After the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy A53 last week, it didn't require a lot of time coming up with would-be rivals for Samsung's new midrange phone. The Galaxy A53 debuted a day before the iPhone SE (2022) went on sale, so comparing those two handsets only seems natural. Likewise, the A53 shares a $449 price tag with Google's Pixel 5a, so that's another potential showdown.
But I think when Samsung drew up its wishlist for features it wanted to make sure that the Galaxy A53 offered, it had an entirely different phone in mind. And that's a phone that's yet to see the light of day.
Go down the list of Galaxy A53 features, and you can't help but conclude that Samsung has the Pixel 6a — Google's next budget phone — very much on its mind. Some of the A53's biggest highlights are things you'd expect to see in Google's upcoming successor to the current Pixel 5a.
Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 6a: What Google's planning
The Pixel 6a could be arriving before we know it, with rumors suggesting that the phone could debut during Google's annual I/O developer conference. This past week — less than 24 hours before the Galaxy A53's launch, in fact — Google announced that Google I/O would get underway May 11.
A highlight of the Pixel 6a could be that Google equips the budget phone with a Google Tensor chipset like the one that powers the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Tensor focuses on powering on-board machine learning and artificial intelligence, enabling advanced AI-driven features on Google's phones.
Samsung Galaxy A53 features
Given Google's focus on promoting AI features on its phones, it doesn't seem like a coincidence that Samsung talked up the AI capabilities of its own Exynos 1280 chipset inside the Galaxy A53. According to Samsung, the 5nm Exynos 1280 delivers a 31% boost in AI performance over the last generation of Samsung's chipset.
As for AI experiences, Samsung talked about the Galaxy A53's ability to automatically adjust adjust the framerate its cameras capture video at based on lighting conditions. The new phone also boasts an enhanced Portrait mode to more accurately capture depth and the outlines of subjects. The phone's Fun mode incorporates augmented reality filters into your shots.
In what sounds like the most direct shot at Google and its Pixel phones, Samsung also talked up the Galaxy A53's Object Eraser, which can remove unwanted people and objects from shots, using AI. That sounds a lot like the Magic Eraser that Google featured on its Pixel 6 phones and would likely bring to the Pixel 6a.
It's probably not an accident that all these Galaxy A53 features Samsung touts are related to the phone's camera. The Pixel 5a ranks among the best camera phones, especially for one with such a modest price. Cameras were one of the areas on last year's Galaxy A52 that needed improvement, so it seems as if Samsung wants to close the gap between its midrange models and what Google has to offer.
You also can't help but focus on the price of the Galaxy A53, which is $50 less than what Samsung charged for the A52. Considering the Pixel 5a costs exactly as much as the Galaxy A53 — and that the Pixel 6a will likely be in the same ballpark — Samsung clearly wants to invite comparisons with Google's phones.
Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Google Pixel 6a outlook
Those comparisons will have to wait for a bit. The Galaxy A53 doesn't ship until April 1, though you can preorder the phone now. And we won't be able to fully see how the Pixel 6a measures up to the Galaxy A53 until a few more details leak out about the phone in advance of its likely debut later this spring.
Still, Samsung has thrown down a gauntlet with its latest midrange phone, after spending the last couple years beefing up the Galaxy A lineup. The focus for now will be on evaluating the Galaxy A53 on its own merits, but a Pixel 6a-sized challenge is looming on the horizon.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.