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Review

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core Review: Can this Android Go?

The chaebol's first Android Go smartphone is affordable, and expectedly simple in its approach. We review to see if it will suit the budget user.

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core 5

Image Credit: Bodhisatwa Ray


Samsung Galaxy J2 Core 3 5
BGR Rating :
3/5

Highlights

  • Samsung Galaxy J2 Core is priced at Rs 6,190.

  • The smartphone is Samsung's first to run Android Go (Oreo) out-of-the-box.

  • Overall camera performance is quite good, especially considering the price.

Samsung’s flagship smartphones are (and have always been) considered to be among the best (if not the best) that Android has to offer. However, once you look past the gorgeous AMOLED panels and functionality-enhancing S-Pens, you realize that there’s a lot more to the chaebol’s mobile portfolio than meets the eye. Between the mid-range A-series to the affordable J-line-up, the sheer number of smartphones that Samsung manufactures is downright astounding.

But even though these mobile devices don’t hog as much limelight as Samsung’s top dogs, they are more important than you would think. In fact, these ‘lesser-known’ smartphones are the primary reason Samsung is (still) the world’s number one smartphone manufacturer, a position it has held for six years now.

While that’s indeed great, things are a bit different when it comes to India. For quite a while now, Samsung has been losing steam in India, the fastest-growing smartphone market in the world. The situation is particularly dire in the fiercely-contested budget and lower mid-range segments, which are dominated by Chinese players like Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo. While Samsung continues to retain a strong presence in the affordable segments, it isn’t quite as strong as it once was.

Image Credit: Bodhisatwa Ray

Now, Samsung is undoubtedly aware of the problem. During his recent visit to India, Dong Jin Koh, President of the Mobile Communication Business at Samsung Electronics, said that the company had ‘overhauled’ its India strategy, and would now put increased focus on the mass-market segment.

It seems that we finally have the first fruit of that reworked strategy in the form of the Galaxy J2 Core, an entry-level smartphone that Samsung launched in India less than a month back. Priced at an affordable Rs 6,190, the Galaxy J2 Core is Samsung’s first to run Android Go (Oreo) out-of-the-box. It also comes with a few extra enhancements, which should make the overall user experience better. All that sounds good on paper, but does Samsung’s newest budget offering really have what it takes to take on (and more importantly, beat) the Xiaomi and Honor smartphones? Find out, in my detailed review of the Samsung Galaxy J2 Core.

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core Design & Display

Even though you shouldn’t expect a Rs 6,000 or so smartphone to be a head-turner, Samsung Galaxy J2 Core’s design can be considered average at best. These days, when even budget mobile phones come with funky 18:9 displays and slim profiles, Samsung’s offering looks dated. The front is home to a 5-inch display (more on this later), surrounded by wide bezels on all four sides.

Above the screen is the earpiece and the 5-megapixel front camera, while the chin has nothing except for a Samsung logo. The volume up / down buttons are located on the left, and the power button is on the right. At the bottom, you’ll find the micro-USB 2.0 (OTG-enabled) port and 3.5mm audio ports.

The smartphone’s back certainly looks better than its front, especially in case of the Blue color variant (our review unit). The 8-megapixel primary camera and single LED flash sit in the center of the upper-half, flanked by a loudspeaker on the right. Just below that is another Samsung logo.

Image Credit: Bodhisatwa Ray

The Samsung Galaxy J2 Core has a removable back panel, which you can wedge out with your nail. That’s how you access the two SIM card slots, the dedicated microSD expansion slot, and the removable 2,600mAh battery. As is usually the case with budget smartphones, there’s no fingerprint sensor.

Now let’s talk a little about the display. Samsung’s specific strategy in India means that it often has to save on component costs in order to make a phone feasible at a particular price, and this was evident the moment I gazed at the J2 Core’s qHD panel for the first time. The display on the phone has a resolution of 540×960 pixels, which is notably less than the HD or HD+ resolution screens you get on some competing devices. A 720p panel would’ve definitely made things better.

With a pixel density of 220ppi, the J2 Core’s display is acceptable, but not ideal even considering the price. Of course, it works, but everything from text to UI elements look less than sharp. Brightness levels (minimum and maximum) are okay, but you must adjust them manually every time according to your surroundings, given that the Galaxy J2 Core does not have an ambient light sensor to automatically set brightness.

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core Performance

Powering the Galaxy J2 Core is Samsung’s homegrown Exynos 7570 SoC, which has a CPU with four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.4GHz, as well as a Mali-T720 GPU. The chipset is helped by 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. A spec sheet this rudimentary clearly means that this smartphone is targeted at first-time users, transitioning from feature phones.

I used the Galaxy J2 Core bearing that in mind and as such, found the overall usage experience to be largely adequate during my review period. The smartphone can handle day-to-day tasks well, and things like basic web browsing and even light games (e.g. Lara Croft: Relic Run) work fine; just don’t expect to play PUBG Mobile or edit documents on the go.

And since a lot of these first-time users will most likely need the phone for basic functions such as instant messaging on WhatsApp or social media, these function fine. Furthermore, Android Go also has lighter ‘Go’ versions of Google’s pre-installed system apps, so users won’t have much trouble using Gmail, Maps and the like.

