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Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung Galaxy A03s review: Growing up, but slowly

How much is a new fingerprint reader worth to you?
By
September 7, 2022

Samsung Galaxy A03s

Samsung's Galaxy A03s takes a few baby steps toward adulthood. The fingerprint reader and updated base RAM and storage give it a little bit of extra punch, but they don't quite go far enough to counterbalance the sluggish performance and lacking cameras. A fair pick for a starter smartphone, but it lacks power where it counts.

What we like

Higher base RAM and storage
Solid battery life
Finally, a fingerprint reader
Long-term software support

What we don't like

Laggy performance
Secondary cameras are lacking
Plastic build feels cheap
Very slow charging

Samsung Galaxy A03s

Samsung's Galaxy A03s takes a few baby steps toward adulthood. The fingerprint reader and updated base RAM and storage give it a little bit of extra punch, but they don't quite go far enough to counterbalance the sluggish performance and lacking cameras. A fair pick for a starter smartphone, but it lacks power where it counts.

Samsung’s most affordable smartphones often come with compromises to reach their rock-bottom prices. While still the cheapest way to enter the Galaxy ecosystem, the Galaxy A03s is hoping that eliminating a few of those caveats will justify asking you to open your wallet a little wider. Is the experience worth the slightly higher cost? Find out in our Samsung Galaxy A03s review.

Update, September 2022: We have added new alternatives to consider in our Samsung Galaxy A03s review Verdict section.

What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A03s

Galaxy A03s display and buttons
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
  • Samsung Galaxy A03s (3GB/32GB): $159.99 / £139.99 / €159.99
  • Samsung Galaxy A03s (4GB/64GB): $179.99 / £159.99 / €179.99

Samsung launched its Galaxy A03s at the start of 2022 as a successor to the Samsung Galaxy A02s. It’s the most affordable member of the Galaxy A series in the US, and the family lineage is immediately apparent. The Galaxy A03s offers a nearly identical display to its predecessor, right down to the top and bottom bezels. Both phones even share the same dimensions.

Samsung trimmed the available Galaxy A03s configurations this year, and only two configurations are readily available in the US and Europe (listed above). The base model now packs 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, both double what you got with its predecessor. It does not support 5G — you’ll need to upgrade to the Galaxy A13 if you want next-gen data speeds.

See also: The best Samsung phones

Our Samsung Galaxy A03s arrived running Android 11 out of the box and Samsung’s One UI on top. It carried the December 1, 2021 security patch for the duration of my testing. Buyers can expect a further two years of software version updates and four years of security patches (with quarterly updates), in line with previous Galaxy A devices. It received Android 12 as the first major update in September, 2022, and we still expect Android 13 as the final system update before the Galaxy A03s heads off into the sunset.

The phone packs the MediaTek Helio P35 processor under the hood, and you can pair it with up to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. While the storage capacity may not seem like much, you have the option to expand your storage via a microSD card slot. The Galaxy A03s offers a 5,000mAh battery and 15W charging — both of which match the Galaxy A02s. It’s all tied together by a 6.5-inch HD+ display, complete with a small Infinity-V notch.

Even at the entry level, Samsung’s packaging seems to be on a diet. You’ll find a SIM ejector tool, a USB-C cable, and essential paperwork in the box, but the included charger is a thing of the past. If you need one, check out our guide here.

You can buy the Galaxy A03s direct from Samsung and various retailers. It comes in black and blue colorways. There is also a white variant, though this isn’t sold by Samsung in the US.

What’s good?

Galaxy A03s rear angle
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Last year’s Galaxy A02s offered the bare minimum in smartphone features, and it’s nice to see Samsung take small steps forward. For starters, the Galaxy A03s adds a side-mounted fingerprint reader to the mix. I found that it performed pretty well, and I had no problems with quickly unlocking the phone. If you’d rather skip the fingerprint reader, you can always rely on software-based facial recognition, a PIN, or drawing a pattern, too.

Thankfully, Samsung’s improvements to the design didn’t come at the cost of the headphone jack. You can keep your wired headphones for another year with the bottom-mounted 3.5mm port. It sits across from the mono down-firing speaker, which offers substantial output. I did notice some distortion if I cranked it to full volume, but you should be pleased with the results below that point.

Samsung's most affordable smartphone finally features a fingerprint reader.

Samsung’s slight redesign extends to the back panel as well. It now features vertical ridges that bend slightly around the camera array. Overall, I like the rear changes, and the ridges feel easy enough to hold onto. The blue finish I received looks pretty good in the light and certainly beats the more generic black finish.

One of the key perks of the Samsung Galaxy A03s is the rock-bottom price. Yes, it’s gone up about $30 over last year, but you get more base RAM and storage with one of the best update policies around. Support that comes anywhere close to two full Android versions and four years of security patches are hard to come by at under $200.

You shouldn’t have any issues with battery life on the Galaxy A03s — the 5,000mAh cell is tough to drain and you should easily make it through two days of moderate use. It won’t last as long if you’re a heavy-duty mobile gamer, but that’s probably not why you’d buy a Galaxy A03s anyway. It is perfectly suitable for streaming though, and the display, while a little dim, does a good enough job for watching movies and shows thanks to the large size and high contrast.

What’s not so good?

