The entry-level smartphone market in India has seen a lot of attention over the last few years. Gone are the days when budget users had to compromise on the features. Nowadays smartphone brands are offering decent specifications on their entry level phones. But as the standard has risen in the past couple of years, consumers feel that they should get better specifications. Well, it is a cycle that will go on as long as mobile phones are in existence.
We feel that companies try to deal with this in their own ways, which is by offering unique features on their handset that is either for its user’s convenience or empower them with better ways to handle situations that need handle. Now Samsung has come up with just the handset that is more than just your average entry level Joe we see from big brands like HTC, LG, and Sony. While it is commendable that many brands in India are coming up with flagship like specifications on their phones in the price point, that is affordable to most of us. Although, there are still a set of consumers who wouldn’t trust the brands they haven’t used yet.
Coming to the point, Samsung recently launched their handset the Galaxy J2 2016, which is an entry-level phone from the South Korean giant. It is being marketed as their best entry-level handset with a certain set of features that are unique and resourceful. The question here isn’t why you should go with Galaxy J2 2016. It is that you want to buy a Samsung handset and is searching for their best entry level phone. So, we are investigating whether the Galaxy J2 2016 upgrade is worth your buy or not.
When I pick the device in my hand, the feeling was familiar; firm grip, light weight, and a sturdy build. All these qualities are a must have on a smartphone in terms of the design. It is not a unibody design, which is a trend these days. So, you can easily get inside peak of the device, as you remove the plastic back cover. Before talking about what’s on the rear side of the device, let’s first talk what is present on the front side. You see a rounded metal finish on the edges going through. They give a pretty shiny look to the device. It is noticeable that there are bezels present on the device, which can only mean that display isn’t stretched to the corners. Talking about the front top, it houses an earpiece, some set of sensors and a camera module. While talking about the bottom front, it has capacitive buttons and a physical home key. It is unfortunate that capacitive keys don’t have the backlight, which means you will have problem operating device in the dark.
Coming to the rear part, well, it has a new component, which is introduced first time on any smartphone. There is a smart glow light surrounded on the rear camera module, which assists you in identifying priority notifications, alerts for battery, data, selfie and lots of things. Alongside the rear camera module, you can see the LED Flashlight and a loud speaker, which isn’t loud at all. You can see the Samsung logo branded over the lines that follow the line running on the edges. Moving to the talk of the ports placement, on the right-hand side, you can see the power button, while the left-hand side edge houses the volume buttons. It isn’t a preferred placement for me, but looking at the comfortable size, it’s easy to reach both the buttons, while using one-handedly. Overall, the device feels fantastic in terms of the design as it showcases good quality and sturdiness.
There are two kinds of people in this world; one who prefers AMOLED displays and others who prefer LCD displays. I’m from the first category. With Samsung pioneer in the AMOLED display technology, it was only fitting that brand shall introduce their entry-level product with Super AMOLED display. The 5-inch real estate that you see on the Galaxy J2 2016 model is claimed to be vivid and offering spectacular viewing. Well, I would agree to that considering the price point and the Tier 1 brand. While if it wasn’t the case, there are lots of brands that have been trying to disrupt Indian smartphone industry and somewhat succeeded as well.
If that wasn’t the case, well, the display resolution and size isn’t on par with current smartphones in the price range of Rs 10K. Consumers these days want at least 5.5-inch real estate and a full HD resolution screen. But again some brands don’t adapt to those standards easily. Talking about the viewing experience on the Galaxy J2’s 720p display, well, it was quite amazing despite the low resolution. We mostly watched videos on YouTube and JioPlay app, which is the live channels streaming service from Jio. Considering the even the HD quality the colors and content were easily visible from different angles. Now it is not a large screen to enjoy videos with friends and family, but despite that the fantastic viewing angles makes those videos enjoyable even on a small screen such as 5-inch. Note that the screen isn’t a fingerprint magnet, which is a plus point of the display, as you won’t see smudges on it.
Every year we see Samsung stick with their TouchWiz UI with some little tweaks here and there. Some Samsung users like it, while some don’t. Initially, I thought that brand should completely change their UI’s look and introduce something attractive. Down the line, I learned that it is not important to have an attractive UI but rather an intuitive UI. Because how you use the interface matters more than how it looks on your phone. Isn’t that right! That’s why we feel the Android 6.0 Marshmallow based TouchWiz UI on the Galaxy J2 2016 is impressive. There are certain reasons for such conclusion, which we have explained below.
