The Moto G series (review) from Motorola is the most famous smartphone lineup in the company and that’s for good reason, really. Every “budget” smartphone was pretty terrible a couple of years ago, but Motorola fixed that by making smart cuts and delivering a software experience that was nothing short of excellent. Motorola has now ditched the numbers in 2020 and delivered the Moto G Stylus (review) and Moto G Power(review). These are worthy of your attention? I spent a couple of days trying to answer the question.
Hardware and display
Over the years, the Moto G series has changed most in design, from a Moto X clone to packing an Oreo camera today. Now, the Moto G series is all about a large screen, a shiny plastic design, and the battery leaves plenty of room. Ok, the mission worked out.
Aside from the plastic grip, I’m going to give Motorola credit to build a phone that’s not at all creaky. Sometimes, plastic builds leave some portions of the device with only a bit of giving, but these devices are solid. Even the buttons have a tactile press, which is obviously slightly wobbly.
Flip the phone over, and you do have a pretty big 6.4-inch display. For a budget phone the bezels are pretty slim, using a hole-punch to house the camera and push the edges even further. The show is getting relatively bright and has good colors, and even the FHD+ resolution is not a major concern. And this is clearly not a very good display.
Any tilt of the monitor causes the brightness to fade away. The show also has discoloration areas around the edges of the panel and the hole-punch cutout all over the place. It’s just not a nice look and a definite sign this is an LCD panel at the bottom of the barrel.
Software and performance
Most Motorola smartphones’ bright side comes from software, and that’s what keeps going with the 2020 Moto G series. Out of the case, those devices run on top of Android 10 with a clean build that only requires a handful of Android modifications.
Such changes include items like Moto Display — an option that flips on the monitor when your hand gets near and reveals recent notifications with just one tap away more detail. There are also Moto Actions which use some physical gestures to open the camera (double-twist) or turn the flashlight (double-chop) on. These are intuitive and just a joy to use. I wish every smartphone worked for them.
The Moto G Stylus also has several changes that are kept within for the sake of the pen. There’s a new note-taking app, for example, which provides the opportunity to jot down notes using pen. The app can also be set to start when it removes the stylus from its silo. There’s also a little pop-up menu which can include shortcuts for things like the Motorola Notes app. You may also customize it to provide shortcuts for other applications or other features such as taking a screenshot.
By the way, the pen is nothing special like the one in the Galaxy Note series. It is just a stylus that stores inside the phone and gives you a bit more precision than a fingertip would have.
Software on Moto G series is far from evil. What’s regrettable is that the result doesn’t do justice to the software. It is sluggish to use, laggy and very distracting. This is capable of running apps and games when the phone works well but every so often it starts freezing up and is unusable for a few minutes. On one occasion, the phone locked up completely and spent almost 10 minutes trying to reboot!
That’s not the fault of the Snapdragon 665 chipset or 4 GB of RAM, but just an optimization problem for Motorola. This setup is supposed to work fine but something makes it slow.
As a side note, the Moto G Stylus ships with 128 GB storage which, considering the price point, is great, but the Moto G Power is downgraded to 64 GB. The days of mid-range phones with lackluster storage choices are over in either case though. Plus, there’s even a microSD card slot!
To round things off on the software front, let’s touch on the updates and support for the future. Motorola is no longer very good at that. At least one big update to Android 11 is planned for the Moto G series but there is no timeline attached. Historically also, monthly security updates are not as frequent as they should be. It’s not unusual for this to happen on budget phones, but Motorola and others need to do better with the Pixel 3a/4a and the iPhone SE out there delivering updates to customers for years.
Battery life is one of the biggest strengths of the 2020 Moto G series — especially the Moto G Power. The Stylus and Power 4,000 mAh and 5,000 mAh packs provide outstanding battery life, respectively.
I fell just a little short of Motorola ‘s three-day argument in my evaluation of the Moto G Power. This is with more than eight hours of screen-on-time over the course of around 60 hours of runtime, however. It is by no means bad; it is very good indeed! I was able to kill the battery in a second test in two days, but that took almost three hours of gaming in those two days and I ended up passing the 10-hour mark when all was said and finished. Whether you are in mobile gaming and on a budget, I would highly recommend this device solely for its battery life. Yet just bear in mind that success in gaming is not going to be amazing.
A sample of the Moto G Power’s battery life
On the other side, my wife’s used the Moto G Stylus. She also used it extensively for sports, phone calls , text messages and social media surfing. On average, she was able to use the device on a single charge for two full days, without any problems.
The battery life is literally great on both 2020 Moto G devices. You won’t find Qi when it comes to charging, but you’ll have USB-C — at last — with Power Delivery support. The charger included isn’t crazy fast, but any USB-C PD charger would be much quicker to top you off. An 18W charger is recommended.
A sample of the Moto G Stylus’ battery life
Optics are always a mid-range smartphone weakness, but in reality Motorola hasn’t struggled in this field. Starting with the G Power, Motorola stuffed alongside ultra-wide and macro shooters in a 16MP primary camera. These aren’t bad! The cameras still appear to lack a bit of detail and smooth some stuff over, but the results don’t make me think, “Yep, that’s a $250 phone.” Outdoors, the captures are very good. They can be good or poor indoors, depending only on the subject and the lighting.
On the other hand, the Moto G Stylus does have a better setup. It packs a primary 48MP sensor, capturing more detail. It still has some of the quirks any mid-range phone should have, but the overall results are genuinely strong. On the back, too, there are ultra-wide and macro shooters and they’re not as strong as the primary sensor.
The Moto G Stylus also features a dedicated “Action Camera” at the top of the camera array. It’s mounted sideways, allowing users to shoot horizontal video while holding the phone vertically.
There’s really a lot to tell about either Moto G’s camera setup except, well, they’re great!
I was surprised by the quality of the speakers on Moto G series. An earpiece speaker supports the downward facing driver, and the overall combination isn’t half bad. Something like a Pixel 4 or Galaxy S20 is not quite the quality, but it is loud and clear.
Usually rear-facing fingerprint sensors are nice to see but they feel slow to use on the Moto G lineup 2020. I’m not sure if it’s the sensor itself or just the physical size, but even on cheap devices, this fingerprint sensor is considerably slower and slightly less accurate compared to others I’ve been using. However it’s far from being a deal-breaker.
Yep, they got both. Don’t expect any fancy additions like you would find on a high-end LG phone, but unlike many other devices nowadays, the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power have a 3.5 mm jack on it.
The Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power are respectable smartphones on a budget. The software is good, the cameras are perfect, the life of the battery is great, and the prices are not crazy. However, in a world where you can go buy an iPhone SE for $399, or a Pixel 3a for the same price — not to mention the upcoming Pixel 4a likely to undercut that — it’s very hard to convince anyone to get a Moto G Stylus for $100 less. Those savings are just not worth it. However, there’s more of an case to make for the $249 Moto G Power.
However for less than the usual $299 and $249 price points, you can also get the Moto G Stylus and Moto G Power. Of example, if you trigger it on Verizon or Sprint, Best Buy also sells the Stylus of 50% off. $150, huh? For that money you can’t do any better than a Moto G Stylus.
However, if you want to buy it free, you can get the Moto G Power or the Moto G Stylus from B&H Photo where you can use your own credit card from the store to save tax money, or you can go via Amazon. These are, in specific, Google Fi’s least expensive phones too.