The Samsung Galaxy A53 is still basically brand new, but my thoughts are already turning to the Pixel 6a. After seeing how close the Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a face-off was (with Samsung's phone eking out a win), the prospect of a new budget device from Google has me excited. If Google plays its cards right, the Pixel 6a could lead the pack for the best cheap phones and certainly take the Galaxy A53's place as the value phone of choice for Android users.
Don't get me wrong, I think the Galaxy A53 is a great buy at $449. The Exynos 1280 chipset powering Samsung's phone is fine for most tasks and the 6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED display comes equipped with a 120Hz refresh rate. I would have liked to see the 5,000 mAh battery last longer in our testing, but you can't have everything.
But based on current rumors and leaks, I imagine the Pixel 6a will give the Galaxy A53 — and even the iPhone SE (2022) — a serious run for its money once the phone arrives. (And that could happen as soon as next month.) Here are five things the 6a needs to get right to best the A53.
Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53: Battery life
Our picks for the best cheap phones seem to struggle with battery life. In terms of lasting a long time on a charge, the Pixel 5a is probably the best of the current crop of Pixels (yes, beating even the Pixel 6 Pro by a significant margin) with the Galaxy A53 hardly much better. The latter device, in its 120Hz mode, managed 9 hours and 48 minutes in the Tom's Guide battery life test. Knock the display down to 60Hz and the Galaxy A53 lasted 10 hours and 38 minutes.
The Pixel 5a with its 60Hz display went for 9 hours and 45 minutes. For reference, we like to see a 10-hour minimum from modern smartphones, especially ones with big batteries. (The Galaxy S22 Ultra didn't do much better when we tested that $1,199 flagship, so Samsung and Google really need to figure out what's going on with the longevity of their respective phones.)
The Pixel 6a doesn't have a high bar to clear to beat out the Galaxy A53 in this respect. Frankly, if I saw more than 10 hours in our testing (especially with a feature I'll get to a minute), I'd be happy. Battery life is a major drawback for most Pixels.
Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53: Performance and AI
Rumors and leaks currently suggest that the Pixel 6a could get the same GS101 Tensor chip that powers the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. We even saw a Geekbench result where a supposed Pixel 6a beat out the Pixel 6 by a hair. So the idea of an A-series Pixel getting flagship-class Tensor silicon has me very excited. In fact, this was my most outlandish prediction for the 6a and some called me crazy. (Elsewhere, you can find a full rundown of the Pixel 6 features we hope to find in the Pixel 6a.)
The Pixel 5a uses the Snapdragon 765G from 2020 (the same chip that powered the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G). Even when it was brand new, the 765G wasn't a powerful chip since it was designed for more midrange use cases.
The Exynos 1280 in the Galaxy A53 is fine. It's nothing special and barely beats out the Pixel 5a in benchmarks. The A53 is far from a good gaming device with its 120Hz display ultimately going to waste in terms of gameplay. The Pixel 6a, if it uses a Tensor chip, will certainly blow the A53 out of the water.
There's also the AI and machine learning power of Tensor, which lets the Pixel 6 do some incredible stuff. With Tensor, the Pixel 6a could run laps around the Galaxy A53 in this area, too. Just imagine the Magic Eraser photo-editing feature on an A-series Pixel.
Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53: High refresh rate display
The Galaxy A53 isn't the first budget-friendly handset to offer a high refresh rate display, but it's certainly the best. With Samsung's AMOLED technology, the A53's screen is definitely a step above the rest, even the Pixel 5a.
While I think the Pixel 5a's OLED panel is good, it's locked to 60Hz. I think if the Pixel 6a wants to really knock our socks off, it should have at least a 90Hz display like the Pixel 6. I would certainly prefer it to be adaptive. (The Galaxy A53 is locked to either 120Hz or 60Hz like the Galaxy S21 FE.)
This would obviously put the Pixel 6 in some hot water since the 6a would have many of the same features. So maybe Google won't give the 6a a high refresh rate display. If forced to pick features, I'd honestly rather have Tensor.
However, if the Pixel 6a does get a 90Hz or 120Hz display, that puts even more pressure on Google to make the battery last longer, as high refresh rates consume more power than static 60Hz screens.
Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53: Cameras
This might be the easiest spot for the Pixel 6a to beat out the Galaxy A53 because the Pixel 5a already does in my opinion. While the A53's cameras are good — especially for a $449 phone — the Pixel 5a won out in my testing. So the 6a only needs to do as well as its predecessor to get this point.
Current rumors say the Pixel 6a will get a 12MP main camera, joined by a 12MP ultrawide sensor and 8MP selfie cam. The Galaxy A53 sports a 64MP main shooter with 12MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, 5MP depth, and 32MP front cameras. Don't get caught up in the sensor resolutions, since there's a lot more that goes into these than just the megapixel count.
I have no doubt that the Pixel 6a will take some incredible photos, especially if Tensor and its image signal processor are on board.
Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53: Software
We already know that the Pixel 6a will launch with Android 12 and all of its goodness. The Galaxy A53 also sports the latest version of Android, but Samsung has one-upped Google in one key area: updates.
The Galaxy A53 will see four years of platform updates and five years of security patches, beating the Pixel 5a's three-year/four-year policy. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro also will see five years of patches, but Google has only committed to three years of Android updates.
In a world where times are hard and the environment is a chief concern for many, having your phone go for longer, both in terms of software and hardware, is very important. Samsung and Apple understand this, and I'd like to see Google jump onboard, too. With the company controlling Tensor, I have yet to see a reason why Pixels can't have iPhone-level support timelines.
If the Pixel 6a doesn't feature at least four years of platform updates, I will be sorely disappointed.
Pixel 6a vs. Galaxy A53: outlook
I hope that the Pixel 6a doesn't suffer from the same availability issues as the Pixel 5a, which was limited to just the US and Japan. If the upcoming Google phone hits the UK, EU, and the rest of Asia, it stands a much better chance of success. The other hurdle here in the US will be carriers, since the Galaxy A53 is available directly through AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. The Pixel 5a, in contrast, is limited to Google Fi, Google's own wireless service.
The biggest deciding factor will, of course, be price. If Google can keep the same $449 price as the Pixel 5a and Galaxy A53, I think the Pixel 6a will be my go-to budget phone recommendation. Even if the phone does just one of these five things, I believe it will be a win.