Starting with a change in the app drawer, earlier J2 model had a different look when you open the app drawer. Now you can see more apps as you scroll down, which is taken straight from the Marshmallow launcher. Moreover, the animation while launching the app drawer is certainly different than earlier one. We haven’t seen such changes on the J3 2016, J5 2016, J7 2016 models, which were launched just couple months back. Note that the J Series mentioned was launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow based TouchWiz UI. So, it can be understood that J2 2016 smartphone is getting a special treatment considering company’s plan to take back their lost shares in the entry-level smartphone market.
The app drawer is just one simple change that we noticed as we started using the handset almost a week back. The main modifications on the TouchWiz UI include optimization of the native apps and proactive app management. According to the company, the essential in-built apps such as contacts, camera, gallery, calculator and many of the default apps have been re-engineered by the company for a lower memory footprint. Thus, resulting in the much more RAM availability. Overall, it can be stated that company has done some tweaking to its RAM management system, but at apps level. While talking about the Proactive app management, it works with popular third-party apps and shuts them down if they’re in the idle processes running in the background. It allows more RAM to be free for taking on new tasks when launched.
Switching between apps is quite easy on this handset; it’s all about the intuitive interface. Once you tap on the recent menu button, it shows the recently opened apps that are still running. You can clear them out one-by-one or all at once. Jumping between apps is easy, just scroll through the apps and tap on the app that you’d like to open. Multitasking is quite easy despite the 1.5GB of RAM, which isn’t an idle number even an entry-level phone. We talk in detail about the hardware specifications in the next section. Finishing off the software talk, we felt the TouchWiz UI on the Galaxy J2 2016 is pretty impressive, considering the real life usage experience.
Hardware & Performance
There is a Quad-core processor from Spreadtrum SC9830 that is fitted on the Galaxy J2 2016 to power the system. It clocks at 1.5GHz and is accompanied by a Mali 400 GPU. Now this Speardtrum chipset isn’t a powerful chipset at all, we have seen handset priced Rs 10K comes with powerful chipsets like Snapdragon 650 and Helios X10. But Samsung is not at specification war here with this handset. Instead, they are looking to get good end-user experience out of their Quad-core SoC. The device comes with a 1.5GB of RAM and has an 8GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 32GB via microSD card slot. Well, you must be thinking, this handset can’t handle more than five apps at a time, or isn’t compatible to give you good gaming experience much as less a swift multitasking experience.
Well, all that anxiousness you might have about device’s performance will be shattered. As we have used this handset for quite a while as our daily driver. It’s not pretty as using the Samsung Galaxy S7, which was my primary device until I switched to the J2 2016. But I assure you that it isn’t bad at all. It might not be a flagship performance, but you’d certainly feel that it is worth using as a daily driver. All thanks to the Turbo Speed Technology, it is an industry first feature on any smartphone. It promises to enhance the performance of the device by using the least amount of resources. The company claims that it loads apps up to 40% faster than devices with more than double its RAM. Because it’s ultimately not about how much RAM the device has but about completing the task in the fastest time. We put certain devices against the J2 2016 and tested the dialer, camera, gallery and number of default apps. The conclusion was that the latest Samsung handset beats most of even flagship models in opening up the apps.
The gaming on the Galaxy J2 2016 isn’t super fun because it’s not a high-resolution display. However, even the graphic intense games like Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2 and Dead Trigger 2 didn’t experience any lag while playing them. That is as much as appreciation you can give for a handset with Quad-core chipset and 1.5GB of RAM in terms of the gaming experience. While talking about the heating, well, the device hardly heat even after continuously playing for 30 minutes. That is a just amazing achievement for an entry-level handset. Coming to the benchmark tests to find out the potential of the handset, we tested it out against the two apps; Antutu and Vellamo. Antutu score revealed 21042, which is measured in four parts, CPU, UX, RAM, and 3D. The Vellamo score is measured in three different types, Multicore, Metal and Chrome Browser test. The scores for these respective types are 896, 585 and 1486. We did a real life browsing test to understand how the experience of browsing on this handset is. The screen is small in size, so we had to bear that but still find it quite useful as the site renders fast and pinch-to-zoom in and out works pretty smooth.
There is a smart glow feature introduced the first time on any device. In this setup, you can see a ring surrounded on the rear camera module. At first look, you would feel it looks unusual, well because it is. But it makes sense as you start using the device. Setting it up is very easy, just launch the quick settings panel and long press on Smart Glow option, which is on the extreme left corner. Now you’ll see a set of options including priority alerts, usage alerts and selfie assist. First, you have to enable the feature by toggling the button to ON. As soon as you do that, you can edit the apps to see which you’d like to receive the priority alerts. You can utilize the smart glow feature to receive alerts for low battery, data usage and as well as storage alerts. The third option allows you to help take selfies from the rear camera as it gives you visual cues on when to click the shutter. We have utilized all these in different use case scenarios, and they work wonderfully. Though, do make a note that this feature is only useful if you’re used to putting your phone upside down, which is not the case with most users.
