 6.8 inches, 2,460 x 1,080 pixels | RAM/Storage: 8GB with 256GB | Cameras: 50MP main camera, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP depth sensor, 16MP front | Battery: 5,000mAh

Motorola's Moto G Stylus proves that you don't have to spend a fortune to get the benefits of a stylus. In fact, with a retail price of $499, the G Stylus undercuts every above phone on this list while still offering the essentials like a 6.8-inch display that ramps up to 120Hz refresh rate, 256GB of base storage, a beefy 5,000mAh battery, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The stylus experience isn't all that half-baked either. For example, removing the stylus from the phone triggers Motorola's notetaking app. There's also a quick toggle that appears when the stylus is in use, giving you access to shortcuts like capturing screenshots, launching a selected app, and even creating a GIF.

Review: Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G

From our testing, the Motorola G Stylus 5G (2022) proves its value by packaging a stellar display, an integrated stylus, a reliable Snapdragon 695 processor, and more for less than $500.

Pros & Cons
  • Feasible stylus experience for the money
  • Large and vibrant display
  • Great-sounding stereo speakers
  • Much more affordable than others on this list
  • Camera quality is just passable
  • Limited RAM
  • No palm rejection when writing
More Details

TCL Stylus 5G tech specs: Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G | Display: 6.8 inches, 2,460 x 1,080 pixels | RAM/Storage: 4GB with 128GB | Cameras: 50MP main camera, 5MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, 2MP depth sensor, 13MP front | Battery: 4,000mAh

Like Motorola, TCL has found most of its retail success in the low to mid-end markets. The strategy is sound; users who don't want to pay up for Samsung, Apple, or even Google's premium offerings can spend less on a TCL phone, even if flagship features like wireless charging, higher RAM, and better cameras are forfeited along the way.

Still, there's a lot of bang for your buck with the TCL Stylus 5G which, at the time of writing, is available exclusively on T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile for $269. For the price, you're getting a large 6.8-inch display, 128GB of base storage that's expandable via MicroSD, a quad-camera setup, and of course, the built-in stylus.

Review: TCL Stylus 5G

One of the tradeoffs to note is the lack of palm rejection when writing with the stylus. Fortunately, when ZDNET tested the device, the absence of the stylus feature didn't significantly affect the usability of the writing experience.

What is the best stylus phone?

While the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra takes the crown for best stylus phone, here's how the top performers measure up to each other in price, display size, and battery:

Stylus phone




Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra


6.8 inches


Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra


6.8 inches


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4


6.2 and 7.6 inches


Motorola G Stylus 5G 2022


6.8 inches


TCL Stylus 5G


6.8 inches


Which stylus phone is right for you?

The biggest question you should ask yourself is: How much money am I willing to spend? The best picks from the list, including the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S22 Ultra, and Z Fold 4, can run you as much as $1,800. With the average ownership times of phones ranging from three to five years, the investment may be worth it.

Choose this stylus phone...

If you want…

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The best stylus phone that money can buy with an integrated S Pen Stylus, ample storage, and reliable quad-camera setup.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

A near-perfect stylus experience for less with a large display and 2.8ms latency. It's great for content creation.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

The best foldable phone that you can write on with IPX8 water resistance, S pen support, and aluminum material for ultimate durability.

Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)

A mid-range option that ticks the essential boxes like affordable price, dependable performance, and a built-in stylus.

TCL Stylus 5G

A low-cost smartphone with a built-in stylus, a large display, and good sounding speakers.

How did we choose these best stylus phones?

There are numerous phones on the market with styluses, but only the best utilize the accessory to its fullest. Samsung is a front-runner in this aspect, with an S Pen experience that has gone through more than 10 years of refinement. 

Likewise, Motorola has seen great success with its Moto G Stylus line thanks to the accessibility it brings to the budget market. Not everyone is willing to spend $1,000 or more for a stylus phone, so trailblazers deserve some recognition as well. 

Lastly, while the end goal is to get the best stylus experience, we recommend phones that play just as well on their own. Every selection on this list carries specs, processors, and features that can go head-to-head with non-stylus counterparts.

What if the stylus breaks?

Whether your stylus breaks or is nowhere to be found, most manufacturers offer replacements at an additional cost or free with a qualified insurance plan. Samsung's S Pen, for example, can be purchased from its online store or at retailers like Amazon.

Also: The best stylus pens

You can also look for stylus pens that offer exceptional durability and support. That way, you don't have to worry about replacing them often. 

Do stylus pens work on all phones?

Stylus pens work on all devices that have touchscreen capabilities. However, some phones have a stylus designed specifically for that device or brand. Buying the right one ensures you maximize all the features available to you. 

Meanwhile, there are some phones that don't offer these capabilities. To demonstrate, the Apple Pencil doesn't work on any iPhone models, only iPads. 

Are stylus phones worth it?

They're perfect if you plan to create artwork, scribble notes, or do other activities that require a more precise touch. And with many note programs, you can jot down notes on PDFs, create whiteboards for collaboration, and much more. 

Are there alternative stylus phones to consider?

While some manufacturers like LG have discontinued stylus models, the market is still hot with quality choices. Here are some alternatives to consider:



Moto G Stylus (2022)

This phone packs a lot of goodies with its 50MP camera system, two-day battery life, 6.8-inch Max Vision FHD+ display, and built-in stylus. And you receive all of this for under $200. 

View at Motorola


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

This phone delivers amazing video in 8K resolution, and with 100X Space Zoom you can take pictures like a pro. It also features all-day intelligent battery life so you can spend more time enjoying your phone without the charger.

View at Amazon


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

This phone offers stunning videos in 8K resolution, 100x Space Zoom for jaw-dropping pictures, and all-day intelligent battery life. 

View at Amazon
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