When it comes to buying a mid-range smartphone, you typically want to spend between £300 and £600, roughly. Anything less gets into the budget territory, while anything more starts to encroach on the higher-end flagships.
Two of the standout mid-range handsets of 2022 so far are the Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen and Samsung A53 5G, both priced around the £400 mark (RRP) in the UK. The Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen starts at £419 and the Samsung A53 is priced at £399 (RRP).
The cost may be similar but the handsets are very different – at least because the iPhone SE runs iOS and the A53 is Android. So which one is most suited to you? Let’s delve into that question – comparing their specs, features, pricing and much more.
For more phones at this price point, read our guide to the best mid-range phone in 2022 so far. Decide that you want to save some cash? Here’s a full breakdown of the best budget smartphone of this year, plus our full Samsung A53 5G review.
- Aside from the design and size, the biggest difference is that the iPhone SE 3rd Gen runs Apple’s iOS 15, while the Samsung runs Android 12.
- The iPhone SE is smaller in size, with a 4.7-inch display compared to the A53’s 6.5-inch display (6.3-inch measures using the rounded corners.)
- Staying on screen tech, the iPhone SE has a max refresh rate of 60Hz, but the Samsung A53 offers an extra 120Hz option (but it’s not adaptive).
- The iPhone SE has a single camera 12MP setup, while the Samsung A53 has four: a 64MP main, 12MP ultra wide, 5MP depth and 5MP macro.
- The Apple SE has a physical home button and larger bezels. The Samsung A53 5G has no front buttons, using an on-screen fingerprint sensor.
Let’s just say you will be able to tell the two phones apart. The iPhone SE 3rd Gen has the “classic” (ie old) Apple aesthetic – with large bezels surrounding the display and a physical home button that holds the Touch ID sensor. It’s retro and takes a lot of inspiration from 2017’s iPhone 8. It’s definitely an acquired taste in 2022.
The Samsung A53 5G is significantly more modern thanks to the larger overall size, a full-screen display with an on-screen fingerprint sensor and much smaller bezels. There are more cameras in the rear module and a pinhole lens on the front.
Here is the iPhone SE 3rd Gen family of phones:
And here is the Samsung A53 phone series:
When it comes to software selection, the iPhone SE 3rd Gen uses the iOS App Store while the Samsung A53 5G uses the Google Play Store. The Android phone is a little bit more open, and you will need an Apple ID to download via the Apple store.
The processors inside each of the phones are different, too. The iPhone SE 3rd Gen uses an A15 Bionic chip – which is highly impressive as it’s the same line found in the much more expensive iPhone 13 series. The A53 houses a Exynos 1280 (5 nm) processor from this year. It’s a mid-range chip but definitely no slouch.
Sticking with performance, the iPhone SE display has a locked 60Hz refresh rate, while the A53 has the option of boosting it to 120Hz. This may drain the battery faster but results in a smoother scrolling experience when using the display.
Both handsets are rated IP67 for water and dust resistance – which means they can (theoretically) survive in up to one metre of liquid for up to 30 minutes. We don’t recommend testing this, but it’s helpful if you are using them for exercising.
Pricing is one of the main reasons we are comparing these two phones. If you have around £400 and don’t care about iOS or Android, then it’s possible that you will be considering these handsets. Still, here’s a full breakdown of the UK pricing:
Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen
Samsung A53 5G:
The iPhone SE 3rd Gen has more storage options: 64GB, 128GB and 256GB, with the cost going up based on how much internal space you are getting. The Samsung A53 has two options, 128GB and 256GB, but has an additional bonus in that it supports a microSD card with up to 1TB. The Apple phone does not support expandable card storage at all, so the Samsung is a better bet if this is needed.
If you are comparing based on the specs sheet alone, you would think the A53 will easily outpace the iPhone SE 3rd Gen because the Samsung has a 5,000mAh battery while the Apple model has a 2,018 mAh battery. But that’s not the whole story.
Due to the tight integration with the iPhone and the A15 chip, the lifespans are similar. For moderate use – a general combination of calls, streaming, internet use, messaging and emails – both of the handsets should be able to last for between one and two days before needing to be charged back up.
The iPhone SE offers up to 15 hours of video playback, while the A53 has up to 18 hours video playback. The iPhone SE delivers up to 50 hours of audio playback, while the A53 will give you up to 60 hours, approximately. This is never an exact science, and how much power you have will always be dependent on usage.
One factor to note is that only the iPhone SE offers Qi wireless charging. Using a 20W adapter (not included) you can get up to 50% charge in 30 minutes. The A53 comes with up to 25W fast charging, and that adapter is also sold separately.
Both setups are very capable of taking great photos, with multiple shooting modes for pictures and 4K video. There are some clear differences, however.
The Apple iPhone SE 3rd Gen has a single camera 12MP setup that relies more on the AI running in the background. It has a dedicated portrait mode, a digital zoom of up to 5x and optical image stabilisation. The “selfie” camera lens is 7MP.
The Samsung A53 5G has a quad camera setup, with a 64 MP main, 12 MP ultra wide, 5 MP depth and a 5MP macro. The phone offers you a digital zoom of up to 10x and optical image stabilisation, too. The A53’s “selfie” camera lens is 32MP.
You will notice it right away if the two phones are placed side by side. The screens are very different sizes, and the iPhone definitely looks much more snug.
The iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch LCD display with around 625 nits max brightness while the A53 has a larger 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display (FHD+) with up to 800 nits of brightness. The iPhone has thicker bezels, which are the borders around the display, with the Samsung much more of a full-screen experience.
Both handsets support 5G, which means they will be able to take advantage of faster internet and download speeds on the new networks currently rolling out.
Like prior models, the iPhone SE 3rd Gen uses Apple’s Lightning connector for charging, while the Samsung A53 uses the more widely-adopted USB Type-C. Pairing with wireless buds? The SE 3 has Bluetooth v5.0, the Samsung has Bluetooth v5.1.
There’s no doubt that the Samsung A53 is a more modernised smartphone, largely thanks to the bigger display size, 120Hz refresh rate, expandable storage and a full-screen design that’s much more in line with what many people will expect a smartphone to look like in 2022. If you prefer Android, go for this one.
The iPhone SE’s look may look outdated, but the Apple A15 Bionic chipset is a big plus, and it has one key audience: anyone who wants iOS on a budget.
So here’s the bottom line: Like always, the question of which one to buy may be quickly answered by choosing if you want to be on iOS or Android. So if you are in the Apple ecosystem – with a MacBook and Apple Watch, for example – then it is likely you should stick with the iPhone SE 3rd Gen. But if you want to avoid an older design and don’t mind shifting over to Android, the Samsung A53 is a very worthy alternative. The handset has more storage options, smaller bezels and is slightly more affordable.