The term “flagship killer” may seem outdated, but the appeal of a high-performing phone at an affordable price is still strong. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly flagship phone, the latest Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy S23 FE are likely to be your top choices.
The two phones are priced at $599 and $699, which is significantly lower than the premium Galaxy and iPhone series. However, they still offer essential features such as great displays, solid cameras, wireless charging, IP68 ratings, fast networking, and large batteries. In other words, these phones provide everything you would want in a high-quality smartphone. To keep the prices affordable, some aspects have been compromised, like using older Gorilla Glass 5 protection and slightly weaker cameras compared to top-end models. Nevertheless, these are trade-offs that we can accept.
Google and Samsung have introduced attractive substitutes for their top-of-the-line products.
Even better, the newest phones from Google and Samsung are designed for long-term use. Samsung promises four operating system updates and five years of security patches for their Galaxy S23 FE, just like their more expensive S23 models. Google goes even further, offering seven years of OS support for the Pixel 8, ensuring the phone stays up-to-date with new features until 2030. In terms of longevity, both options are a great value.
Their limited aspect is the speed of processing, however the Tensor G3, older Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, or Exynos 2200 will not cause significant delays when loading apps. They are all sufficiently powerful for daily use for a long time; they may not be attractive to those who prioritize having the most advanced chipset. In general, there has never been a more opportune moment to purchase a cost-effective smartphone with longevity in mind.
In the past, we would have looked to OnePlus, Xiaomi, and a few other companies for high-end features at competitive prices. While these brands still offer budget-friendly phones, the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S23 FE have made them slightly less appealing compared to previous years.
Now, we will examine some details. The OnePlus 11, priced at $699, offers top-of-the-line performance but does not have features such as wireless charging, a strong IP rating, or a comparable camera setup to the Pixel 8 or Galaxy S23 FE. On the other hand, the Nothing Phone 2, priced at $599, is more balanced in its offerings but still sacrifices an IP54 rating and only offers three years of operating system upgrades.
The Xiaomi 13T Pro can be considered a strong competitor to both Google and Samsung. It boasts a top-of-the-line processor, fast 120W charging, an impressive triple camera setup, and a similar update policy to Samsung’s. However, the phone lacks wireless charging and is not currently available in the US.
When shopping on a tight budget, longevity is likely the most important aspect to consider.
This is the core issue. Although there are budget Chinese smartphones with top-of-the-line features, they lack the same widespread availability in US retailers as Samsung and Google. Even when they are on the market, their emphasis on speed and charging may not be as remarkable as it once was, and there are usually some trade-offs involved.
While having the ability to charge a phone to full in just 30 minutes is impressive, it should not come at the cost of the battery’s lifespan. Additionally, if a phone can last all day without needing super-fast charging, then it may not be necessary to have this feature. While some may prioritize being able to play high-end games at maximum frame rates, the truth is that even previous generation processors are more than capable of handling the majority of daily tasks for 99% of users. Ultimately, when considering a budget-friendly option, a phone that is built to last for five or more years is highly desirable.
Have Google and Samsung put an end to the competition from the flagship killers with the launch of the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S23 FE? Unless for specific purposes, I believe they have succeeded.
By offering top-quality updates and a combination of competitive hardware and affordable pricing, other companies have been overshadowed in the mainstream market. Though they may still have comparable hardware, they must step up and meet the standards of the top two competitors in order to regain my loyalty in the long run.