Battle of the sub-$500 phones: Samsung, Google, Apple, Moto
The budget smartphone segment is filled with plenty of options from Xiaomi, HONOR, Vivo, and OPPO. However, not many smartphones are available from these brands in North America. Due to this, buyers are left with a limited set of options from established brands such as Apple, Google, and Samsung. Arguably, the smartphones from these brands did not use to offer great value for money in comparison to smartphones from Xiaomi and Realme, but the story has changed in the past few years.
With the announcement of the Pixel 6a, Google has spiced up the mid-range smartphone segment. Now, a number of great budget smartphone options are available in the sub-$500 price bracket. In this article, we put down the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, iPhone SE (2022), Google Pixel 6a, and the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) against each other to see which is the best choice for you.
Before we get into details, it’s important that you know about the specifications of these smartphones. Take a look at this table that compares all the specifications of the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, iPhone SE (2022), Google Pixel 6a, and the Moto G Stylus 5G (2022).
|Smartphone||Samsung Galaxy A53||iPhone SE (2022)||Google Pixel 6a||Moto G Stylus 5G (2022)|
|Operating System||One UI 4.1 (Android 12)||iOS 15||Android 12||Android 12|
|Dimensions||159.6 x 74.8 x 8.1mm||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm||71.8 x 152.16 x 8.85 mm||168.9 x 75.8 x 9.3mm|
|Display||6.5-inch, FHD+, Super AMOLED Display, 120Hz||4.7-inch, Retina HD, LCD, 60Hz||6.1-inch, OLED, 60Hz, FHD+||6.8-inch, FHD+, LTPS, 120Hz, Stylus support|
|Processor||Exynos 1280||A15 Bionic||Google Tensor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 695|
|ROM||128GB||64/128/256GB||128GB||512GB: 256GB in-built + 256GB microSD card (included)|
|Expandable Storage||Yes (up to 1TB)||No||No||Yes (up to 1TB)|
|Rear Cameras||– 64MP, ƒ/1.8, OIS
– 12MP, ƒ/2.2, Ultra-Wide
– 5MP, Depth, ƒ/2.4
– 5MP, Macro, ƒ/2.4
|– 12MP, ƒ/1.8 Wide||– 12.2MP, f/1.7, 1.4 μm, wide-angle
– 12MP, f/2.2, 1.25 μm, Ultra-wide
|– 50MP, f/1.9, 0.64µm
– 8MP Ultra-wide
– 2MP Macro, f/2.4, 1.75µm
|Security||Optical Fingerprint Scanner||Touch ID Fingerprint Scanner||Under-display Fingerprint Scanner||Side fingerprint reader|
|Connectivity||5G, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1||5G, LTE, Wi‑Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0||5G, LTE, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2||5G, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. Bluetooth 5.1|
|Ports||USB-C||Lightning Connector||USB-C||USB-C, 3.5mm Headphone Jack|
|Battery||– 5000 mAh
– 25W Wired Charging
– No Wireless Charging
|– 2018 mAh
– 50% charge in up to 30 minutes with 20W USB-C Adapter or higher
– Qi Wireless Charging
|– 4,410 mAh
– 18W Wired Charging
– No Wireless Charging
– 10W Wired Charging
– No Wireless Charging
|Colors||Black, Blue, Peach, White||Black, Starlight, Midnight||Charcoal, Chalk, and Sage||Steel Blue, Seafoam Green|
Budget Smartphone Showdown
To reach a low price point, smartphone makers have to make some compromises in some key areas of the smartphone. For some, it’s the display (Apple), while for most of the companies, such compromises come in the form of build quality. The iPhone SE maintains Apple’s quality standards and pushes for a premium feel with its glass and aluminum sandwich build.
On the other hand, all the three Android smartphones we’re looking at (Galaxy A53, Pixel 6a, and Moto G Stylus 5G) come with a plastic back. It’s not that the build of other smartphones is weak, it’s just that the build material of these smartphones is cheaper. While Samsung has given the Galaxy A53 a soft-touch back, Moto has opted for a plastic back that looks just like glossy glass. Google Pixel 6a comes with a 3D thermoformed composite back and keeps the dual-tone rear finish like its pricier siblings.
If you want a premium feel from your smartphone, you should consider buying the iPhone SE. However, if you’re an average consumer and your smartphone will end up in a case as soon as you open the box, you might want to consider the other three smartphones on the list as they provide a much more modern design and screen real estate than Apple’s offering.
