Samsung Galaxy A51 vs. iPhone SE (2020): Which should you buy?

Galaxy A51 review
Galaxy A51 review (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51 Render

The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the many low-cost Android phones currently available, and while it isn't perfect, there is a lot to like about it. The phone has a large AMOLED display with slim bezels, four rear cameras, and a 4,000 mAh battery that allows for great endurance. If you're a Sprint or Verizon customer, it's well worth a look.

Samsung Galaxy A51

New and shiny

Large display with minimal bezels
Reliable 48MP camera
Expandable storage
3.5mm headphone jack
Long-lasting battery life
Disappointing performance
Only sold at Sprint and Verizon

iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone SE (2020)

If the aging design doesn't bother you, Apple's new iPhone SE is one of the best phones you can buy in this price range. The star of the show is the A13 Bionic processor, which allows for incredibly fast performance and software updates that'll keep rolling in for years to come. Other highlights include the 12MP rear camera and Qi wireless charging.

iPhone SE (2020)

Compact powerhouse

Flagship-level performance
Very good rear camera
Qi wireless charging
IP67 dust/water resistance
Years of software updates
Display is only HD
Outdated design

While Samsung's Galaxy A51 and the iPhone SE have identical price tags, the phones focus on specializing in different areas and therefore come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. The Galaxy A51 has a really fantastic AMOLED display, lots of rear cameras, and long battery life, but performance is a bit disappointing compared to the competition. Apple's iPhone SE has an outdated design with huge bezels, but the A13 Bionic processor allows for mind-blowing speed and years of software updates. On top of that, you'll also need to come to terms with what operating system you prefer — Android or iOS.

The Galaxy A51 comes out ahead in a few areas

The Galaxy A51 is a follow-up to 2019's A50, which we hailed as one of the best mid-range phones of the year. The A51 shares a lot of the A50's strong suits, making it a very attractive purchase.

First thing's first, especially compared against the iPhone SE, we need to talk about the Galaxy A51's display. It's quite large at 6.5 inches, the Full HD 2400x1080 resolution allows it to be plenty sharp, and the Super AMOLED panel means you're treated to bright and vibrant colors. Add all of that together with the tiny bezels and centered hole-punch cutout, and you end up with one outstanding display for a phone this cheap.

Flipping the phone over, you'll find its array of four rear cameras — including a 48MP primary camera, 12MP ultra-wide camera, 5MP macro camera, and 5MP portrait camera. The 48MP sensor captures great photos when there's a lot of daylight around, though low-light performance isn't the best we've ever seen. The other sensors are of a lower overall quality, but having the extra utility of the ultra-wide and macro cameras is something you just won't find on the iPhone SE.

There are some other specs that shine bright on the Galaxy A51, such as its large 4,000 mAh battery and 128GB of base internal storage. Also present on the phone is support for expandable storage and a 3.5mm headphone jack (once again, two features that the iPhone doesn't have).

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy A51iPhone SE (2020)
Operating SystemOne UI 2.0Android 10iOS 13.3
Display6.5-inchSuper AMOLED2400 x 10804.7-inchLED1334 x 750
ProcessorSamsung Exynos 9611Apple A13 Bionic
Expandable StorageUp to 512GB
Rear Camera 148MP primary cameraf/2.012MP primary cameraf/1.8
Rear Camera 212MP ultra-wide cameraf/2.2
Rear Camera 35MP macro cameraf/2.4
Rear Camera 45MP portrait cameraf/2.2
Front Camera32MPf/2.27MPf/2.2
Battery4,000 mAh1,821 mAh
Water ResistanceIP67
Charging15W wired charging18W wired chargingQi wireless charging
Dimensions158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9mm138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm

But the iPhone SE has its own strengths

iPhone SE 2020

Source: Apple (Image credit: Source: Apple)

There's no denying that the A51 has quite a few perks over the iPhone SE, but that's not to say you should ignore the device. In fact, depending on where your needs and preferences lie, it could be a better purchase.

Without a doubt, the biggest draw to the iPhone SE is its processor. It's the Apple A13 Bionic chipset, which is the exact same one found in the $1,000 iPhone 11 Pro. Paired with the power-efficient HD display, the iPhone SE is ridiculously fast. It can handle any app or game with ease, and navigating through menus is buttery smooth. Compared to the A51's occasionally laggy performance, it's top-notch.

Additionally, that A13 Bionic ensures the phone will keep getting iOS updates for years to come. Where the Galaxy A51 will be lucky to get two years of consistent updates, you can likely expect five or more years of support for the iPhone SE. The iPhone SE further benefits from multiple storage configurations, Qi wireless charging, and an official IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. There's only one camera on the back, but it takes excellent photos.

As for the iPhone SE's size, that'll be either a pro or con depending on how you look at it. Some people might hate the tiny 4.7-inch screen, whereas others will be drawn to it and appreciate its compact footprint. Big phones are commonplace these days, so going back to something that's legitimately useable in one hand is a breath of fresh air you might be looking for.

Lastly, we appreciate how easy it is to buy the iPhone SE. You can buy it unlocked for use on any carrier in the U.S., or pick it up directly through one of those carriers if you prefer to do that. Comparatively, the Galaxy A51 is only available via Sprint and Verizon. If you don't use either carrier for your phone service, you're out of luck.

Different phones, different operating systems

Android Pie statue at the Googleplex

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

All of that brings us here — where we determine which phone you should buy over the other. Truth be told, the answer varies depending on what you're hoping to get out of your next smartphone.

If you want a device with an incredible display for content consumption, long battery life, multiple rear cameras, and things like expandable storage and a headphone jack, the Galaxy A51 is the way to go. Compared to the iPhone SE, it's a much better purchase in these regards. That said, if you want a cheap phone that doesn't skimp out on performance, will stay updated for years to come and is easy to use with one hand, the iPhone SE stands out as the phone to get.

Outside of all that, there's also the matter of operating system. The Galaxy A51 is powered by Android, whereas the iPhone SE runs iOS. If you prefer Android, you'll be better off with the A51. If you're a long-time iPhone lover, going with the iPhone SE makes the most sense.

One operating system isn't necessarily better than the other, but sticking with what you know and like on the software front will ensure you aren't faced with any major roadblocks when getting your new phone.

Joe Maring

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.