What does the consumer want today when it comes to smartphones? Good looks, features, great camera and a price tag which makes it worth the purchase. If one broadly classifies, there is a section of consumers which prefers budget smartphones that can be used for a small amount of time and then upgraded as desired without burning a hole in the pocket. The second category absolutely swears by the premium price tag and treats the device like a child for a significant number of years and upgrading only when there is a dire need. Then there is a third category, which somewhere lies between the budget or mid-range and premium segment. Apologies for stereotyping here, but similar to how the structure of upper middle class families works, these range of upper mid-range smartphones also offer a gorgeous architecture, aping the premium segment, while keeping the costs controlled by not being over ambitious with specs.
Samsung – a company associated with building devices which cater to consumers across segments, today launched the 2017 edition of its Galaxy A series smartphones in India. Under the series, the company is offering the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7 at Rs 28,990 and Rs 33,490 respectively. With the given price tag, these neither fall into the budget category nor can be categorized as high-end premium flagship smartphones. So where do these smartphones stand and which type of consumers can actually think of shedding multi-thousands for these? I try to address these in my first impressions of the Galaxy A5 (2017) and Galaxy A7 (2017). Also, since the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7 differ only in terms of display and battery, my first impressions will speak for the two smartphones collectively.
The moment I held the new smartphones in my hands, I was taken aback by surprise with their design excellence. The 2017 edition of the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7 continues with the glass and metal design introduced with their predecessors. The new smartphones are sleek and have a beautiful yet minimal design, along with having a curved rear panel that fits just the right way in your palms (even if you have smaller hands like me). The front panel has a clickable home button that doubles up as a fingerprint sensor. On either sides rest the volume controllers, power button, SIM and memory card slots. What adds to the aesthetic value is that the antenna lines are placed on the top and bottom of the smartphone, keeping the rear panel design neat and linear. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy A5, A7 (2017) launched in India, prices start at Rs 28,990: Specifications and features
Samsung is also known for its beautiful AMOLED displays and the Galaxy A5 (2017) and Galaxy A7 (2017) are no exception. The Galaxy A5 (2017) comes with a 5.2-inch FHD Super AMOLED display with a 3D curved glass on top while the Galaxy A7 (2017) features a larger 5.7-inch display with same resolution and protection. Both the smartphones come with an always-on feature which essentially does nothing more than showing you the time, date, notifications, etc. without you having to wake up the device.
If you have been a metal-body phone user you might be intimidated with the glass inclusion in the new Galaxy A series. When Apple moved away from the glass and metal design introduced with its iPhone 4, the reason was one – fragility. While glass does add a premium touch to smartphones and helps manufacturers also slim down the device, it also renders them vulnerable to extreme damages at the slightest impact. Personally, I am not a very careless smartphone user and find glass and metal based designs more pleasing, but for consumers it might mean a slightly risky ball game. Irrespective of that, the display quality on the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7 was decent in the brief amount of time I spent using the smartphone indoors. It was fast and responsive to touch, and the auto brightness feature was snappy.
Samsung has used its in-house Exynos 7880 chipset for the new Galaxy A series. Clocked at 1.9Ghz, the octa-core processor is paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage which can be further expanded up to 256GB via microSD card. A lot of smartphones these days compromise on the true dual-SIM capabilities by including a hybrid slot that can either accommodate a second SIM or a memory card. However, despite it being a mid-ranger, the Galaxy A5 comes with a separate slot dedicated for microSD card. ALSO READ: Samsung Galaxy S8 hands-on photos, videos leaked; pre-orders rumored to kick off on April 10
Talking about the software, the new smartphones run Android Marshmallow with Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI layered above. The custom interface is not complex and offers smoother navigation. During the brief amount of time I toyed with the smartphones, there were no heating or app lags experienced.
What sets apart the 2017 edition of the Galaxy A series from the older models is the significant improvement in terms of camera. The Galaxy A5 (2017) and Galaxy A7 (2017) come with CMOS 16-megapixel cameras with f/1.9 aperture in the rear and front, making them as much a selfie-centric phone as any other in the competition. For the rear camera, there is a LED flash while selfies can be enhanced with the screen flash. The camera further allows for FHD (1920 x 1080) video recording @30fps. I captured a few shots (selfies included) in the controlled lighting of the experience hall, and the results were sharp, albeit slightly on the higher contrast side. There are varied filters, modes, and selfie enhancers for a better experience. Despite plenty of modes and features, the camera interface is easy to use with simple swipes. A detailed testing of the camera in varied lighting is needed to ascertain the full capabilities.
Despite being Type-C based smartphones, the Galaxy A5 (2017) and Galaxy A7 (2017) continue with the standard 3.5mm headphone jack so you can keep using your older earphones. Fuelling the Galaxy A5 is a 3,000mAh battery, up from the older 2,900mAh battery while the Galaxy A7 now comes with a higher 3,600mAh battery. Both support fast charging. Although Samsung has not claimed any specific battery life, but it is safe to assume that both the models will survive a usual workday cycle for an average user.
The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) and Galaxy A7 (2017) are also the company’s first set of smartphones launched in India this year to come with Samsung Pay out-of-the-box. The contactless digital payments service made its debut in 2015 but it took the company over one year and the recent demonetization to bring Samsung Pay to India. While the service has been extended to Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones with the recent software update, in terms of new releases the Galaxy A series is the first. It is also worth mentioning that the service is yet to be officially rolled out in India and the company is currently offering early access to interested users with compatible devices.
Priced in the sub-Rs 35K segment, the new Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7 smartphones take on the OnePlus 3T which is considered one of the best Android smartphones under Rs 30,000. The OnePlus 3T offers a 5.5-inch HD AMOLED display and comes powered with a Snapdragon 821 processor which is known for offering better performance without impacting the battery life. It further offers up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. ALSO READ: This is Not a OnePlus 3T Review
Overall, what works in favor of the new Galaxy A series is an excellent design and the potential to deliver good performance with the given specs. The smartphones are Samsung Pay-ready, are compatible with the newer 4G LTE capabilities, offer water and dust resistance, all while maintaining their aesthetic value. But will the Galaxy A5 (2017) and Galaxy A7 (2017) be able to actually deliver a stiff competition to other smartphones in the category, we will be finding it soon through our detailed review. Watch this space for more.