The camera package on this handset feels like an underdog, but it is that underdog, which takes a lot of time to yield good results. Unless you’re okay with that sense, you won’t have patience to click good captures from this 8MP and 5MP setup here. Though, if you’re looking to get super impressive results, well, then you’re on a wrong plane here. We won’t recommend you board this flight unless your expectations are average because that is what you will be getting here.
It isn’t a fancy camera setup here on the Samsung Galaxy J2 2016 model, but we feel like it is a decent one if you’ve got patience in you. Starting with the rear module, well, it has an 8-megapixel image sensor accompanied with an LED Flashlight. The camera lens has an aperture of f/2.2 which is not the highest aperture you’ll see on a Samsung handset. Despite the low aperture number, the camera performs pretty fine for low light shots. But the main issue here is the focus, as the macro shots take patience to capture since the object focusing takes time. There is no specific autofocus technology in play here, which could have supported the cause. With some adjustment to the distance between camera and object, you could capture some good outputs, but that won’t be macro. Though, we managed to get some macro shots in the artificial light. The color reproduction of the outputs feels quite true to nature. Meaning the outputs look real but not fake.
The camera app on their handset feels like quite familiar; you will see a shutter button, video recording button, gallery access, switching between cameras and modes on the lower part of the app screen. While on the top app screen part you can see Settings, effects, flashlight and timer functions. Coming to the modes, the camera app is enabled with lots of modes to play around. Including the likes of HDR, Panorama, Beauty face, Sports, Pro, Continuous and Rear-Camere Selfie. Out of these modes, I really like playing with Pro mode, because it allows you to change the white balance, exposure and saturation level. I recommend the Pro mode only if you’re familiar with these terminologies.
Moving on to the video recording part, the rear module can record up to 720p resolution content, which isn’t quite on par with most of the smartphone cameras in this price range. So, if you’re considering the buy this handset, then, you’d either have to cope up with its camera recording limitation or should look out for other devices in this price range such as Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, LeEco Le 1S Eco or any other fitting handset with good camera specification. Because this 8MP module is going to ruin your camera moments, especially if you’re planning to record in low light. There would be lots of noise in the output. Though, there is one thing that I liked about every Samsung device, the ability to launch the camera app by double pressing the home key. It’s so much faster than any other handsets.
There is a 2600 mAh capacity battery on the device, which might not feel very high compared to the 3000 mAh plus batteries on the handset in similar price point. But if you haven’t noticed, the real estate isn’t very power consumption here. Meaning you get a good amount of battery life as the battery have to power a 720p display but not 1080p display. Moreover, we are talking about the Super AMOLED display, which is more power efficient display than any technology out there in the market. Though, note that the device takes a lot of time to charge from 10% to 100%. I mean it is a lot higher time than the usual handsets, considering the battery capacity isn’t as large. We got around an average of three hours Screen-on-Time and 17 hours of total usage time. Note that our usage was on the heavier side with mobile data, tethering and Bluetooth ON all the time. We browsed a lot of YouTube videos and watched a couple of movies as well on the JioPlay apps.
The connectivity on this handset is quite good considering the entry-level handset. But since the pricing isn’t quite budget, the good connectivity features were needed to justify some of the pricing. According to the company, the device is ready for VoLTE, which is a voice over LTE network support. This will allow you to use a network SIM, which offers HD voice calls and video calls facility over the LTE network. We have been using the Jio SIM on this handset, and the connectivity felt pretty good. Especially talking about the voice calls. We also did a lot of mobile data browsing and depending upon the signal strength and network capability we got as much as 30Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload speeds. Other connectivity features of the device include dual SIM support (4G + 2G), GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and microUSB port 2.0.
The Samsung Galaxy J2 2016 is a handset that might be pricey than other entry-level handsets in the country now. But the USP of the device is that it comes with a solid performance of the native apps, which are the highly used apps on any smartphone. While it may lack in RAM, internal storage and SoC, but the overall user experience seemed to be pretty good for the daily driver. Well, what more do you want from a smartphone if it is resourceful and offers decent performance. Additionally, we feel the battery life was pretty decent as well, considering we did heavy usage. Our main issue with this handset is in terms of the camera setup, which isn’t quite on par with even the 8MP & 5MP standards. Only if you can bear with that as well as the fact that company is offering internals of a Rs 5000 phone on a close to 10K priced handset. You must be Samsung fan to purchase this handset.
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