Moving on to the front of the smartphones, you’ll feel as if the smartphones from Android manufacturers are from a different era, and the smartphone from Apple is from a different one. On the one hand, we have Android phones that come with edge-to-edge displays and punch hole cameras, and on the other hand, we have the iPhone SE that keeps the looks of the iPhone 8 with thick top and bottom bezels.
The iPhone SE comes with a lower resolution 4.7-inch LCD that will not look as good as the other screens of the other three smartphones. Taking a look at the Android smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy A53 features a 6.5-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED Display with a 120Hz refresh rate. Compare it with any other flagship or $700 smartphone, and you will see this device right up there, holding its own. Thanks to the Super AMOLED display, the colors on this screen are (super) rich, and the display will make you feel as if the smartphone costs much more than $449.
Google has also opted for a decent OLED panel on its Pixel 6a. The Pixel 6a features a flat 6.1-inch OLED panel that boasts FHD+ resolution (2,400 x 1,080 pixels) and 429 PPI. However, the only drawback of the Pixel 6a display is that it supports only a 60Hz refresh rate, unlike the Moto G Stylus 5G and Galaxy A53, whose screens can refresh at up to 120Hz.
If you’re going to consume a lot of content on your smartphone and have an eye for punchy colors, the Samsung Galaxy A53 is an excellent option that you should consider. However, if you want don’t care about the high refresh rate screen but still want a decent OLED display with vibrant colors, you should consider the Google Pixel 6a. The Moto G Stylus offers a big 6.8-inch display, but the colors are not so accurate as Motorola has opted for an LCD panel.
The camera is one area of a smartphone that is very subjective. Every user has different expectations from the camera of their smartphone. Some want natural-looking colors, while some want punchy colors. Some want tons of camera features, while some just use the primary camera of their smartphone. Before we figure out the best option for you, learn more about the hardware they carry and the features they offer in the paragraphs below.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 comes with a quad-camera setup. This camera setup includes a 64MP primary camera sensor (f/1.8), one 12MP ultra-wide camera (f/2.2), a 5MP depth sensor (f/2.4), and a 5MP macro lens (f/2.4). On the front, you will find a 32MP selfie shooter. The smartphone also comes with various software features such as an improved Night mode camera that captures up to 12 frames at once and synthesizes them so that low-light photos look crip and vivid with less noise. Just like the flagship Galaxy Z Fold series and the S-series, the Galaxy A53 also features an object eraser, Photo Remaster, and more.
On the other hand, the Google Pixel 6a features a 12.2MP wide-angle camera (f/1.7 aperture) that is coupled with a 12MP ultra-wide angle lens (f/2.2 aperture). On paper, the camera of the Pixel 6a doesn’t sound very interesting. However, it’s the software features, such as Face Unblur, Magic Eraser, Live HDR, Night Sight, and others, and image processing that have given Google smartphones an edge over the competition.
The iPhone SE sports a relatively simple setup, including a 12MP Wide camera on the back and a 7MP camera on the display side. Though it doesn’t feature a dedicated night mode, it offers some new features thanks to the A15 Bionic, namely Photographic Styles and Smart HDR 4. Moto G Stylus 5G (2022) also comes with a triple camera setup that includes a 50MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, and a 2MP macro camera.
While none of the smartphones offer flagship-level camera performance, they perform well for their price. In our opinion, the Google Pixel 6a seems like the best option out of the bunch as it offers the same camera features as the costlier siblings, the same image processing that we have all come to love, and it doesn’t miss out on the necessary camera sensor, the ultra-wide camera sensor, unlike the iPhone SE 2022. However, if you want a mix of punchy and vibrant image processing and pro-camera features, you may consider the Samsung Galaxy A53.
When it comes to performance, iPhone SE outshines every other mid-range smartphone on the planet. It comes with the same A15 Bionic processor as the last year’s Apple flagship, which, as we all have come to know, offers best-in-class performance. You’ll not face any hiccups while performing day-to-day tasks and or gaming on this smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G is powered by the company’s own 5nm node process-based Exynos 1280 processor. This chipset is an octa-core chipset that comes with two ARM Cortex-A78 CPU cores clocked at 2.4GHz and six ARM Cortex-A55 CPU cores clocked at 2GHz. On the other hand, Moto G Stylus is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor. This chipset from Qualcomm features two ARM Cortex-A78 cores clocked at 2.2GHz and six ARM Cortex-A55 CPU cores clocked at 1.7GHz.
The Google Pixel 6a comes with the same Tensor chipset as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. This chipset can handle day-to-day tasks effortlessly and adds many AI features to the phone. This chipset enables the same set of features on the Pixel 6a as the Pixel 6 flagship series, such as Google Assistant voice typing, Live HDR, on-device translations, and photo-editing features like Face Unblur and Magic Eraser.
