Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime features a familiar design than can also be termed outdated in 2018
The Galaxy On7 Prime's best features are its performance and battery life
It also has some cool features in the form of Bixby and Samsung Pay Mini
It doesn’t take a genius to see the big trends in smartphone industry: Samsung has a negligible market share in China, it has conceded its numero uno position in India to Xiaomi and the US remains a market dominated by the Apple iPhone. The point here is that Samsung is losing in three major smartphone markets and its business model is under pressure. At this point in time, somebody at the smartphone division of Samsung Electronics should have pushed the ‘panic button’.
There are five golden names in the world of mobile phones: Nokia, Sony Ericsson, BlackBerry, Motorola and Samsung. But the demise of erstwhile Nokia and the inability of BlackBerry and Sony to find their zen in smartphone business meant that whole action shifted to the likes of Motorola and Samsung as far as the Android space is concerned. To draw similarities with the world of motorsport, the two companies have laurels similar to that of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in the 90s driving for McLaren Honda. While Motorola tried to go offensive on innovation, Samsung stuck to basics and found its way to success.
Today, while reviewing the Galaxy On7 Prime, I can’t stop but think why the South Korean company is losing market share. In fact, I found the answer via an unexpected question from my dad. So, Samsung has been making smartphones for nearly a decade and it’s idea has been consistent: Launch a product, redesign and relaunch it. The cycle has now continued for far too many years.
When the Galaxy On7 Prime was lying on my study table, Dad asked whether I bought a large screen version of the Galaxy Y (Young) smartphone. My dad, who uses a feature phone, could spot a similarity between a Galaxy phone from 2011 and one from 2018 without actually even holding it. However, the On7 Prime is different from Galaxy Y, but fundamentals are very much the same. As my colleague and our reviews editor Ali Pardiwala has observed time and again, phones without modern design and the taller display have no place in 2018. Samsung, however, is still repackaging it’s years-old design.
So can that formula work for the company and more importantly, is that even a good practice? Let’s find out in our review of Galaxy On7 Prime.
Design and Display
If you have used any Samsung smartphone in the past decade then you will yourself home with the Galaxy On7 Prime without any trouble. It has a 5.5-inch display up front surrounded by some amount of bezel, a front camera, microphone and sensors on the top. Below the display is the home button which doubles up as the fingerprint sensor.
At the back is the main camera module with LED flash and Samsung branding at the bottom. The left side is home to the volume rocker and two different trays – one for the first SIM and another one for second SIM and microSD card. The right side is home to the power button and meshed speaker grille. The 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port are placed at the bottom while the top has a clean look. At this moment, you might be thinking I’m reading design of a smartphone from few years ago; the truth is that this is the design of Galaxy On7 Prime even today. It’s dated, to say the least.
This design has been iterated so many times across so many devices that the Galaxy On7 Prime feels absolutely familiar in terms of its build quality. The unibody aluminum frame crafted into an 8mm thin profile looks so elegantly machined that new modern design devices will pale in comparison. Unfortunately, the design is old and inadequate when compared to devices such as the newly launched Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro.
The On7 Prime gets a 5.5-inch TFT LCD display with Full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The display is not bad with adequate brightness under direct sunlight and strong balance between color but it seems poor compared to an AMOLED display. I’m surprised that Samsung has not trickled down the quality AMOLED display to its budget J or On series just yet, particularly considering the company makes these displays itself. Samsung has the ability to offer a differentiator here, but does not seem keen to act on it.
Having said that, I must add that this display is one of the nicest to look at in this price range. In fact, it looks better than the Full HD+ display seen on some newer smartphones especially when you take brightness, contrast and saturation under consideration. I think Samsung is sticking to ‘function over form’ as a mantra for its Galaxy J series.
Samsung’s Galaxy J series is one of the best selling smartphone series in the country. It isn’t selling because of its strong fundamentals in technology, but rather the ‘ease of use’ it offers over competitors. One of the best examples of that ease of use can be seen in the way you launch the camera app.
On Galaxy On7 Prime, you can open the camera app by dragging the camera icon from the lock screen or by tapping the standard app when the phone is unlocked. But the real simplicity is by double-tapping the home button. The camera launch action is so quick that it easily beats Google Pixel 2‘s ‘double press the power button’ action to launch the camera. The quick camera launch was one of my favorite features on Galaxy S7 and a week after using the Galaxy On7 Prime, I am still astonished that Samsung does it so well and so much better than the competition.
We are not here to talk about how fast the camera app launches alone but also how well the camera performs. To put things into context, I think it performs better than what most Chinese smartphone makers could accomplish with their sub-Rs 15,000 smartphones.
In normal daylight (which is when most of us click pictures), the Galaxy On7 Prime’s 13-megapixel camera with wide f/1.7 aperture captures pictures with vivid details, bright areas and pin sharp focus. It is not extraordinarily great with handling dynamic range but that is remedied with the HDR mode within the camera app. I’m particularly impressed with the autofocus and ability of the camera to highlight shadow areas of an image.
