The launch of the Google Pixel 6A and the Nothing Phone (1) has shaken up the premium smartphone market in India. Both smartphones offer design, performance, and cameras rivalling most high-end flagships. Then, there is Samsung’s Galaxy S20 FE 5G, a phone that is getting a bit old, but still offers a flagship-grade experience at a relatively affordable price.
In today’s market when smartphones are released left, right, and centre, it is very hard to stand out from the crowd. All three of these phones stand out from the sea of smartphones out there. The Nothing Phone (1) features a very quirky and distinctive design, with competitive hardware to boot, the Pixel 6a offers a pure Android experience alongside highly capable cameras, and the Galaxy S20 FE 5G offers the best of high-end Galaxy flagships at a very competitive price point.
The term ‘flagship killer’ might have become stale and tired, but it actually perfectly describes these smartphones.
First, let’s just run through the basic specifications of all three devices.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G is powered by the old but still very powerful Snapdragon 865 processor and features a 6.5-inch FHD+ sAMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, 8GB RAM, 128GB internal storage, and a 4,500mAh battery with support for 25W wired charging. On the imaging front, the smartphone has three cameras at the back – a 12MP primary sensor with OIS, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and an 8MP telephoto sensor with 3X zoom. Up front, there is a 32MP selfie camera. Software-wise, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G launched in India with Android 11 but has now been upgraded to the Android 12-based OneUI 4.1.
The much-hyped Nothing Phone (1) is powered by the Snapdragon’s punchy 5G mid-range chipset, the Snapdragon 778G, and features a 6.55-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, up to 12GB RAM, up to 256GB internal storage, and a 4,500mAh battery with support for 33W wired charging. The smartphone has a 16MP selfie camera and two rear cameras – a 50MP primary camera with Sony’s IMX766 sensor and OIS as well as a 50MP ultra-wide with Samsung’s JN1 image sensor. The Nothing Phone (1) runs Nothing OS on atop Android 12.
Lastly, we have the Google Pixel 6a, which is powered by Google’s in-house 5nm-based Tensor chipset. It features a 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED display with a standard 60Hz refresh rate, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, and a 4,306mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging. The Pixel 6a has an 8MP selfie camera and two rear cameras – a 12.2MP primary sensor with OIS support and a 12MP ultra-wide-angle lens. The smartphone runs completely stock Android 12 out of the box with five years of guaranteed security updates.
Pricing in India
In terms of pricing, the Nothing Phone (1) is the most affordable – it starts at Rs 32,999 for the variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage and goes up to Rs 38,99 for the variant with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. The mid-tier variant with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage is priced at Rs 35,999.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G usually retails for Rs 39,999 but often goes on sale. At the time of writing this article, the only available variant with 8GB RAM and 12GB storage can be found for Rs 34,999 on both Amazon India and Samsung Shop. The Google Pixel 6a is the most expensive of the lot. It is priced at a hefty Rs 43,999 but can be bought for Rs 39,999 with bank offers. There is only one variant on offer, with 6GB RAM And 128GB storage.
The all-rounder: Samsung Galaxy S20FE 5G
Who is it for?
The Samsung Galaxy S20FE 5G is the best all-rounder on this list. It is an excellent choice for those who want genuinely high-end performance, a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED display, and flagship-grade cameras combined with Samsung’s feature-laden OneUI software skin. IP68 water and dust resistance and wireless charging support are icing on the cake. The S20 FE 5G brings the best of high-end Samsung Galaxy flagships to a competitive price point. Samsung is also well established in India, which should theoretically mean better after-sales service and easier access to service centres. Your individual experience may, of course, vary.
Who should avoid?
The most significant deterrent with the Samsung Galaxy S20FE 5G is limited software support. The smartphone launched with Android 10 internationally and Android 13 will officially be the last Android version it gets. Security patches are also only scheduled till October 2014. So the Galaxy S20FE might not be such a great option for those who want to use their smartphone for 3-4 years. Moreover, while OneUI is very stable and feature-laden, some might find it cluttered and bloated. Fast charging is only limited to 25W, which might also put some people off.
The new kid on the block: Nothing Phone (1)
Who is it for?
There has been a lot of hype around the Nothing Phone (1), and it is easy to get lost amongst all the hoopla. In a nutshell, the Nothing Phone (1) is a great option for those who want to stand out from the crowd and are not hesitant to invest in a new company’s product. The smartphone has a unique design, courtesy of a set of light strips underneath a semi-transparent back panel. These LEDs – over 900 in total – can pulse to show notifications and the charging status. The lights can also flash in time with ten preloaded ringtones.
Nothing OS – the company’s skin atop Android 12 – offers many customisation options and is relatively clean with little to no bloatware. Nothing has also promised three years of Android updates. However, only time will tell how well this new company deliver on its update promise.
Who should avoid?
Both the cameras and the processor of Nothing Phone (1) are capable but not truly flagship grade. For the best performance, you should consider the Galaxy S20FE 5G, and if imaging performance matters to you most, you should consider the Google Pixel 6a. Fast charging on the Nothing Phone (1) is also limited to 33W, but it is faster than the 25W option found on the Samsung and 18W on the Google. Those not willing to take a chance with a new and upcoming brand might also want to consider the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G.
For Android purists and camera enthusiasts: Google Pixel 6a
Who is it for?
Straight out of the bat, the Google Pixel 6a is priced at a premium in India and might not be the best choice for everyone. For those looking for the purest Android experience out there – the way Google intended Android to be – the Pixel 6a is undoubtedly the best option out there. While Nokia and Motorola also offer close to stock versions of Android, Google’s hardware is best optimised for Google’s operating system. Google also provides five years of software updates, and the Pixel smartphones are one of the fastest to receive Android version updates.
If camera quality is critical to you, the Pixel 6a is a great choice. Google has not adorned the Pixel 6a with useless 2MP macro sensors to bump up the number of cameras on board. The cameras that are present produce high-quality images and videos consistently, thanks to Google’s excellent post-processing technologies. The Tensor chip also enables a few nifty software features such as Real Skin Tone, Magic Eraser, NightSight, etc.
Who should avoid?
As mentioned above, the Google Pixel 6a is pricier than its competition. Those looking for the best bang for the buck and the best price-to-value ratio will be better served by the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE or even the Nothing Phone (1). The lack of a 120Hz refresh rate display might also be a dealbreaker for some.