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Samsung Galaxy A02s
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung Galaxy A02s
Every smartphone maker needs a starting point for their lineup, and the Galaxy A02s has that honor for Samsung. It’s a true budget smartphone at just $129, but how much do you get for your money? Is the modest spec sheet up for everyday tasks? We’re here to break it down and find the value in our Samsung Galaxy A02s review.
What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A02s
- Samsung Galaxy A02s (3GB / 32GB): $129.99 / £139.99 / €149.99
- Samsung Galaxy A02s (4GB / 64GB): $159.99
The Galaxy A02s launched in early 2021 as the entry-level model of the Galaxy A series. Samsung offers its affordable device in a whopping six configurations, starting with as little as 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. However, only two versions are readily available in the United States (both listed above). Regardless of which version you choose, you can pick up the Galaxy A02s in red, black, blue, or white.
The Samsung Galaxy A02s ships with Android 10 and One UI 2.5 onboard, but it has since received the Android 11 update. This brought One UI 3.1 and the August 1, 2021 security patch into the picture for the duration of our testing. Like most of Samsung’s Galaxy A devices, we expect the phone to pick up two years of software version updates and four years of security patches before it is retired. That means it might get One UI 4 before support ends, though Samsung hasn’t specified exactly how long it will be supported for.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 450 SoC keeps the lights on, and it serves as the heart of Samsung’s budget-friendly operation. You can pair it with up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, or add a microSD card for some extra breathing room. Samsung brought over the same 5,000mAh battery and 6.5-inch HD+ display from its Galaxy A12, so the Galaxy A02s should look good and last for hours on end. It kept the Infinity-V notch, too, though the selfie lens only offers 5MP rather than 8MP.
See also: The best Samsung phones you can buy
There’s not much to write home about in the packaging — Samsung includes a charging block and USB-C cable as well as a SIM ejector tool. You’ll only find paperwork otherwise, though the startup guide includes information for both the Galaxy A02s and Galaxy A12.
The Samsung Galaxy A02s doesn’t face too much competition in the sub-$150 price range, but the market gets more crowded as you approach $200. Nokia’s G10 is one of the few true rivals at $149, with a similarly massive battery and a triple camera system. Many would consider Motorola to be the king of budget devices, and it brings a rear-mounted fingerprint reader into the mix at $169. If you want a more capable yet still affordable Samsung device, the Galaxy A12 brings a laundry list of improvements to the table at $179.
One of Samsung’s best design choices for the Galaxy A02s was to skip a glossy finish. Shine seems to be a popular pick among budget-friendly devices, but I much prefer the lightly textured matte that Samsung chose. It’s not completely immune to fingerprints or smudges, but you won’t drive yourself up the wall trying to keep the phone clean. The patterned back panel adds an extra touch of style to the basic black finish, too.
Samsung’s large, 6.5-inch HD+ display is solid, especially for the $129 price. It’s plenty large enough to stream your favorite shows and you probably won’t really notice the lower resolution. You can take advantage of the handy headphone jack mounted along the bottom edge or crank up the volume with the single down-firing speaker. I didn’t notice much distortion at all with the speaker, which was a welcome surprise.
Samsung's 6.5-inch display is great for everything from social media to bingeing your favorite shows.
The rear triple camera may not be one of Samsung’s best, but the primary 13MP shooter can deliver in good lighting. It also works alongside the macro and depth sensors to offer some wide/ultra-wide support without having a dedicated lens. I was pleasantly surprised by Samsung’s Live Focus mode given the limited hardware, especially on the selfie camera. It picked up the edges of my hair correctly for the most part, though Live Focus had less success with the cow seen below.
One UI 3.1 helps to keep the Galaxy A02s feeling smooth and up to date, despite the hardware limitations. It’s nice to see an affordable phone actually receive Samsung’s promised updates, and there are a few features that I’ve come to appreciate. One is Samsung Free, which links Samsung TV Plus, Samsung Podcasts, Taboola News, and Instant Plays into a single app.
You’ll also get excellent battery life with the Galaxy A02s — I was able to push the 5,000mAh cell through two days of moderate use. It may not hold up well for heavy gaming, but you can answer emails and peruse social media for hours on end without issue.
What’s not so good?
Samsung didn’t leave itself much wiggle room for a solid processor in the Galaxy A02s, and it shows. The Snapdragon 450 lagged frequently, even on tasks as simple as navigating the Settings. It got worse as I bounced between apps, especially if I was trying to stream from Spotify at the same time. The limited 3GB of RAM in the version I tested probably didn’t help things along very much, and it’s enough that you should consider the version with 4GB of RAM instead. However, at that point, you’re in the territory of the Galaxy A12, which is a much better phone overall.
Despite decent performance from the main lens in good lighting, the rest of Samsung’s cameras leave something to be desired. The macro camera needs an incredible amount of light to have any chance at all, and even then the 2MP resolution means you can’t blow the images up. You don’t get access to a true night mode on the Galaxy A02s, which greatly limits what you can do to brighten up images.
At least you have time to catch up on a few shows while you're slowly charging at an outlet.
I can’t take away from Samsung’s hefty 5,000mAh battery, but I can say that the 15W charger doesn’t pack enough punch. When you do run the phone down to 0%, you have to be ready to get comfy by an outlet. It took me 30 minutes to go from a dead battery to 20%, and more than two hours for a full charge.
We’re also in an age where biometrics are a standard feature on most smartphones. Whether it’s a sub-$100 device like the LG Premier Pro Plus or a $1,000 beast like the OnePlus 9 Pro, you’ll probably find some type of fingerprint reader on board. Not on the Galaxy A02s. There’s no fingerprint reader of any kind, only a software-based facial recognition feature that’s not the most secure, not to mention slow.
Samsung Galaxy A02s camera samples
Samsung Galaxy A02s specs
|Samsung Galaxy A02s|
1,600 x 720 (20:9)
1GB up to 4GB
16GB up to 64GB
Rear triple camera:
13MP wide (f/2.2)
2MP macro (f/2.4)
2MP depth (f/2.4)
15W wired charging
Shipped with Android 10
Update to Android 11 available
Samsung One UI 3.1
164.2 x 75.9 x 9.1mm
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Should I buy it?
The Galaxy A02s is a good smartphone if you only need the basics and you’re working with a tight budget. It’s hands-down the most affordable way to get your hands on Samsung’s One UI 3.1, but the processor can’t always keep up and the cameras won’t be your go-to for many family photos. That said, if you want a cheap way to watch your favorite shows and use your wired headphones, the Galaxy A02s is happy to oblige.
The Galaxy A02s is a great way to get your hands on One UI 3.1 with a tight budget.
If you’re willing to expand your budget a bit, there are plenty of Galaxy A02s rivals to consider for under $200. Samsung’s own Galaxy A12 ($179) might be one of the best, with a significantly better camera and a side-mounted fingerprint reader for not much more money. There’s also the Motorola Moto G Play ($169) that ditches the third camera but offers near-stock Android and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. Finally, the Nokia G10 ($149) offers splash protection, a slightly bigger battery, and a better base configuration.