How do you make a better mid-range phone? If you’re a Samsung, you’re swapping out a homemade processor, increasing battery capacity, ditching the internal charger, and lowering the price by $50. Follow this recipe and you’ll get a $449 Galaxy A53 5G.
Samsung has also followed the cardinal rule of not fixing what isn’t broken. The cameras, screen and design are unchanged from last year’s model. Performance is about the same too, even with the switch from a Snapdragon processor to a new, unproven Exynos chipset. Losing the charging brick that was included earlier is an issue, but it would have happened in the end.
Even better than minor spec upgrades, Samsung has refined its already robust software support policy. The A53 5G will get four years of Android OS updates and five years of security updates. That’s as long as Google supports its flagship Pixel 6 phones with security updates. Don’t expect to get frequent Updates are near the end of their life, but getting any kind of update five years after launch is great for a mid-range Android device.
Samsung has also addressed some of our software complaints. The A53 5G comes with Android 12 One UI 4.1 operating system, which is slightly better than its predecessor. It’s still a Samsung device, though, and Samsung still desperately wants you to live in its world with its own app store, virtual assistant, and suite of pre-downloaded apps.
If you’re happy to live in the Samsung world, or at least don’t mind putting up with it, the Galaxy A53 5G should reward you with an excellent return on your investment.
The Galaxy A53 5G is the first Samsung phone sold in the US to use the Exynos chipset since 2015. Samsung has continued to use its own brand chips in international versions of its phones (and it has appeared in wearables more recently). But in the US, it was either Qualcomm or MediaTek starting with the Galaxy S7. The A53 5G and A33 5G are the first anywhere to use the proprietary Exynos 1280 processor. It’s paired with 6GB of RAM, which is more than you’ll find on most other mid-range phones.
The performance seems to be on par with the A52 5G. Using them in tandem, sometimes there’s a slightly longer delay after you hit the search bar before the keyboard on the A53 pops up. But as is often the case, the A53 will open an app faster than the A52. In practical use, I’d call it a throw between the two. I notice a slight hesitation here and there throughout my daily use, but it’s all within the normal range of a mid-range phone and I can’t live with it. So it will work Jinshin effect, albeit with some frequent dimming when a lot is happening on the screen. I expect overall performance to hold up reasonably well, even after three or four years of software updates as well.
Whether you buy the phone unlocked or through a US carrier, you’ll only have one of your storage options: 128GB. That’s a good amount for this price range, and if you run out of space after a few years, there’s a microSD slot for additional storage.
The A53 5G features a 6.5-inch OLED display with 120Hz refresh rate, and delivers a good level of detail at 1080p. It can be a bit tricky to see in very bright outdoor lighting conditions, but in all other situations the screen is rich and vibrant, and the fast refresh rate keeps things looking smooth. At this price point, it’s about the best you can expect from a phone’s display.
There is an in-screen fingerprint scanner for biometric unlocking. Samsung says it’s the same used in the A52 5G, and I believe them. But I’m having an easier time using it than the previous model, and I feel like I’m getting fewer prompts to try again. Maybe the program got better. Maybe I have more patience now. Who can say? It’s a slower blow than very The fingerprint sensors are better in a flagship, like the OnePlus 10 Pro, but overall it’s accurate and fast enough not to cause any major frustration day in and day out.
The A53 5G features IP67 dust and water resistance, which is still a rarity in this category. This means that the A53 5G has to withstand splashes, spills, and some immersion in water. If you’ve ever seen a phone die a water dead after an accidental fall in a body of water (let’s not talk about what happened at West Seattle Summer Fest 2019), you know how valuable the water resistance is.
Another major spec improvement is the upgrade from a 4,500mAh battery to a 5,000mAh battery. Samsung claims that the new battery will give you two full days of use, and if you’re a light user or use Wi-Fi most of the time, that’s a fair claim. I can go a whole day without any problem, I even stream some videos and spend most of my time on 5G, but not two whole days. I pushed it hard the second day by downloading Jinshin effect, but I only got around 2pm when I started getting prompts to charge the phone. Light users can expect to spend a couple of days on a charge, but if you’re a moderate or heavy user, it may be best to recharge overnight to avoid getting sucked into single-digit percentages.
