First things first, this thing is gorgeous. I have had it for a while now but still, every minute I pick it up, I still gawp. It is amazing to hold. Slender enough, well-sized, heavy enough… It is portly, in a way, being beautifully weighted and being sized at a perfect 4.7 inches. Ladies and gentlemen, I found her.
Just to put things in perspective, I came from a (probably six-year) old Samsung that was way way past its bedtime. So my review may be biased in its favour. But like I said before, the first thing that hooks me on a phone is a screen. An AMOLED screen. The Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 has one, dotted at a resolution of 1280×720. That’s a beautiful margin past the 300dpi mark. That’s a score in my book.
It is a glass and metal sandwich, just like most of the Samsung flagships. It sports a glass back that is available in black, white, gold and pink (in this case, black). At 132 grams, it is neither hefty nor light. The screen, as mentioned, is 4.7 inches wide diagonally, a slight boost from last year’s A3 at 4.5 inches. It shares a bunch of similarities with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
At 7.3mm thick, it is fairly slim, though there are slimmer devices out there. Its size is perfect for me though since I am not a huge fan of huge (ahem) 5 inch-plus devices.
As mentioned too, this is a HD 1280 x 720 AMOLED display measuring 4.7 inches. At 312ppi, it is good, really good at usual tasks. The famous saturation and contrast levels are still here. There is a mode as well, to tune the display for more muted, natural colours. That isn’t for me though. Both the back and front glass panels have Gorilla Glass 4 taking care of toughness.
A 2.5D curve design on the front panel makes it feel amazing under use too. Sunlight readability is brilliant, and so is night-time dim-light reading.
Performance & Storage
Processor options are the Snapdragon 410 and the Exynos 7578. I haven’t had any performance issues
to raise. In fact, I’m impressed, but this could be that my passmark is so low.
To back this up, 1.5 GB of RAM is available and storage comes in at 16GB, which may be a bummer for some of you. I’m cool with this. This, obviously is expandable via MicroSD to 256GB but as is the trend, you will have to sacrifice the second SIM slot for the MicroSD card. Again, I’m cool with this.
Usual tasks like calls, texts (SMS, Whatsapp, Telegram, Allo), surfing the web (Chrome, Opera, Twitter, Dribbble) have been a breeze. Gaming too has been a smooth sail for me. I don’t game much though.
The A3 came with Android 5.1 out of the box but as soon as I hooked it on Wi-Fi, I was notified of the Marshmallow 6.0.1 update, which swiftly installed without any hiccups.
I really don’t have much to complain about the software, other than Samsung bundling Microsoft’s suite of Android apps as well as Google’s suite of essentials. This, Samsung’s app offerings (S Health, S Planner, Smart Manager, S Voice and Galaxy Apps) and the OS take up a chunk of the 16GB of internal storage, leaving roughly 11GB available for use. I don’t use any of Samsung’s apps except for the stockTouchWiz launcher, which surprisingly has been nice enough to satisfy me. I haven’t had the urge to get another launcher.
The TouchWiz launcher is also themeable but the selection of themes is still slim.
One weird thing is that the phone gets warm when using cellular data but is fine on Wi-Fi.
The bottom-firing speaker works brilliantly. It is impressively loud and still retains clarity up the volume ladder. In landscape mode, however, having audio from one part of the phone becomes irritatingly weird.
Headphone/earphone experience is brilliant though. I haven’t had any complaints with this. The OS comes bundled with a few audio tweaking capabilities. SoundAlive is an equalizer feature offering a few adjustments to your audio.
The back camera is a 13MP affair, f/1.9 and a single-LED (but amazingly bright) flash by its side. The photos though are not that impressive. Compared to my beloved Lumia 820, this is not very good, especially in low light. Outdoors, you can achieve some sort of success but this is not a usual affair. I miss the Lumia camera. This could be the only weakness of the phone. The main camera is 13MP in 4:3 ratio
and 10MP in 16:9.
The front-facing unit is 5MP with an f/1.9 aperture. The photos, still, are meh.
Samsung has a neat trick of double-pressing the home button to launch the camera.
This is one of the major perks of the 2016 A3. You get outstanding battery life on this thing. On a normal day with morderate use, I leave in the morning at full charge and get back in the evening with roughly 30% remaining. This pushes me well into the night in my web-prowls.
The internal 2300mAh battery gets help from a few OS power-saving features ie. Power Saving Mode and an Ultra Power Saving Mode which limit the resolution, performance and in the Ultra mode, features to give you more battery life. Neat.
Obviously, I love this phone. It is small enough, capable and beautiful. Some have called it the S6 Mini. It might as well be. However, it isn’t without issues.
The camera is anything but good, it gets warm under cellular data use and, worst of all, it dents and scuffs easily. Already, my beloved A3 has a few scars on the aluminum metal frame.
For between 23,000 and 30,000, you can get this phone from many retailers in Kenya