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This is the $400 Android phone to beat in 2024 - and it even has a stylus

If you enjoy using a stylus to capture quick notes, create GIFs, and even solve basic handwritten calculations, look to Motorola's Moto G Stylus 5G (2024).
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Moto G Stylus 5G (2024) is available now in two colorways for $399.
  • The phone has a sleek, lovely vegan leather back, extensive stylus capability, and user-friendly software.
  • I just wish the software support was longer, as it's currently a year or two behind competing brands.

It's been several years since I evaluated the first-generation Moto G Stylus, and a lot has improved since then. My ZDNET colleague Kerry Wan covered all of the specifications of the latest model, the Moto G Stylus 5G (2024), and what to expect in the $399 Android smartphone, so I won't repeat all that here. Instead, I've been testing the phone for a couple of weeks with my T-Mobile SIM and will share my experience with it so far.

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Earlier this year, I bought a Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra for three times the price of the Moto G Stylus. However, for daily use, I actually prefer carrying the Moto G Stylus. It's smaller, the stylus meets all my needs, and I enjoy the streamlined Moto experience and customization. My notification shade isn't cluttered with ads, and I can even go two days before needing to charge it.

Motorola sent me the Caramel Latte color with a vegan leather back, which is not only lovely but also matches one of my favorite coffee types (haha!). There's also a Scarlet Wave color that's more red, almost like the color of lipstick. With 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage with microSD card support, and a 5,000mAh battery, all for just $399, the new Moto G Stylus may be the budget phone to beat in 2024.

View at Motorola

The stylus continues to be the distinguishing feature of this year's Motorola model, and it has been improved over previous generations with reduced latency and better targeting, along with an updated user interface. It's convenient to pull out the stylus when the phone is off, and there's a new note pop-up for quickly jotting down thoughts. It's a subtle but very handy feature for notetakers on the go.

As far as notes apps go, you can choose between Moto Note and Google Keep Notes. Since Keep Notes is my default, this makes the phone even more useful for my needs.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

When the phone is on, and the stylus is removed, a list of favorited shortcuts appears on an overlay screen, allowing you to jump right into action. The stylus settings include removal notifications and the last known location of the stylus to help you find it if it's lost. The stylus has a much nicer design than previous Moto Stylus models I've used, closely resembling the Samsung S-Pen. It's easy to hold, slim, and charges within the phone.

Built-in pen aside, Motorola's user interface is one of my favorite parts of the phone; it's a fairly stock, Pixel-esque look and feel that is boosted by Motorola's handy gestures and system enhancements. For example, you can twist to launch the camera, make chopping motions to toggle the flashlight, and pick up the phone to silence the ringer. These gestures, and several others, make the phone feel much smarter than others, and it's great to have them available even at this lower price point.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The new Moto G Stylus 5G launches with Android 14 and the April 1 Android security update, but given the affordable price and processor of the phone, you can likely expect one major upgrade to Android 15 and possibly two years of Android security patches. The cadence will vary, of course, though I wish Motorola would push the limit a little more and promise at least two years of OS upgrades. Samsung and Google, for comparison, offer upwards of seven years of updates.

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The 6.7-inch OLED supports up to a 120Hz refresh rate that can dynamically adjust based on your use cases. For example, it'll lower the refresh rate when you're scrolling through photos or a webpage -- when there are fewer animations to render. I've enjoyed hours of content with the phone, and having a legacy port in the 3.5mm headphone jack certainly helps when traveling without wireless earbuds.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

A 50MP main and 13MP ultra-wide camera are positioned on the back of the phone. It's certainly refreshing to see a mid-range phone without the unnecessary macro lens and depth sensor. Instead, the ultra-wide camera supports a 120-degree field-of-view while also serving as the macro shooter. 

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While the camera hardware is not as powerful as flagship phones, Motorola provides excellent software tools that help you capture great photos and be creative with little effort on your part. Still, I've really enjoyed using the Motorola camera, especially when capturing quick shots during the daytime. In fact, the 50MP camera system should serve most people just fine. At this price point, you really can't complain.

ZDNET's buying advice

I started using PDAs that all had a stylus in 1997, and I am still a fan of using such an accessory that provides precision inputs and on-device handwriting. The Moto G Stylus 5G is an affordable option for stylus lovers while also serving as a very capable Android phone. The Motorola user interface remains one of my favorites since it is optimized for efficient use and doesn't rely as heavily on AI to help you get things done.

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