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Samsung Galaxy A3 review

Andrew Williams

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Water resistant
  • Looks great
  • Good battery life for video

Cons

  • A little expensive
  • Low-res screen

Key Features

  • 4.7-inch 720p display
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • Android 6
  • USB-C
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £299.99

What is the Samsung Galaxy A3?


The Samsung Galaxy A3 is a handset for those after a compact phone, one on an affordable contract, or a device that can be bought SIM-free without anxiety-inducing cost.

Compare the price against the specs featured, however, and the A3 doesn't offer the greatest deal around. But alongside the entry-level additions, there are enough high-end features to trick you into believing for much of the time that you have in your hand a device that's almost as fancy as the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Related: Best Budget Phones

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Samsung Galaxy A3 – Design

Just a few years ago, most of Samsung’s phones were plastic – even the fairly expensive devices. The Samsung Galaxy A3 demonstrates just how far the company has moved on from that style.

This device is composed of glass and metal, with barely any plastic on show at all. It looks very much like the Samsung Galaxy S7’s smaller sibling, even though the devices sit in different ranges. The most obvious thing to set them apart in the finish: where the Galaxy S7’s colours tend to look shiny or metallic behind the glass top layer, the A3’s are plain.

For a phone made using some of the same materials featured on a device that's twice the price, it's a bit of a wallflower. I don’t mind, but it does mean that the higher-quality build becomes obvious only when you start using the Samsung Galaxy A3.

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Samsung hasn’t skimped on the glass, either. The front and back are big-brand Gorilla Glass 4, and the rear features curved edges for a softer feel. It's been a while since I’ve used a phone as compact as the 4.7-inch-screened A3, but handling it was second nature. Picking up a friend’s iPhone 7 a few days into testing the A3, Apple’s handset felt big and awkward.

Thankfully, there are no major features lacking as a result of its more diminutive size. Beneath the screen is a reliable fingerprint scanner couched between the two soft keys, just as in Samsung’s larger phones. Also included is a headphone jack, plus the Galaxy A3 is water resistant, too; itsIP68 certification means that an accidental drop in water is unlikely to cause damage.

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As is the case with the majority of new handsets, the Samsung Galaxy A3 has a USB Type-C charging port rather than micro-USB. Storage is a reminder that you’re not using a high-end phone, however.

Following only a couple of days of use, the dreaded “you’ve run out of space” message popped up as I tried to install an app; the phone has just 16GB of storage. A few gigabytes of photos, a couple of data-hungry games, and you'll be done. Note that there is a slot for a single microSD card in the tray, however, which holds a nano-SIM.

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The A3, like the Samsung Galaxy A5, has an unusual speaker. Rather than sitting on the bottom of the device, it can be found on the side, above the power button. I often walk around my home with a podcast playing on my phone, and found that I tended to block the sound more than I would have on a device with a bottom-loaded speaker. However, at least muffled sound won't be an issue when playing games, regardless of which way you hold the phone.

Speaker quality is fine, with enough volume to cut through some ambient noise. Otherwise, it's of the slightly dreary mid-range standard. That said, I’ve used it for hours at a time so, it can’t be that bad.

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Samsung Galaxy A3 – Screen

The Samsung Galaxy A3’s screen is where high-end and low-end parts of the hardware collide. It’s a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED panel with punchy colours that can be calibrated to suit your taste.

For those who like a super-vivid look, it’s there. If you want more relaxed colour, however, it's possible to just switch to the "Basic" mode in Settings to achieve this. I’ve mostly used the standard Adaptive mode, which presents better colour saturation than just about all entry-level and mid-range phones with LCD screens.

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However, if you go looking for the effects of the limited 720p screen resolution, you’re certain to find them. While this isn’t a bad resolution for a small display, Samsung’s OLED screens tend to look a little fuzzy, unless they have a high pixel density. The use of a PenTile array means that pixels share sub-pixels – the little red, green and blue dots that make up a screen’s image.

On first firing up the Samsung Galaxy A3, this was very obvious. Following a day or two of use, however, I’d completely forgotten about it since it's unlikely that you'll use this device with the screen right up by your eyeballs.

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However, you'd be wise to take this into consideration if you’ll be using your phone often for gaming, reading articles or Netflix-watching. For such activities, the Moto G5 Plus’ larger, sharper screen would be my first choice every time.

Note that there's a great extra that comes with a Samsung OLED; a sort of compensation. In standby the screen continues to display basic information such as the time, notification icons and the battery level. I’ve been using it as a desk clock while I work. OLED technology makes way for this since only a few pixels needed are activated, where as an LCD has to light up the whole screen to display anything.

marki3boy

July 15, 2015, 9:39 am

"The A3 doesn't always handle motion well", sorry to pick, but that photo is blurry from camera shake, the double image on the stationary objects is a giveaway.
Try holding the phone steady next time, or using flash in low light conditions where a longer exposure will cause camera shake.