If you’re looking for sheer performance, Apple’s iPhone SE (2022) is arguably the best choice among all the options. It comes with the same processor as Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone 13, which we all know blows away all the competitors. However, if you’re looking for a smartphone that offers a decent mix of performance and AI features, we would recommend you to go with the Google Pixel 6a.
The battery size and fast-charging support vary a lot on these smartphones. While the iPhone SE (2022) offers support for up to 20W wired charging, the smartphone only comes with a 2018 mAh battery. Given the battery size and the average screen time of users these days, the iPhone SE. However, if you want a smartphone that you can just dock on a charger while you doze off at night, the iPhone SE is the only smartphone (out of the bunch) to offer wireless charging.
Moving on to the Android smartphones, Google’s Pixel 6a comes with a decent mix of battery features. The smartphone offers a respectable 4,400 mAh battery and supports 18W fast charging. The company claims that the Pixel 6a “can last up to 24 hours” when using the phone in Adaptive Battery mode and up to 72 in Extreme Mode. However, when it comes to battery life, both the other Android smartphones that we haven’t talked about yet, the Galaxy A 53 and Moto G Stylus 5G, destroy the competition on this front.
Both Moto G Stylus 5G and Samsung Galaxy A53 offer huge 5000 mAh battery cells. The huge battery, coupled with Android 12’s software optimizations, should offer a great battery life experience. The only deal-breaker for Moto G Stylus is the lack of support for fast charging. Even though Motorola says that the phone supports “TurboCharge” technology, the phone is only capable of charging the 5,000 mAh cell at 10W. On the other hand, the Samsung smartphone supports 25W fast charging that should be able to completely fill the battery in a couple of hours.
Software support: Even though Samsung and Moto have improved their software support in the last few months, they do not come close to the likes of Apple and Google. Given the iPhone SE is powered by the same chipset as the iPhone 13, it should receive software updates for the next three-four years. Similarly, you can expect monthly patches and major upgrades to arrive on your Pixel 6a quite regularly. If you’re looking for a smartphone with great software support, Google Pixel 6a and iPhone SE are both excellent options — however, you’ll have to make a decision between iOS and Android.
Stylus support: If you’re looking for something like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra but are constrained due to the budget, Moto G Stylus 5G is the option for you to consider. Out of all the smartphones mentioned in this article, this is the one that offers a decent balance of performance, features, and price. It supports stylus input and has a slot for it, just like the Samsung Galaxy Note series. You can draw, edit, take notes, and do pretty much everything you would do on a Samsung Galaxy Note on this device, just at a lower price tag.
Storage space: The iPhone SE (2022) starts at $429 for the base model. However, the base model comes with only 64GB of storage, which is not at all ideal in today’s day and age. If you’re going to click a lot of pictures and download and store a lot of apps, games, and videos on your smartphone, you should consider going for the Galaxy A54 or the Moto G Stylus 5G. Both the smartphones have a storage expansion slot that supports up to 1TB of memory cards, which should suffice your usage.
mmWave 5G support: In 2022, 5G shouldn’t be a differentiating factor between the smartphone — we completely agree — but here we are. An important thing to note before you decide which smartphone you’re going to buy is that only Samsung Galaxy A53 and Moto G Stylus offer mmWave 5G support — all the smartphones support sub-6GHz 5G networks. mmWave 5G is the Ultra Wide Band 5G Verizon relies on — it’s the fastest one but rare to find. If you’re buying a smartphone to enjoy the greatest speeds, you might want to consider buying one of these two.
Samsung Galaxy A53
Samsung Galaxy A53 packs in a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED Display, the Exynos 1280, and a 5000 mAh battery alongside a decent set of camera sensors. For $450, it offers a combination that is a perfect balance of price and specifications.
iPhone SE (2022)
iPhone SE 2022 arrived with 5G support and the A15 Bionic SoC, offering the unparalleled performance of the iPhone 13 at a low cost. It is the most affordable iPhone available and comes with new camera features and improved battery endurance over its predecessor.
Google Pixel 6a
Google Pixel 6a offers best-in-class features and specifications, shipping with Google Tensor, highly-capable camera hardware, and a refreshed design, worth the asking price of $449.
Moto G Stylus 5G
Moto G Stylus 5G packs in a 6.8-inch 120Hz display, the Snapdragon 695G processor, a 5000 mAh battery, and supports stylus input that can be stored inside its slot. For a price of around $450, it offers a combination a perfect balance of price and features.