Review

Samsung Galaxy A3 Review

by: February 1, 2015
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Pros

- Unibody metal design
- Good battery life
- Compact form factor
- Good performance

Cons

- Non-removable battery
- Poor camera performance

With competing OEMs stepping up their game in terms of build quality, there have been a growing number of consumers that have been wanting Samsung to use a build material other than plastic. Samsung took a step in this direction with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha with its metal frame, which was also the design language found with the flagship Galaxy Note 4, with the back cover still plastic in both cases.

Related: Best Galaxy A3 cases

With their latest A series of smartphones though, Samsung took things in terms of build quality to another level, with the two otherwise mid-range devices boasting premium metal unibody designs. While neither of these smartphones are widely available in the US, their design language may serve as a precursor for what’s to come, as was true in the case of the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4, which is what has us very excited. We’ve already taken a closer look at the Galaxy A5, and today, we’ll be taking a look at its smaller sibling, in this in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy A3!

Design

Samsung Galaxy A3-23

For many years, Samsung smartphones have been made entirely of plastic, and while this didn’t particularly affect durability, it did unfortunately result in expensive flagship smartphones not feeling as premium as they should be. With the Galaxy A3, as well as the Galaxy A5, Samsung has taken things in a different direction, with both devices featuring a full metal construction.

Samsung Galaxy A3-21

Even with the change in build material, the design aesthetics remain largely the same across the board, with signature Samsung elements returning with the Galaxy A3, including, but not limited to, the tactile home button up front, flanked by capacitive back and Recent Apps keys. In typical Samsung fashion, the easy to reach power button is found on the right side, with two SIM card slots found below it, with one of the slots also doubling as a microSD card slot. The volume rocker is to the left, with the headphone jack and the microUSB port found at the bottom. The rear camera is flanked by the LED flash on its left, with a single speaker found on the other side.

Samsung Galaxy A3-18

The way it feels in the hand however is drastically different from even a flagship device like the Galaxy S5. Despite its metal body and smooth back, the phone isn’t as slippery as one might expect, with the flat sides and chamfered edges providing plenty of grip. With its 4.5-inch display, one-handed use with the Galaxy A3 isn’t an issue, which is not something you can say with regards to a lot of current smartphones. The Galaxy A3 feels solid and looks great, serving as proof that Samsung is certainly capable of making premium feeling devices.

Display

Samsung Galaxy A3-17

As mentioned, the Samsung Galaxy A3 comes with a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 960 x 540 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 245 ppi. AMOLED technology brings with it everything we love about it, including deep blacks, high contrast ratios, saturated colors, and wide viewing angles.

That said, while a 4.5-inch display size is great for one-handed use, it does seem a little small when it comes to media consumption. The low resolution doesn’t help either, especially when it comes to gaming or watching videos on Youtube. This display is great for everyday tasks such as browsing the web or social media, but does leave a lot to be desired from a media consumption standpoint.

Performance and Hardware

Samsung Galaxy A3-15

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy A3 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 306 GPU and 1 GB of RAM. This is Qualcomm’s updated 64-bit mid-tier processor, and while it seems like a modest package, it provides more than enough power to handle most tasks on the device, including some graphic-intensive games, without too many hiccups.

Samsung Galaxy A3-22

The only real issue that comes up is with the fact that the Galaxy A3 tends to refresh the home screen after playing a high-end game, or when spending a lot of time in the camera application. This is mostly likely because of the device featuring just 1 GB of RAM though, as this happens only after using apps that use a lot of memory, with the device performing really well otherwise.

Samsung Galaxy A3-9

The Galaxy A3 comes with 8 GB or 16 GB of internal storage, further expandable via microSD up to 64 GB, as well as a full suite of sensors and connectivity options, including LTE support. One thing to watch out for though is the version number, as various versions support varying LTE bands depending on the market, and this particular review unit was unable to connect to T-Mobile’s LTE network.

Samsung Galaxy A3-5

The single speaker can be found on the back, next to the camera unit. The speaker produces a clean sound, with no distortion, but doesn’t get especially loud, even when compared to single speaker setups on some other smartphones. The placement of the speaker does allow for a clear sound when holding the device in portrait orientation, but you may end up covering it when watching videos or playing games while in landscape orientation.

