Samsung is slowly learning, and that is evident with the new series from the company. The new A series with Galaxy A3 and A5 to start with, have become a talk of the town, for the inclusion of full metal body construction, rather than sticking to the plastic body and the build quality the company used for years, comfortably.
With every competitor stepping up and making the device better, not just by looks but also with build quality, Samsung had to do nothing else but follow the same. After all, it was only this aspect apart from the TouchWiz UI, which was under scrutiny from reviewers and fans. Finally, something quite good, although Samsung didn’t bring about changes in the way the Galaxy A3 looks, as you still would see the same design structure, which is not bad at all.
The highlights of this little device (I happily call this as a “little” one, given the flow of large screen devices recently) include its Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 410 processor, build quality and the Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Everything else seems not extraordinary, and in a way, lesser than what one might expect in the current market for that price.
Design, Form Factor
As stated in our A3 and A5 hands-on, we are quite impressed with the build quality, as Samsung did come out of the comfort zone and make something that feels good and sturdy in hand. Easy to hold and operate using one hand. That is kind of rare for premium smartphones these days, as it is a race for resolutions and bigger screen sizes. Before this, it was only the Galaxy Alpha (for someone who wanted a Samsung device) that I could suggest to someone with a size that is very much comfortable in hand, but now, the A series looks promising.
Metallic body with the aluminum frame makes it quite sturdy, but they managed to keep it tad light, at 110gm. Even the rim around the camera, and the physical buttons on the side, are metallic and thus serves two purposes – sturdiness and good look. The white unit we have, has that amber shine on the back cover, when the device is seen against a light source. The chamfered edge that runs along both on front and back, reflects light and give it a premium look (this isn’t the only one though, as the entire A series, Note 4 and the Xiaomi Mi4 has similar edge cuts).
There could be a little confusion on how one can place the SIM card in the larger tray, as its the same tray which can host either a Nano SIM or a MicroSD card. The battery is inaccessible, and not that it matters much, but can be a disadvantage for the users of previous Samsung smartphones.
So overall, wherever there is plastic, even that doesn’t feel or look bad, and the Galaxy A3 is very comfortable to hold, easy to use with one hand and finally, there is one smartphone from Samsung in the mid-range that one will appreciate about.
Although the colors look great on the 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display of Galaxy A3, I was disappointed with the viewing angles and the dull resolution, keeping the pixel density at 245PPI, which is quite low on standards for the price range. The display doesn’t get any protection as well, and when compared to an IPS display, this will not surely win the brightness test. At the same time, the readability under the sun is not a problem at all, as the content was well readable with full brightness.
Themes – when did we hear about it for a Samsung smartphone? Probably the first time, but the A series is finally getting the option to change themes in the TouchWiz UI, running over Android 4.4.4 KitKat. It isn’t that standard TouchWiz we have been seeing since years, but the one that brought in some major changes to the layout since the launch of Galaxy S5. But have things really changed since then? Not much, as the UI still lags at most of the times.
Samsung’s few blunders in the UI took away the good experience, as you now have to scroll through the entire list of quick toggles in the notification panel, as there is no direct way to access all in a single page. Also, the major missing function is the search option in the big list of settings. But for those who are okay in checking what Samsung has to offer in the settings, there is a lot.
While using both, the A3 and A5 together, I am missing the “Active applications” shortcut in the multitasking screen. There is only one icon to end all apps at once, thus you cannot selectively check which app is using more RAM. While the A5 has the carousel view for multiple apps, these show up as vertically arrange list of thumbnails in case of A3. Obviously, the one on the larger screen A5 looks better.
The recent changes brought about by Samsung have made things even simpler, but we aren’t quite impressed, for the reason that it still has those annoying lags, not just while multitasking but even while going to home screen from any game. While typing quickly, you’d notice the default keyboard to hang. The gaming experience isn’t great as well, when we tested playing GTA Vice City, Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger. For the other basic games such as Subway Surfers, Temple Run 2 and such, it was all good.
Talk of benchmarks, the 64-bit Snapdragon 410 with Adreno 306 GPU and 1GB RAM was capable of getting this device some decent scores, and in most of the tests, a negligible but higher score than the Galaxy A5. The scores on AnTuTu (score: 20813), Quadrant Standard, BrowserMark, Vellamo Multi-core (score: 1217) and 3DMark (score: 2645 for Ice Storm Extreme) are all as expected for a Snapdragon 410 device (comparing them with HTC Desire 510 running the same processor).
