The Galaxy A51, Samsung’s $399 iPhone SE fighter, gets a wide US release

Patrick

Samsung’s midrange smartphone lineup has been getting more and more prominent in the United States lately, and now we’re seeing wider distribution for a particularly interesting device: the Galaxy A51. The phone was previously on Verizon, but as of today it’s headed to Sprint, AT&T, Xfinity (but only for pre-order), Amazon, and Samsung.com. As a $400 device, this is Samsung’s closest competition to the iPhone SE, Apple’s recently released midrange juggernaut. In a post-iPhone SE world, it feels like every Android phone needs to justify its existence next to the cheap iPhone, so let’s compare!

Of course, the iPhone SE is a $400 phone that somehow packs The World’s Fastest Mobile SoC, the Apple A13 Bionic. It’s not only faster than the Samsung Exynos 9611 in the Galaxy A51, but faster than any SoC, in any Android phone, even Samsung’s top-of-the-line $1,400 Galaxy S20 Ultra. The Exynos 9611 is a 10nm SoC with four 2.3GHz Cortex-A73 cores and four 1.7 GHz Cortex-A53 cores. This is a rare non-Qualcomm chip to come to the US, and the rough Qualcomm equivalent would be the Snapdragon 835, the flagship SoC from 2017.

The SoC situation is downright embarrassing for Team Android, but the A51 has a lot to say when it comes to the display and design of the two phones. The A51 is sporting a more modern design than the SE, with slim bezels and a hole-punch front camera. The iPhone SE recycles the iPhone 8 design and consequently looks like a phone that’s a few years old. Samsung being Samsung, the A51 has a massive display, a 6.5-inch, 2400×1080 OLED with a 20:9 aspect ratio and 405 pixels per inch. The iPhone SE display is smaller than nearly every Android phone on the market and very old school, with a 4.7-inch 1334×750 LCD with a 16:9 aspect ratio and 326 PPI. Samsung also has an in-screen, optical fingerprint reader, while Apple resurrects TouchID with a front capacitive reader. I like the symmetry here: Samsung has a modern design and SoC technology that was top-of-the-line in 2017, while Apple has a design from 2017 and a modern SoC.

Samsung’s “more is better” company motto is on display in the rear camera, too, where you will find a whopping four rear cameras, even at this $400 price point. There’s a 48MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide, a 5MP depth camera and a 5MP macro camera. The iPhone SE has only a single 12MP camera. Isn’t Samsung’s spec sheet much more impressive? Look at all those megapixels and lenses! Cameras are about more than features though—what really matters is the image quality. Can a midrange Android camera stand up to a 2-year-old iPhone camera? We’ll hopefully find out later.

The major complaint with the iPhone SE is the mediocre battery life, and Samsung has a good chance of beating Apple here. The Galaxy A51 has a decent 4000mAh battery, while the iPhone SE’s battery is less than half that size, with a 1821mAh battery. The SE battery has a lot less work to do, with a much smaller display and iOS’s lighter battery usage, so it’s not a raw numbers comparison.

The iPhone SE has two big features in its corner that you usually never see in midrange phones: wireless charging and water resistance, with an IP67 rating. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A51 has a feature you never see in flagships anymore: a headphone jack.

For $400, Samsung is offering more storage than Apple, with a single config at 128GB. There’s also a MicroSD slot, so you can expand the storage later if you want. Apple offers 64, 128, and 256GB tiers for the iPhone SE, but the comparable 128GB version will run you $449. Other Galaxy A51 specs include 4GB of RAM and 15W fast charging. You get NFC, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (does anyone call this “Wi-Fi 5”?), and Android 10. The back of the phone is plastic, not glass, and comes in Black, White, Blue, and Pink. They are all “Prism” colors with a distinctive X design on the back.

If you’re not doing a trade-in, Samsung.com is offering free Galaxy Buds with your purchase.

Listing image by Samsung

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