Samsung Galaxy A3-10

The Galaxy A3 is a small and compact phone, and that reflects in the rather small 1,900 mAh battery of the device. That said, the battery life is still very impressive, with 12 to 15 hours off the charger including 4 to 5 hours of screen-on time, even with a lot of gaming and watching videos on Youtube. The low resolution AMOLED display is certainly a contributing factor, but the battery life is still one of the highlights of this phone.

One factor that may disappoint die-hard Samsung fans is the fact that the battery is non-removable, a sacrifice that had to be made to accommodate the metal construction. Power saving features are available though, including the ultra power saving mode that switches the phone to a grey scale palette, but severely limits functionality, that should allow most users to get enough juice out of this battery.

Camera

Samsung Galaxy A3-1

When it comes to the camera, the Galaxy A3 features an 8 MP rear unit with LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing camera. The camera application hasn’t changed much from previous Samsung devices aesthetically, but isn’t as packed with features as before. Standard settings like exposure, ISO, and white balance are available, with the number of shooting modes slimmed down to include just beauty face, rear-cam selfie, continuous shot, and animated GIF, panorama, night mode, and HDR.

The picture quality is serviceable, but for the serious smartphone photographer, the camera is going to be a disappointment. Even in good lighting, there is a noticeable amount of noise and photos are soft and muddy with very little detail, becoming even more apparent in low light and night time photography. With a maximum ISO of only 800, low light shots will suffer, but the built-in night mode, and even HDR, can help improve the situation without resorting to using the flash. All said and done, the camera isn’t particularly impressive though.

Software

Samsung Galaxy A3-25

Finally in software, the Galaxy A3 runs Android 4.4 Kitkat, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Samsung device without the TouchWiz UI. A point of note is that while this may be TouchWiz aesthetically, it may not be the user interface you may be used to, with this iteration not sharing a whole lot in terms of features with the flagship Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4. There is no multi-window, air gestures, smart stay, smart pause, or the pre-installed apps like chatON and S-Health to be found anywhere. Surprisingly, S-Voice is also missing.

The software experience is actually quite reminiscent of what was on the Galaxy S2, before TouchWiz became as cluttered and convoluted as it is today. It does feel like Samsung is taking a lot of steps to remove a lot of the redundancies they have created on top of Android, and this could very well be a preview of what is to come.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy A3 Specs

CPU/GPU1.2GHz Quad-core
Display4.5-inch, qHD
RAM1GB
Memory16GB, microSD up to 64GB
Battery1900 mAh
Camera8MP/5MP, AF with LED flash
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, A-GPS / GLONASS, NFC, Bluetooth® v 4.0 (BLE, ANT+)
Network3G HSPA+ 42.2/5.76Mbps or 4G LTE Cat 4 150/50Mbps
SensorsAccelerometer, Geo-magnetic, RGB, Proximity, Hall Sensor
OSAndroid 4.4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz
Dimensions130.1 x 65.5 x 6.9mm, 110.3g
ColorsPearl White, Midnight Black, Platinum Silver, Soft Pink, Light Blue and Champagne Gold

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Galaxy A3 isn’t available in the US from any network operator, but can be picked up from Amazon for $320. This is quite steep for a device with such specifications, especially when you consider the slew of budget-friendly options available that offer a similar experience, and sometimes better, if you can manage to get yourself an invite for the OnePlus One.

Samsung Galaxy A3-28

There you have it – a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy A3! Samsung is certainly stepping up in the build quality department once more with the A series lineup, and while the Galaxy A3 is not a flagship, it’s a very solid smartphone overall. That said, even with a build quality that rivals some of the top tier smartphones currently available, this device won’t satisfy the needs for users who want a smartphone at a higher performance level. If history is any indication though, we may be seeing this design aesthetic with an upcoming Samsung flagship very soon.

See it on Amazon
  • Kass

    Is it just me or is this phone at least $150-170 too much?

    • Chris Roble

      wait a couple of moth

      • Kass

        I could wait six months and the price wouldn’t drop by that much. This is Samsung after all.

