While it may appear that Samsung has saturated the market with a number of smartphones across almost all ranges, be it low-end to premium or rugged to streamline, they haven’t reached the end of their ever-expanding catalogue of devices as yet. A short while back, Q4 2014, the company launched their Galaxy A series, which included the A3, A5 and A7. The A series is Samsung’s attempt at bringing the premium to more affordable handsets, however, still keeping up with performance requirements with above-average internals.
Build and Design
An argument can easily be raised as to which feature is most important on a modern smartphone, its looks or its internal hardware. For heavy users such as techies, performance often outweighs the exterior appearance, whereas fashion-conscious users opt for the latter; with no offence to either group of individuals, that is. With the A series, for both the A3 and A5 we recently received for review, it would seem that external expression plays an important role with the brand. As consumers should have noticed, Samsung has dropped its famous, or rather infamous, plastic, polycarbonate build quality, switching rather for metal finishes. This theme has traversed the boundaries of the premium Galaxy range, and is now also available on the, so-called, low and medium budget range in the A3 and A5.
Both the A3 and A5 resemble the metal-trimmed Galaxy Alpha, upon which, it could be said, the A series is based upon. What is really intriguing is that the units are amongst Samsung’s slimmest phones, measuring in at 6.7mm and 6.9mm for the A5 and A3, respectively. The units also don’t have a removable back covers to keep the weight down, but unlike the newly announced Galaxy S6, do include expandable storage in the form of SD card slots. There are variants of the units that include hybrid SD card slots offering dual-SIM functionality using the same slot. Back on the topic of weight, the units weigh 123g and 110.3g for the A5 and A3, respectively.
In terms of the display, both units sport a Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, which is what you’ll find on all Samsung’s premium smartphones, and not the typical IPS LCDs you find on most budget devices. The A5 has a 5” screen, which has a 71% screen-to-body ratio with a 720x1280px display at 294ppi pixel density, whereas the A3 has a smaller, 4.5” screen (65.5% screen-to-body ratio) with a resolution of 540x960px at 245ppi pixel density. These aren’t what many would consider small, and although the resolutions aren’t great, the screen quality in terms of colours and contrasts, the displays are particularly good looking. All of this is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4.
Interestingly, both the A5 and A3 sport the same chipset, a Qualcomm MSM8916 Snapdragon 410, which has a Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU and Adreno 306 GPU. Other matched internals include 16GB internal storage and 5MP front-facing camera. The A5, though, comprises of some better hardware than the A3. In comparison, these include 2GB RAM vs. 1.5GB RAM, 13MP vs. 8MP rear-facing camera, and 2300mAh vs. 1900mAh battery, respectively.
That being said, and while performance is fairly smooth, the specifications aren’t to the fore of what the A series is about. Instead, many of the marketing campaigns feature the units’ selfie-taking capabilities, even going as far as recently having set the record for most selfies taking by a group of individuals over the span of just 24 hours. The software, too, is evidence of its selfie competences, offering camera features such as Wide Selfie (to include more people within a group selfie [otherwise known as wefie, or even groupie], Palm Selfie, Animated GIF, Beauty Face, and Rear-Camera Selfie, which takes photos whenever smiling faces are detected. Alongside these features, the battery holds up quite well for both devices. The battery is further expanded when switching to Ultra-Power-Saving Mode.
The end result of both the Samsung Galaxy A5 and A3 is that users can enjoy near premium features at slightly less of the cost. The A5 has a RRP of R6499, while the A3 carries a more respectable R4999 price tag. What appeared to be just another crazy Samsung range of devices that don’t appear to fit in anywhere, turned out to be something of substance. Even if you’re not big into group or single selfies, both the A5 and A3 have a lot going for them as standalone devices, with their premium build quality, and above-average performance. The cameras and integrated software are simply bonus features that owners can appreciate if need be.
As much as many would believe Samsung has lost the plot with yet another new range of smartphones, no one can fault them for the innovations, or even their attempts at it in certain situations. Considering that the mobile phone is part of a high majority of the population, for which there are more phones currently active than there are people on earth, Samsung is on the right track in their efforts to provide a device that would be suitable to all individual tastes, while still included good looks and performance. If only the Galaxy A series were a tad more affordable, then Samsung would have truly hit the sweet spot, but if you consider that an additional R2000 will buy you a new Galaxy S5, with far superior internals and display, you may have difficulty in choosing the A5, whereas the A3 comes across as a lot more value for the cost.