- The phone app takes a second for most of the time, before connecting the call to any contact.
- A great change from Samsung, that it has a very low number of pre-installed applications, except for some actually useful ones.
- The themes although can be changed by the user, there are a very few themes available. There is no option to download any extra themes.
- Speakers on the back have a very low output, at least when comparing with several devices in the current market, with even lower pricing. The placement is good although on the back, as the hand doesn’t cover the speaker grill and there is no restriction.
- There are some good options in the Messaging app – you can delay the SMS sending by about 30 seconds, so that you can cancel sending if you feel there is a mistake, and there is a spam protection feature as well. Scheduling of messages is there as well.
Camera, Capture Samples
The cameras on Samsung Galaxy A3 are a slick combo, with an 8-megapixel rear shooter as well as a 5-megapixel front-facing one for selfies. Both the cameras offer 1080p video recording, and they differ with picture resolutions. While the camera app is easy to use, with most of the needed controls directly on the preview screen, you’ll have to get into the dropdown list and then into options if you wanted to change the resolutions or the physical button functions.
Let’s talk about the front camera features – Palm gesture is one real good handy feature, as you just need to show your open palm to the camera and the capture is done in two seconds. If that isn’t good enough, there are voice gestures as well. Wide selfie takes three photos in total for 120-degree capture, but isn’t much useful as most of the time, stitches are seen.
Colors are rendered pretty well on both the cameras, and I felt the pictures on very bright conditions to be too white. HDR helps in such cases though, as the shadows are negotiated and the sky is made bluish, better than the unnatural white.
The battery capacity looked too low, at 1900 mAh for a smartphone priced at this range, but the results were impressive. On using single SIM card, the load on battery wasn’t much on standby, but the same while using Dual SIM made the battery drain quite fast. The below pictures will show how voice calls drained battery more than what you would expect normally.
While keeping the screen on, the Super AMOLED display is much responsible for battery loss, but in the end, if you are using for regular calls and occasional browsing, the 1900 mAh battery ensures you get through the day without having to run for the charger. Non removable battery might be a problem for some who haven’t used any other phones than Samsung’s own Galaxy series devices.
On the connectivity front, don’t get confused about the LTE connectivity, as only the A3 single SIM variant supports 4G LTE, and the Duos can connect only with 3G data network. Another difference you’ll find is that the Dual SIM one doesn’t come with NFC. Connectivity was great, both on 3G as well as on the Wi-Fi networks.
The Smart Dual SIM option is good for those buying a Dual SIM smartphone for keeping both the SIM cards active, and receiving calls on both without having to keep one on standby. Wi-Fi and hotspot options work swiftly, but the Wi-Fi doesn’t come with Dual band feature. The Galaxy A3 Duos doesn’t have the USB OTG compatibility, but there is MicroSD card support for the storage expansion.
To conclude about the Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos, there are two things to note: Whether it is one of the best devices at that price point, and whether it is really worth the money. To begin with, if it was the same polycarbonate body with nothing different, I’d have put up a big list of alternatives and suggested against the A3, but this time, finally Samsung has brought about some important and noticeable changes.
Now, for a premium looking and a comfortable design, the Galaxy A3 Duos gets our vote against the plastic devices in the lot. Except for the TouchWiz UI, nothing is so bad in the device, and the Snapdragon 410 was enough to give it the capability for 4G LTE connectivity (single SIM unit), while the cameras were decent enough as well. But, as of late, every Samsung smartphone has been criticized for the UI, which lags even on basic usage, and sadly the story continues even with the Galaxy A3.
I would have really loved a better resolution display for a 4.5-inch screen, but that is what Samsung has got in the cards, as some difference had to be there between this, and the two other devices in the A series – A5 and A7. If you are looking for alternatives from other brands, then there’s the Sony Xperia Z3 compact, Lenovo Vibe X2 or from within Samsung’s own territory, the Galaxy Alpha.
Screen size of 4.5-inch is a point to consider, if you are looking at devices with some comfortable size and one hand usability. The next in the series, Galaxy A5 is a bit bigger than this, and is easy to hold as well, but well, we strictly might suggest this if you have an average sized hand and need something that is easy to hold, type and reach the corners of the screen with one hand.