    • Daige

      What do you compare it with? The current price is okay.

      • Kass

        This phone was priced slightly more than the $299/£229 16GB OnePlus One but with similar specs to a $179/£150 Moto G. In short: budget specs for a budget flagship price.

        However I look at it, that was too expensive for no justifiable reason.

        At most, even with the Samsung premium and the better build, this shouldn’t cost more than $200/£170 or so.

        P.S. And before someone goes pedantic on me about exchange rates etc etc, the £ prices show retail prices we would get in the UK, inclusive of tax.

        • Daige

          But then again, the Moto G camera is really worthless. And speaking of One Plus, is it not bigger in screen size and physical size? For me, that is a downside. Some people actually want smaller phones. Also, One Plus isn’t available everywhere, especially not on contract if that’s what you want. I live in Sweden, I find very few phones here that can compete with A3’s combination of specs in a small size and still coming at a decent price. Just comparing specs right off the charts isn’t really a fair comparison.

          This might sound like I’m a Samsung fanboy, but I’m not. I just want a small phone with decent specs, for a decent price. The A3 ALMOST fits that bill. However, it’s still too big.

  • Sheldon75

    I have hold it, in white, build quality and look is amazing! Hope the S6 will be the same

  • crap

    • Daige

      Oh, do tell us why you think so? I also admire your language skills, being able to write one complete word, consisting of four letters. That is really something.

      • Yup, true, but Samsung is crap. I also admire your ignorance, being able to purchase a mobile phone with Android. Good luck with DALVIK, but it’s not for me. That is really something, or not.

        • Daige

          Android has it’s issues. Dalvik was one of them, yes. And now they’re using ART instead of Dalvik.

          • Although they do different things they’re both the same. Tested several devices with both, Dalvik and ART and the results were the same, it’s basically an imperceptible change and in consecuense it’s also useless. Probably it was used as a marketing plan or any kind of hope to all the Android users bored of the usual lag and the waste of specs. If almost no any company is making profits by selling smartphones it’s because of Android. They’re forced to use (and sell) top notch hardware for a software that “sometimes works” and sometimes not. I was used to type even faster than my old and crappy Galaxy and seems that they’re not going to fix that kind of issues, but it’s because they can’t.

          • Daige

            And instead you suggest using…what? I’m all ears.

            With the right app, I got impressive writing speeds a while ago, but then they changed the app and it got much worse. Now I’m looking for another good app that’ll let me write super fast again.

            Android is far from perfect, but it’s still improving…overall, at least. And I don’t really know any good alternatives to it either.

          • Now I’m using iOS and it works better, you can’t do all the things you can with Android but for the medium (non g33k / media / musician) user it’s better a faster. If one of your friends got an iPhone and he’s bored of iOS then suggest him switch your smartphones for a couple of weeks, that’s how I did it and for me seems that’s the best option.

          • Daige

            I’m sure iOS has certain advantages but it’s not something I would want to use, due to it’s known disadvantages. I like the control and versatility of Android so there’s no reason for me to try iOS. Another big reason is that I would have to use an Iphone to use iOS and I wouldn’t like that either. Android is available on hundreds of phones, which gives me options. Iphone and iOS is definitely not for me.

  • The-Sailor-Man

    “premium unibody” tin can is only for mid-range phones like A line and iPhones.
    Kudos to Samsung , that manage to made them without those fugly plastic inserts.
    A 7 with 5.5″, though, even mid-range is much better than iPhone6 Plus.

    IMO this A line can not sell good, because normal ppl don’t like unibody tin can. The iboys and the tech media guys(AAuthority included) LOVE unibody tin can , but don’t buy it without Apple logo on it.