Galaxy A03s ports
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

While Samsung made a few key changes to the Galaxy A03s’ hardware, much of the design remains the same from last year. The top and bottom bezels are thick for a 2022 device, and the plastic construction leaves something to be desired. That’s not to say we expect glass or metal from a $159 device, but the plastic used has a slight give to it and feels like it could crack if dropped.

Samsung also kept the same camera array from the Galaxy A02s, with the same set of flaws. The main camera is acceptable in good enough light, but the two secondary cameras are a mostly redundant 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. You also won’t find night mode of any kind, so low-light photography is a non-starter. You’ll need a very steady hand and heaps of light to capture usable macros, and you won’t get much detail due to the pitiful resolution. Samsung’s portrait mode still struggles with edge detection, too — note the edges of my hat in the selfie samples in the next section, as well as the finer details on the swan fountain.

The Galaxy A03s has also been hit by a now-expected Samsung bug — there’s no charger in the box. While you might already have a USB-C block sitting around (and not discounting the environmental reasons behind the decision) it’s not always a guarantee, especially for first-time smartphone buyers who are a key market for budget-level devices.

The Galaxy A03s ditched the included charger, but it kept the paltry charging speeds.

The Galaxy A03s swaps its predecessor’s Snapdragon 450 chipset in favor of a MediaTek Helio P35, which looks like an upgrade on paper. However, the newer chipset still falls victim to a few of the lag problems that plagued the Galaxy A02s. Simple tasks like bouncing between apps or fast-forwarding a YouTube video took longer than I’d hoped. I also found that the keyboard took a few extra seconds to open most of the time.

While it’s nice to see Samsung hold onto the 5,000mAh battery for another year, the 15W charging continues to come up short. It’s the exact same setup as the Galaxy A02s, so it took me 30 minutes to gather a 20% charge. That might be fine for a quick top-up, but a full charge took more than two hours at an outlet.

Check out: The best Samsung Galaxy deals

Samsung Galaxy A03s camera samples

Samsung Galaxy A03s specs

Samsung Galaxy A03s
Display
6.5 inches
PLS LCD
1,600 x 720 (20:9)
Processor
Mediatek Helio P35
RAM
3GB
4GB
Storage
32GB
64GB
Cameras
Rear triple camera:
13MP wide (f/2.2)
2MP macro (f/2.4)
2MP depth (f/2.4)

Front:
5MP (f/2.2)
Battery
5,000mAh
15W wired charging
Headphone jack
Yes
IP Rating
No
Software
Android 11
Samsung One UI 3.1
Dimensions
164.2 x 75.9 x 9.1mm
196g
Colors
Black
White
Blue
Security
Face recognition
Side-mounted fingerprint reader

Samsung Galaxy A03s review: Should I buy it?

Galaxy A03s selfie camera
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Samsung’s Galaxy A03s is a decent option among sub-$200 smartphones and a fair fit for those looking at the Galaxy A03s as a first smartphone or an option for those on a tight budget. It’s the most affordable way to enter Samsung’s Galaxy ecosystem, and One UI is feature-packed and extremely well-supported for those looking to keep a phone for several years. The addition of a fingerprint reader is a nice touch for simple security, too. However, the processor and overall camera setup still leave something to be desired — two crucial areas for any modern phone.

Samsung's new fingerprint reader and improved RAM and storage offer just enough to justify the increased price, but the Galaxy A03s lacks power where it counts.

The Samsung Galaxy A03s has increased in price from last year, giving even more rivals to square off against. Motorola’s Moto G Play ($169) is perhaps the closest competition, with a nearly identical set of cameras and a marginally more powerful Snapdragon 460 processor. However, it offers even slower charging, less base RAM and storage, and does not support NFC for contactless payments. If you want a slightly upgraded Motorola option, the Moto G Pure ($159) ships with Android 11 out of the box and a basic IP rating.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more, the Samsung Galaxy A13 5G ($249) and Nokia X100 ($252) are affordable ways to add 5G to the mix. Nokia’s device adds a 48MP primary camera with a sharp Full HD+ display but falls short on software updates. The Galaxy A13 5G, on the other hand, offers a 50MP camera with Samsung’s robust update policy and a sleek, minimalist design. T-Mobile also offers the OnePlus Nord N20 ($282). It carries 128GB of storage and a 64MP triple camera setup. Samsung’s Galaxy A23 5G ($299) is also diving into the fray as a step up from the Galaxy A13. It packs a 5,000mAh battery with faster 25W charging and a flexible quad-camera array.

Samsung Galaxy A03s
Samsung Galaxy A03s
Higher base RAM and storage • Solid battery life • Finally, a fingerprint reader
How much is a new fingerprint reader worth to you?
Samsung's Galaxy A03s takes a few baby steps toward adulthood. The fingerprint reader and updated base RAM and storage give it a little bit of extra punch, but they don't quite go far enough to counterbalance the sluggish performance and lacking cameras. A fair pick for a starter smartphone, but it lacks power where it counts.

Top Samsung Galaxy A03s questions and answers

No, the Samsung Galaxy A03s does not come with a charger in the box. Check out our chargers guide for advice on how to buy the right charger.

No, the Galaxy A03s does not support 5G.

The Samsung Galaxy A03s launched in August 2021.

No, the Samsung Galaxy A03s does not support wireless charging.