It’s no secret that I wasn’t keen on the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE - this ‘affordable take’ on the Galaxy S21 was a lesser phone than its big sibling in most ways, not least that it wasn’t even really cheaper - as my review explores.
However there is clearly some mileage in the idea of a cheaper alternative to Samsung’s flagship line, and the company has just launched a way more tempting handset that’s essentially the S21 FE we wanted all along. Or, given that the S22 line is already out, we could consider it an S22 FE.
This is the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G (priced at £399 / AU$699), which was announced at a medium-sized launch event alongside a lower-spec Galaxy A33 5G (£329 / AU$599). Those are the next entries in Samsung’s mid-range and low-cost Galaxy A family, and the A53 in particular is important, as the A52 is one of the company’s best-selling smartphones.
What is the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G?
Samsung’s newest Galaxy A phone seems to have two big selling points, considering that it’s a very affordable handset.
The first is the display - it’s a 120Hz 6.5-inch AMOLED panel broken up by a small ‘punch-hole’ for the front camera. In true Samsung style it’s bright and bold and should be great for people who like to stream video on the go.
The next is the camera app - while the 64MP main, 12MP ultrawide and dual 5MP depth and macro cameras won't exactly see the device going toe-to-toe with an S22 member, the price shouldn’t have given you that expectation anyway.
But Samsung’s camera app offers you modes like built-in social media filters, tools to easily capture great pictures of people, food or pets, and ways to easily upload them to social media.
So in a way, the Galaxy A53 presents a typical S22 experience, but stripped back to offer just the core features that’ll impress a select market of users.
But isn’t that the point of the S21 FE?
That’s exactly what the S21 FE was meant to do. It was meant to take the S21 experience, and strip it back to make it more accessible and affordable. It failed, as its price was too high and the features probably weren’t stripped back enough.
But the A53 5G hits all the important beats. Two of the draws of Samsung phones are their displays and camera apps, and the A53 does a good job of both of those things.
Sure, you’re missing out on some premium features - there’s no wireless charging, the camera sensors aren’t exactly cutting-edge, and the processor is pretty weak.
But at roughly half the price of the S22, the A53 is a super tempting alternative that has a lot more in common with our visions of the perfect Fan Edition phone, than the latest device actually touting that name.
Learning points for the S22 FE
We can see the arguments for the A53 being too far removed from the S-series experience to be a valuable replacement. But then we’d point out that the A5X line is just the middling entry in Samsung’s A family.
There are also A7X and A9X phones with better specs, and the third-gen entries in these lines haven’t been unveiled yet.
So perhaps instead of Samsung putting out a Galaxy A93, it could simply nix that top-end A-series range, and put out that device as the Galaxy S22 FE. It could sit well under the S22, but above the A73, bringing great camera and display hardware to a device with a mid-range processor and design.
We can dream, but the Galaxy S21 FE didn’t seem too popular compared to the Galaxy S20 FE, so Samsung hopefully is looking at what went wrong and ways to fix it for the S22 FE. So let’s see what happens in the next year or so.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.