Motorola's latest batch of budget phones includes a cheap 5G model

Chris Velazco
·Senior Editor, Mobile
·4 min read

Samsung isn’t the only company unveiling new devices earlier than usual this year — just ahead of CES 2021, Motorola has pulled back the curtain on its latest batch of smartphones. There are no flagship models in sight for now, but as usual, Motorola has a bevy of new options for smartphone shoppers on a budget.

The most interesting by far is the oddly named, $400 Motorola One 5G Ace (above), thanks in large part to the chipset it uses. Inside the phone’s fairly chunky body is one of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 750Gs with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage — that’s enough to make the One 5G Ace the most powerful new device in Motorola’s lineup by far. As you might expect, wallet-friendly 5G is the main draw here, and this phone continues a trend that began with last year’s sub-$500 Moto One 5G. Just know there’s one connectivity caveat worth keeping in mind: although this particular chipset supports mmWave 5G, the Ace only plays nice with sub-6 5G networks.

Apart from all that 5G business, the One 5G Ace also packs a 6.7-inch Full HD+ display, a 5,000mAh battery that supports 15W fast charging, and a trio of cameras around the back. You’ll likely spend most of your time with the 48-megapixel main camera, but it’s flanked by an 8-megapixel ultra-wide with a 118-degree field of view and a 2-megapixel macro camera for good measure.

Moto G Stylus
Moto G Stylus

Then there’s the $300 Moto G Stylus, which packs a slightly larger, 6.8-inch Full HD+ screen, giving the phone’s namesake capacitive stylus just a little more room for doodling and note-taking. (In case you were wondering, this stylus isn’t nearly as clever or sophisticated as one of Samsung’s S Pens, but it’ll do in a pinch.) Inside, you’ll find a Snapdragon 678 chipset with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000mAh battery, while a camera system very similar to the One 5G Ace is installed on the phone’s rear. The only major difference here is that the Moto G Stylus actually has a fourth sensor dedicated to capturing depth data for properly bokeh-filled portraits. That’s right: despite selling for $100 less than the Ace, the G Stylus actually has the most flexible camera system.

That said, you’d have to really want a stylus to consider buying one of these phones. While the Moto G Stylus arguably offers the most ambitious blend of features and cameras you’ll find in all of Motorola’s new phones, OnePlus’s Nord N10 5G will be more immediately appealing to some.

Moto G Play
Moto G Play

Rounding out Motorola’s line is the $170 Moto G Play, which returns to firm up Motorola’s presence in the budget smartphone arena. We’ve seen the brand’s least expensive devices grow larger by the year, and the 2021 model is among the biggest we’ve seen yet, with its 6.5-inch, 1600x720 IPS LCD screen. That’s the same size display as we saw in last year’s Moto G9 Play, and strangely, that older model may also have an edge in performance — it packs one of Qualcomm’s relatively new Snapdragon 662 chipsets with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, compared to the Play’s Snapdragon 460 with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

Granted, the Moto G9 Play was never officially released in the US so most budget smartphone shoppers probably don’t know what they’re missing out on, but Motorola clearly had to make some sacrifices to sell this new model for under $200. A huge 5,000mAh battery and a rear dual camera (comprised of 13-megapixel wide and 2-megapixel depth sensors) help sweeten the deal a bit, but we’ll have to see how well this budget buy stacks up to the competition.

Moto G Power
Moto G Power

Meanwhile, the 2021 Moto G Power largely picks up where the G Play leaves off, but oddly, you shouldn’t expect a big difference in battery life between the two. While older entrants in Motorola’s G Power line had notably larger batteries than a given year’s other Moto Gs, this new one packs the same 5,000mAh cell as the $180 model. So how does Motorola justify the additional cost? With a smattering of improved components. The $199 base model comes with a Snapdragon 662 chipset with 3GB and 32GB of storage, while a $50 premium nets you 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Apart from that, both models are identical, from their 6.6-inch 1600x720 screens to their 48-megapixel main cameras and 2-megapixel depth and macro cameras.

As always, Motorola seems to have the lower and mid-tiers of the market well covered, but we may not be looking at business as usual. Companies that are arguably best known for their high-end devices, like OnePlus and Samsung, are shifting their sights downmarket in search of sustained growth. For the last few years, Motorola has managed to claw its way to profitability on the backs of low-cost smartphones, but all signs point to much tougher competition as we head into 2021.