    P.S.
    Funny “tech journalism” is to put: PROS Unibody metal design, and CONS Non-removable battery. iHypocracy
    ROTFL ,

    • Jesus

      When Samsung doesn’t use ‘tin can’, haters be like,
      “”Raa raa Samsung plastic cheap HTC metal good, raa raa premium…”
      When Samsung uses metal, haters be like,
      “Raa raa, metal bad, plastic good…”
      Haters gonna hate

  • Karly Johnston

    UI from 2009

  • Mike Bastable

    Really Android Authority (Lanh)?!?!?! A cursory look through your previous reviews shows that a poor camera, bad screen, poor media experience and old software USUALLY results in a review number well below 8.5!
    This phone looks good but is basically a buy-able prototype for future handsets thrown together in a panic as the first wave of declining sales hit the Samsung beach. The fact that it is actually well made and delivers a more premium “feel” than previous Samsung handsets is a testament both to their expertise and previous lack of ambition.
    The review was ok but giving this handset 8.5 is silly folks, it is a born “7”, IF YOU REALLY want it, wait a while the price is already plummeting. Even better save some weeks more and see what the price point for the GS6 will be? Wanna try some modern software a great price points go for the 1+1 or the LG G3
    The A3 costs $419 on Amazon, there are better alternatives: older models from 2014 from HTC, Sony, LG and Others.

    Try and make the reviewing more consistent, please.

    • Daige

      I own this phone. The camera is okay, the screen is definitely not bad and Android 4.4 is definitely not old, so what are you really complaining about here? Which phones do you compare this phone to?

      • Mike Bastable

        I listed the one plus and lg in my post. I like the phone actually… I was commenting that the review score was inaccurate once you read the review. AA too often score Samsung too highly and others, despite great reviews, too low. Glad you love your phone.. We all buy what suits our needs….

  • vickeiy

    I just want to add a heads up: the dualsim version has 1gb ram while the normal version has 1,5 gigs. It really is a stupid compromise, i have no idea why is this necessary. Otherwise it’s a solid phone and a solid review. I myself find qHD enough at this size, it really is youtube’s fault if they don’t let you watch videos at least in 480p.

  • thehacker

    Cons: Non-Removable battery….Seriously??!!….How many android flagships phones out there have a removable battery? Metal casing = non removable battery and when Samsung does it its wrong…

    rubbish review

  • Daige

    Seriously, how hard can it be to get the specs right? The phone has 1.5 gig ram, but there is a duo sim version that has only 1 gig ram. The most common model is the single sim, which has 1.5 gig ram, so it’s better than you make it out to be.

  • adityaoza2

    “premium unibody” because the metal feel very good n the volume rocks r made up of plastic

  • Maya

    My samsung galaxy a3 is tension (unlock effect ) dont know how to open my mobile??

    • Daige

      Open it? You can’t open it. If it’s frozen, let it run out of battery, it’s the only way to get rid of the locked screen.

      • Masum

        Very funny…,if the tension unlock effect not working and bothering user than why it’s in the application !!!!

        • Daige

          I wasn’t joking, and I thought Maya’s phone froze as part of a bug, not that the phone screen locks all the time and can’t be unlocked. Truly, I don’t know what the trouble is with that feature, but if it doesn’t work as intended, I suggest you stop using it until Samsung sends out an update that might get it to work properly again. Sorry, that’s all the advice I can give you.

  • Rebecca Mansfield

    Any idea how you print screen on this phone? I’ve tried holding down the home button and pressing the lock button like on other Samsungs, but having no luck. Thanks!

    • Daige

      Power+home should work but you need to get it exactly right and it might take a second to actually get the screenshot.

      Another way, which I discovered just recently, is to swipe your whole hand from one side of the screen to another. However, to use that, you need to enable it in the settings…and right now I don’t remember where that setting is, but play around with the settings and you’ll find it.

      • Rebecca Mansfield

        Swiping my hand across the screen works fine, cheers!

  • R T

    i have problem in importing contact from my Galaxy S4, to my Galaxy A3 !!!

    • Daige

      In your S4, choose to copy your contacts to your gmail account. Then switch to your A3. Make it connect to your gmail account and when you have done that, the A3 will display all your contacts.

  • Allen Peter

    Amazing phone the Samsung Galaxy A3 is. The present smartphone
    is enriched with lots of advance features and is designed with simple interface
    design which enables all technical and non-technical users to use it. Smartphone
    captures attractive with 8MP back camera apart of this phone is amazing for
    selfies with its 5MP of front camera. Its performance seems good with 1.5GB of
    Ram and Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 processor. Phone offers long life to its
    users with its Non-removable Li-Ion 1900 mAh battery.