Gill

August 26, 2015, 11:57 am

In recent days I have noticed that when I plug it in to charge, as soon as the the screen returns to black I see a message saying...'No photos selected' Does anyone else get this? Any ideas?

MikeX

November 1, 2015, 3:30 pm

Outdated review as this now has Lollipop version 5.

Gavin Harriott

January 29, 2016, 10:02 am

also they forget the mention bad reception and dropped calls due to the metal outer casing ,truthfully this phone is more a 4/10

PeterS

April 5, 2016, 8:58 am

Beware when changing to a new SIM card. If SIM tray inadvertently inserted upside down (gently or otherwise), the SIM tray becomes irretrievably stuck. Took to SAMSUNG Service Center in Melbourne - not covered by warranty. Phone bricked.

Kiron Reid

June 2, 2016, 8:33 pm

I got a new Samsung Galaxy A3 through a contract with the British 3 network, last September before going overseas for nearly three months for work. Everything is great about the phone, for me - a good easily workable straightforward smartphone - EXCEPT that the signal / reception is TERRIBLE. I thought I was continually in signal blackspots, or buildings interfering, but at home my wife has little problem in the house with her phone (was Sony, now a Motorola) while I have constant reception problems. The signal drops in the garden or the park where there are no obstacles despite my network saying each time I am in a location with good signal. It is better if on a strong wifi network using wifi calling but still people comment on the poor line, calls often drop on mobile signal / network. Abroad the phone worked better (in four different cities in Ukraine, using a local micro-sim) and the worst problems were when in large concrete buildings or out of the way locations. It doesn't work well inside any solid building. A shame because I really like most of the other features on the phone and it was the first time I'd got a new smartphone.

Lesley

November 17, 2016, 10:31 pm

I bought the Samsung A3 last week and after just 9 days we were unable to charge it. We tried various cables both on both the mains and in-car and in the end returned the phone. The shop changed it with relative ease and I brought the new phone home yesterday afternoon. Low and behold this one won't charge either.
Has anyone else had similar issues and if so what was done about it?

MAr

November 21, 2016, 4:03 am

Bought a Samsung Galaxy A3, a couple of months ago. It fell flat from a say 60sm - 90cm height it had a hard cover hybrid rubber case... the outer screen wasnt damaged accept the inner LED screen was...funny it started with a black Bloch then slowly traveled thru the whole screen at that time i could manage to call my husband on an emergency by the last phone call the whole screen was black but the phone was on, even the alarm went off at the designated time, i took it to a repair shop here in fiji and they have to remove the whole screen including the outside screen! What bluffs me is that, the screen costs more and is like almost paying for another phone!.. CAn SG please come up with shock impact phones and trying to improve its phone that would be cost effective rather then more costly in terms of repair! Not recommending anyone to buy SG now, the features and picture quality is awesome.

Harleen Kaur Kaley

November 21, 2016, 10:57 am

i have the Samsung but after a few months it balcks out and the display dont work and i spent 95 pounds to replace the screen it was fine for a few months untill the same thing happend again

iFrank

March 23, 2017, 8:26 pm

I recently bought the A3 2017 Black as a workhorse/pub/easypocket sort of phone direct from Samsung, when the pre-order deal was offered.

Despite (needless) reservations about Ram & Storage I think it is one of the best phones I've ever owned, or more precisely, carried.
I don't get the volume of calls I once did so it spends a great deal of its life, not doing anything other than being 'on', so being pocketable is a higher percentage requirement than some other attributes.
The battery life is way beyond adequate, not least because when in pocket the 'always on' displays reverts to auto-off and when in a dark corner of my home dims considerably, too much really and unfortunately in standby mode the brightness adjuster is rendered ineffective.

When I actually tax it, it is a joy to hold with perfect positioning of earpiece and microphone, call quality is superb in both directions and watching You Tube vids gives as much pleasure as larger screens, so ignore concerns about pixel quantity and resolution, it's merely a matter of scale.

The only negatives are price (atm) and (for me personally) the employment of nano sim.
This little bugger is adorable!

Brian

March 23, 2017, 8:37 pm

Thanks for this review, I had been waiting for a proper review of this phone.
I'm interested in two things.

Firstly, is there a better 'small screen' device for the money? I want to be able to browse/facebook/check emails etc. but mostly I want to be able to easily fit it in my pocket. 4.7" is the max size IMO.

Secondly, the comments from 10 months talk about bad reception. I assume these comments are with the 2016 model. Did you have any issues with reception in your testing?

Thanks.

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