It is not a champion of low-light photography (most phones in this price range aren’t either) but it does manage to capture some details when you shoot in ‘Night’ mode. To take further control of the camera, one can use manual mode but the controls are somewhat limited.
It also has a 13-megapixel selfie camera which you can switch to by simply swiping a finger from the top of the screen. It takes good selfies but yes, those selfie-centric smartphones do it more dramatically. All things considered, I think the camera is one of the main reasons to even consider buying the Galaxy On7 Prime. It takes pictures that are not only worthy of Instagram but generically better in terms of details and sharpness.
Performance and Battery Life
The Galaxy On7 Prime is powered by an octa-core Exynos 7870 processor clocked at 1.6GHz and our review unit is equipped with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage. The Exynos 7870 is a 64-bit processor and it is based on 14nm FinFET process, which is more efficient than the older 28nm process. The graphics duty is handled by Mali-T830 MP1 and it supports two-carrier aggregation to support up to 300Mbps downlink on LTE. Yes, it has the perfect mix of performance and battery life.
During the first week of testing any phone, I usually mix my usage with lot of power intensive apps like games, benchmarks and even OTT apps which can push the resources as they start pulling in data from the cloud. During this phase of testing, I observed that the Galaxy On7 Prime handled all of the applications with relative ease and on benchmarks, it performed better than many Snapdragon-powered phones in this price range. So whether you are playing Asphalt 8: Airborne, Real Racing 3 or using a low-power social media application, the Galaxy On7 Prime easily handles the load. It can also easily handle multiple apps at the same time and I managed to use around 10-15 apps simultaneously without any issues and often apps resumed from where I left them off, which is a crucial factor while checking the multitasking ability of a smartphone.
During the first week of usage, the Galaxy On7 Prime got me through the day with what I would say was very heavy use. But as the usage extended into second week and my usage shifted entirely to messaging and social media apps, I was able to go for a day and a half with one full charge. This is mainly because of Samsung’s intelligent-yet-aggressive battery management feature. It restricts apps from using battery in the background and one can even put apps into sleep from the menu. The Galaxy On7 Prime packs a modest 3,000mAh battery but it will last for a good day and a half for most users thanks to this.
This is where the familiarity between Samsung devices from the past and that of present starts to resurface. We are still looking at TouchWiz UI on top of Android 7.0 Nougat but it is not as heavily skinned as it used to be a few years ago. Samsung has changed the icons with its own design and then there is a dedicated theme store to customize it even further. This reminded me of the theme store on the Nokia phones running Symbian S60 operating system. There is an endless amount of customization available on top of an already customized version of Android. This is just the polar opposite of stock Android, it is not as bad as it sounds.
However, the software experience is basically extended by two core introductions – Bixby and Samsung Pay Mini. The virtual assistant world is dominated by Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri but Samsung wants to throw its own hat into the space and have its assistant is called Bixby. Samsung sells more smartphones in a year than the combined sales of some of the smaller brands and it makes sense to have its own assistant.
However, on Galaxy On7 Prime, Bixby is more of a companion than assistant. The Bixby here does not support voice interactions like Google Assistant but offers a quick glance into things like numbers of steps walked in a day, calendar events, top news stories, weather updates and recommendations from YouTube. I must say that I like the clean interface of Bixby here but Samsung should have really added support for voice especially to gain some voice data and give me a reason to recommend it over Google’s own Assistant.
While Bixby fails to largely impress, Samsung Pay Mini is a genius implementation. It does not support the full feature set of Samsung Pay on the South Korean company’s flagship devices but it still works well as a mobile payment terminal. It integrates natively with mobile wallets and transactions by scanning codes seamlessly. I could not try the function where you generate a one-time code for merchant payments but it does show the prospects of payments when the country really goes cashless.
The Galaxy On7 Prime functions really well. It has a familiar design and a build quality that is superior in comparison to most other smartphones in this price range. Samsung’s homegrown chipset offers excellent performance and it’s camera is probably one of the best in this price range. However, it totally falls short of being an all-round smartphone when you compare with most offerings in this price range.
The single major rival to Galaxy On7 Prime is the Redmi Note 5 Pro. It not only offers a modern design but also has a dual-camera setup and great battery life. If you are someone who has a budget of Rs 15,000 and want to buy a smartphone via an online retailer, then the Galaxy On7 Prime should be considered especially if you want to stick with a tried and tested brand. Otherwise, you can get a lot of value for this price from the Redmi Note 5 or Redmi Note 5 Pro. I would actually give Galaxy On7 Prime a pass, at least until Samsung comes up with a variant that features the thin bezel design seen on the company’s Galaxy A series and Galaxy S series devices.