Image Credit: Bodhisatwa Ray

When it comes to call quality, the Samsung Galaxy J2 Core doesn’t disappoint. Over the course of my test run, the smartphone latched on to cellular network just fine, and there were no dropped calls or anything like that. But then, this is something that depends on many factors like geographical location and cellular carrier, so your mileage may vary.

Battery life is one department where the Samsung J2 Core certainly excels. With moderate to heavy use, the smartphone’s 2600mAh powerpack easily lasted me an entire day, with enough power left for a few more hours of use the next day. The low-resolution display and the efficient 14nm chipset are some of the key factors that contribute towards the smartphone’s admirable battery life. With the included (5V/1A) adapter, you can fully charge the battery in around two and a half hours. This is definitely on the slow side, but given the price it doesn’t create much cause to complain.

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core Software

In the preceding section, I mentioned that the overall usage experience with the Galaxy J2 Core was largely adequate during my test run. I said this because there were times when I found this smartphone struggling with even the most basic of things, thanks to the software.

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Samsung Galaxy J2 Core runs Android Go (Oreo) out-of-the-box. In case you don’t know, this is an optimized distribution of Google’s operating system, intended for mobile devices with 1GB of RAM (or less). The J2 Core does have the hardware requirements to run this lightweight version of Android, but I still found it faltering every now and then during my test run. This is because of Samsung’s skin on top of the Android Go platform, which burdens the phone a bit.

The Galaxy J2 Core does have Android Go, but with Samsung’s Experience UX overlay baked on top. For a smartphone that has such basic hardware, it may not have been the ideal choice to have a software overlay on top, considering that this tends to put an additional load on performance. And it doesn’t help that this customization isn’t simply cosmetic. The Galaxy J2 Core has many duplicate apps such as the web browser, which can’t be uninstalled. Apart from that, the usual bloat (for example, Samsung Members and Galaxy Apps) is there as well, and you can’t get rid of it either. Naturally, it also occupies space on the internal storage, which is already on the lower side at 8GB.

Image Credit: Rajat Sharma

In Samsung’s defense, there are some useful apps and software enhancements as well. The ‘Smart Manager’ module can automatically delete unnecessary app data and free up RAM by stopping background apps. Then there are ‘Samsung Max’ and ‘Ultra apps’, which work in tandem to help you conserve data while using services like Instagram.

Lastly, the ‘Go’ editions of Google’s popular apps (Search, Gmail) work as they should. They are lightweight and consume far less data than their regular counterparts. However, this mishmash of Samsung and Google’s apps/software implementation unnecessarily taxes the Galaxy J2 Core’s hardware every now and then.

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core Camera

Given Samsung Galaxy J2 Core’s price, I didn’t really have high expectations from the smartphone’s cameras. But even then, I found the camera performance more than acceptable.

Daylight Sample 1 (Image Credit: Rajat Sharma)

The smartphone’s 8-megapixel (f/2.2) rear camera captures decent photos with ample amounts of detail in well-lit conditions, even if the exposure and colors aren’t always ideal.

Daylight Sample 2 (Image Credit: Rajat Sharma)

Low light photos are full of compression artefacts, although firing the flash makes things a tad better in some cases. On the whole though, this isn’t a smartphone whose camera you can rely on for good night-time shots.

Lowlight Sample 1 (Image Credit: Rajat Sharma)

The camera app itself is pretty basic and doesn’t have any manual mode or funky bokeh effects. That said, things such as self-timer and some filters are present.

Lowlight Sample 2 (Image Credit: Rajat Sharma)

Selfies from the 5-megapixel (f/2.2) front-facing shooter come out to be fine as well, and are most likely to be given the filter treatment anyway, when users post these on social media.

Selfie Sample

The bottom line is that for a smartphone that is priced at just a little over Rs 6,000, the Galaxy J2 Core’s cameras get the job done, taking pictures that are entirely usable.

Verdict

Samsung Galaxy J2 Core isn’t a bad smartphone at all, considering the price and the purpose it’s been made for. For an ultra-low price of Rs 6,190, it offers quite a few niceties, such as a dedicated micro-SD card slot and a removable battery (a rarity these days, but one that still appeals to a lot of users). The camera experience, for the price, is also more than adequate.

But ultimately, the J2 Core suffers from the same problem that Samsung’s other lower-end smartphones have – too many missing basic features and under-powered hardware, even with the low price in mind. The fact that its software experience is below average doesn’t help things either, since the typical advantages of Android Go are squandered away by Samsung’s modifications to some extent.

Image Credit: Bodhisatwa Ray

Finally, there are reasons to recommend the Samsung Galaxy J2 Core, but they do apply to a fairly limited use-case. Buyers who want a smartphone for just the basics won’t be entirely disappointed with the J2 Core, particularly if you only intend to install two or three additional apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Lite, and maybe a casual game or two).

Additionally, the phone is available in ordinary retail stores as well, which means that it will be easy to purchase for users who may not entirely be comfortable with an online-bought phone. And Samsung’s superior service network in India is also a definite confidence booster for a first-time buyer. However, if you’re willing to shop online and look at newer brands such as Xiaomi, you’ll find better value for your Rs 6,000. You could go for the Xiaomi Redmi 6A instead, which offers a full-fledged Android experience with more RAM and storage as well.

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  • Published Date: September 26, 2018 11:06 AM IST