There are no charging bricks included in the A53 box, not even a USB-C cable included. The headphone jack that was included in the A52 is also gone, because all good things must come to an end. These are some of the key features that flow into the A53, and I wish they hadn’t.
If you buy the A53 through AT&T, T-Mobile, or unlocked, you’ll get a version of the device that’s only compatible with the low and mid-range of 5G — no ultra-high-speed millimeter wave (mmWave). That’s fine – mmWave is hard to find anyway. Phone version sold by Verizon Do It offers mmWave support and it costs $50 more.
If you buy your phone through Verizon, you’ll likely be paying for it on your monthly bill rather than the full retail price — in which case the mmWave version is your only option. If you have the option of buying the phone unlocked, keep saving $50 and buy it without mmWave even if you use Verizon. You won’t miss it, and your wireless plan might not even include it to begin with.
The Galaxy A53 5G borrows the camera system from its predecessor, with a standard 64-megapixel f/1.8 display. It features optical stabilization, which is a rare and welcome feature in the mid-range category. (You’re more likely to get a sharp shot in moderate lighting conditions.) There’s also a 12MP ultra-wide camera, along with 5MP depth and field sensors.
Expect high-quality images in bright light, with rich, saturated colors. The main camera has very low and even lighting, with a night mode that brings out a good amount of detail provided your subject doesn’t move much. Portrait mode photos can also be used, especially when there is a lot of light, but it’s not as impressive as we saw on the Galaxy S22. There’s also no telephoto lens here, so your only option for photos is the wider view of the standard camera.
Video recording is superior to 4K/30p, with 30 and 60p options at 1080. Videos look good. The camera’s autofocus catches quite a bit in low light. Additional stability is available in 1080 / 30p mode, but it is best suited to bright light outdoors. (Clips in moderate and low light with this feature enabled appear dark and noisy.)
Altogether, it’s a good camera system for the price. You’d certainly improve on the flagship – including the telephoto lens – but it does a decent job. The A53 doesn’t quite live up to the middle class leader: the Google Pixel 5A. Portraits and low-light photos look a little better than the Pixel, and colors are less saturated. There are good reasons to choose Samsung over the Pixel 5A (more on that in a bit), but if pure camera quality is what you’re after, the 5A is still the best you can do for under $500.
The A53 5G leaves me with very little to complain about; It does everything you could reasonably expect from a $450 phone to do. but me Could you Find some lice to choose in the Samsung program – especially because Samsung software.
If Samsung has its way, you’ll end up with a whole bunch of Samsung apps downloaded to your phone when you start using it. Fortunately, you can opt out of downloading a lot of these during setup. However, you will have an additional app store and an additional voice assistant on your phone, whether you like it or not. I learned that Bixby tends to mishear some radio DJs saying “KEXP” as their name. This is a very Pacific Northwest issue, but I was really pissed off with Bixby, and that didn’t help things.
To be fair, Samsung has done some cleaning since One UI 3.0, such as removing ads at the top of the Weather app. You can hide all unnecessary Samsung apps in a folder, and it is possible to use the phone without creating a Samsung account if you want to live your life without additional login. Just know that you might one day decide to change the font on your phone and discover that you’ll need a Samsung account to download one from the Galaxy Store. Win some, lose some.
The Galaxy A53 5G is an easy choice if you live in the US and are looking to spend under $500 on an Android phone. The Google Pixel 5A is basically the phone’s only competition, but it’s likely to be replaced soon and has a shorter lifespan at this point with only two additional OS updates. You’ll get a better camera and better software without all the Samsung duplicates, but it’s not sold through any carriers if you’re looking to back it up with your wireless plan.
Aside from waiting for the Google Pixel 6A, the other option would be to spend more and go for the Pixel 6. Google seems to have addressed some early bugs with Android 12 security patches, and for $599, it’s a great device with an excellent camera and nice software. But it is much more expensive – an extra $150. If you’re not picky about getting the best image quality and you like (or at least don’t mind) Samsung’s version of Android 12, there’s really no compelling reason to spend the extra money.
Samsung offers a lot of budget A-series phones, and they are generally among the best options in their price categories. The A53 5G is Samsung A series at its best. It keeps up with daily tasks now and should continue for the next four or five years if you take care of it. The A52 was a good buy for an extra $50, and the A53 will give you a better return on your investment — even if you have to bring your own charger now.
Photo by Alison Johnson/The Verge