Moto G Stylus vs. iPhone SE (2020): Which should you buy?

Moto G Stylus 2020 Hands On
Moto G Stylus 2020 Hands On (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Moto G Stylus

Moto G Stylus

Moto G phones are often the most popular mid-range handsets on the market, and the Moto G Stylus is one of the most interesting additions to the series that we've ever seen. The included stylus allows you to easily draw and take notes, the LCD display looks good, the rear cameras are a lot of fun to use, and you still have a headphone jack.

Moto G Stylus

More affordable

Large display with small bezels
Comes with a stylus
Multiple rear cameras
Expandable storage
Has a headphone jack
Motorola's bad at software updates
No NFC for Google Pay

iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone SE (2020)

It doesn't have as modern of a design as the Moto G Stylus, but the new iPhone SE is easily one of the best value flagships you can buy in 2020. The A13 Bionic processor powering the phone is the fastest mobile chipset currently available, and it also ensures the iPhone SE keeps getting software updates for years and years to come.

iPhone SE (2020)

Built to last

Easy to use with one hand
Camera takes great photos and videos
Qi wireless charging
IP67 dust/water resistance
Years of software updates
Outdated design
There's just one rear camera

Shopping for an affordable smartphone? You can't go wrong with either of these two phones. The Moto G Stylus has a few perks over the iPhone SE, such as a larger display, more rear cameras, expandable storage, and a headphone jack. On top of all that, it also costs considerably less! The iPhone SE is more expensive and doesn't look as modern as the G Stylus, but it has its own unique strengths. The A13 Bionic processor powering the phone is blazing-fast and allows for years of reliable software updates. Furthermore, the iPhone SE has things like Qi wireless charging and a proper IP67 dust/water resistance rating.

Have a tighter budget? The Moto G Stylus is a great option

We talk about Moto G devices quite often here on AC, and for 2020, one of the newest additions to the family is the Moto G Stylus. As the name implies, the big draw to this phone is the fact that it comes with — well — a stylus!

This isn't the best stylus we've ever seen come with a phone, but it does add a lot of extra functionality. You can use it for taking handwritten notes, drawing/doodling, or easier navigation of the user interface. When you aren't using the stylus, you can discreetly store it on the side of the phone.

Both phones use an LCD display, but the one on the Moto G Stylus is larger and has much slimmer bezels. It isn't a display that'll knock your socks off, but it looks good and is an excellent canvas for playing games or watching movies. Dual stereo speakers with Dolby tuning are present to accompany the display, as is a 3.5mm headphone jack if you prefer to keep your audio private.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Moto G StylusiPhone SE (2020)
Operating SystemAndroid 10iOS 13.3
Display6.4-inchLCD2300 x 10804.7-inchLCD1334 x 750
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 665Apple A13 Bionic
Rear Camera 148MP primary cameraf/1.712MP primary cameraf/1.8
Rear Camera 22MP Macro Vision cameraf/2.2
Rear Camera 316MP Action Camf/2.2
Front Camera16MPf/2.07MPf/2.2
AudioDual stereo speakers with Dolby tuning3.5mm headphone jackMono speakerLightning port
Battery4,000 mAh1,821 mAh
Charging15W wired charging18W wired chargingQi wireless charging
Water ResistanceWater-repellent nano coatingIP67
Dimensions158.55 x 75.8 x 9.2mm138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
Carrier CompatibilityAT&TSprintT-MobileVerizonAT&TSprintT-MobileVerizon

Moto G Stylus

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Flipping the Moto G Stylus over, you'll find a total of three rear cameras — a 48MP primary camera, 2MP Macro Vision camera, and 16MP Action Cam. The 48MP sensor takes pretty decent photos, though they aren't the best we've ever seen in this price bracket. The additional sensors add some extra utility you won't find on the iPhone SE, with the Macro Vision camera allowing you to take super close-up shots of subjects that wouldn't otherwise be possible. As for the Action Cam, this enables you to record horizontal video while holding the phone vertically. Not only is it a cool party trick, but the video footage it captures is surprisingly good, too.

As for the rest of the specs, the Moto G Stylus continues to hold its own. The Snapdragon 665 allows for good performance, there's 128GB of internal storage that can be expanded with a microSD card, and the 4,000 mAh battery allows for long endurance.

No phone is perfect, however, and there are a couple of notable downsides to the Moto G Stylus — the first of which has to do with its software. The Android 10 experience you get out of the box is excellent, but Motorola is one of the worst companies out there when it comes to software updates. Only one major OS upgrade is promised for the Moto G Stylus, meaning it'll likely never seen an update beyond Android 11. Even for a budget phone, that's pretty bad.

There's also the fact that the Moto G Stylus doesn't have NFC, which is required to use Google Pay for contactless payments. This was annoying a few years ago when NFC was still a niche feature, and in 2020, it's a little ridiculous to release a phone without it.

Why it's worth spending more for the iPhone SE

iPhone SE 2020 Software Hero

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

With the Moto G Stylus being such a capable phone for less money, why should you go out and spend more for the iPhone SE? Some people are probably better off with what Motorola is offering, but there are some key advantages to the iPhone that you should be aware of.

For starters, we have to talk about the A13 Bionic processor that's powering the phone. This is the exact same chipset you'll find in the $1000 iPhone 11 Pro, meaning the iPhone SE delivers flagship-grade performance and graphics at a fraction of the cost. No matter what app or game you throw at the iPhone SE, it can handle it with absolute ease. If you're someone that plays a lot of Fortnite or Call of Duty: Mobile, the iPhone SE's extra power will be greatly appreciated.

Perhaps even more important than that, the A13 Bionic ensures that the iPhone SE will keep getting timely software updates for years to come. Where the Moto G Stylus is lucky to get a full year of support, the iPhone SE should keep getting updated for at least five years.

iPhone SE 2020

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

Performance and software support are the two biggest benefits of the iPhone SE, but there are other reasons why it may be a better fit for you. While you don't get as many cameras to play around with, the 12MP sensor takes better overall images than the 48MP sensor on the Moto G Stylus. We also really like that the iPhone SE has Qi wireless charging, a proper IP rating for dust/water resistance, and NFC for Apple Pay.

There's also something to be said about the iPhone SE's size. While the tiny display and large bezels could be seen as outdated, you could also argue that it's a breath of fresh air for anyone that's been searching for a legitimately compact smartphone. In a world where some phones are inching closer and closer to massive 7-inch screens with virtually no bezels, going back to something like the iPhone SE that can be used in one hand and comfortably stored in tiny pockets is quite nice.

A matter of price and OS preference

Comparing an Android phone against an iPhone is always a tricky thing to do. Both the Moto G Stylus and iPhone SE have their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, but outside of all that, there's also the matter of which operating system they run.

If you prefer to use Android, you'll be much better off getting the Moto G Stylus instead of forcing yourself to live with iOS. Similarly, if you're a long-time iPhone user and can't stand Android, we'd argue that the iPhone SE is well worth the extra coin.

Should you be someone that's perfectly fine with either OS, there's the matter of price to consider. The Moto G Stylus cost quite a bit less than the iPhone SE, so you'll need to decide if the iPhone's extra performance, better update support, and higher-quality camera are worth you spending that much more cash. It might be to some people, but for others that are trying to spend as little as possible, the Moto G Stylus makes more sense.

As the story often goes with these mid-range/value flagship phones, you can't go wrong either way. Depending on your wants, needs, and budget, both the Moto G Stylus and iPhone SE can make for an excellent purchase.

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.