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Samsung Galaxy A12 review: Sluggish but stylish starter smartphone
Samsung Galaxy A12
Retail price: $179.99$179.99 at Samsung
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung’s Galaxy A12 budget smartphone is more than just an iterative update over the Galaxy A11 — with a bigger battery, another camera, and so much more on board. Value hunters will also appreciate that Samsung managed to keep its sub-$200 price tag. How well do these new upgrades fare? Let’s find out in our Samsung Galaxy A12 review.
What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A12
- Samsung Galaxy A12 (3GB, 32GB): $179.99
- Samsung Galaxy A12 (4GB, 64GB): $189.99 / £169.99 / €179.99 / Rs. 13,999
- Samsung Galaxy A12 (6GB, 128GB): $195.99 / Rs. 16,499
Samsung introduced its Galaxy A12 as a direct successor to the Galaxy A11 in November 2020 before bringing it to the US in April 2021. The Galaxy A12 offers a total of six different configurations, starting with as little as 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. However, only three are readily available in the United States right now (listed above). No matter which way you go, you’ll also have access to four color options — red, blue, black, and white.
Our Samsung Galaxy A12 arrived with Android 10 on board, though the Android 11 update with Samsung’s One UI 3.1 is available via OTA. It also ran the July 1, 2021 Android security patch at the time of testing. It should receive two years of software updates as well as four total years of security patches, which will carry the Galaxy A12 through late 2024 or early 2025.
See also: The best Samsung phones you can buy
Once you move past the software, you’ll find the MediaTek Helio P35 SoC powering away on Samsung’s entry-level device. The RAM and storage options top out at 6GB and 128GB, respectively, and you can go even further with the microSD slot. A 5,000mAh battery and a 6.5-inch HD+ panel tie everything together, and the display comes complete with an Infinity-V notch. In India, there is a variant that swaps out for Helio P35 for Samsung’s own Exynos 850 chipset.
Samsung dropped its wired earbuds from the packaging this time around, though it still offers a charging block and USB-C cable. You get a SIM ejector tool and a basic startup guide as well, in case you need some assistance getting off the ground.
The Galaxy A12 fits comfortably into the sub-$200 price bracket, but there are plenty of other phones to consider. Motorola’s Moto G Play and Moto G Power are leading names in the segment, and the OnePlus Nord N200 offers a little more punch if you can shell out the $240. Samsung’s own Galaxy A32 5G is a good option as well, though it’s more expensive still at $279.
Budget-friendly phones seem almost determined to add mirrored backs and fingerprint magnet finishes to lend an air of quality. Thankfully, Samsung’s Galaxy A12 bucks the trend, instead opting for a matte finish that feels soft in the hand. I also appreciate the raised diagonal ridges, as they add a little bit of extra grip to the overall design.
The large 6.5-inch display means that a good grip is a must if you’re hoping to skip a case. While that display sticks to an HD+ resolution, it’s still perfectly large enough and clear enough to catch up on your latest shows. We’ll always praise a headphone jack, and wired headphones are the best way to enjoy sound on the Galaxy A12 as opposed to the down-firing mono speaker.
Samsung also decided to leave the Galaxy A11’s rear-mounted fingerprint reader in the past. Instead, the Galaxy A12 employs a side-mounted option, which is very quick, easy to use, and cleans up the overall look of the device.
The side-mounted fingerprint reader and matte finish give the Galaxy A12 a clean look and a premium feel.
Adorning the back panel is Samsung’s camera array capped off by a 48MP main shooter, which works well enough outdoors for a budget camera phone (check later in this review for samples). You can also tap into the macro and ultra-wide cameras for extra flexibility. The camera app is a breeze to navigate, though it might take a moment or two to hunt down the macro button as it’s hidden away in the More tab.
Samsung’s One UI is one of the better Android skins on the market right now, and it’s as good as ever on the Galaxy A12. In particular, the Samsung Free app is something like Google’s Discover feed but with a kick. Instead of simply offering news, Samsung Free brings Samsung TV Plus, Samsung Podcasts, Taboola News, and Instant Plays into one spot. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a penny for any of it.
The Galaxy A12 is also a battery wizard, at least as far as holding a charge. I had no problems powering through a good two days of usage between light gaming, answering emails, and browsing social media.
What’s not so good?
The Samsung Free app may be a nice addition to the overall package, but Samsung didn’t stop there when deciding how much to add to its take on Android. Unfortunately, there are heaps of extra apps on the Galaxy A12 that mostly take up space. It comes with a full suite of Google apps as well as Samsung apps that lead to a lot of redundancy. There are even Microsoft options like Office, OneDrive, and Outlook. You’ll also run into Shop Samsung, Galaxy Shop, and the Galaxy Store — how many people actually need two Samsung stores and a Play Store alternative?
The good news is that you can uninstall at least the Microsoft-based bloat, but it doesn’t do much to help the Galaxy A12’s tendency to lag. MediaTek’s Helio P35 doesn’t always seem up to the task of powering the 6.5-inch display, and hopping between apps only slows things down further. The limited RAM and storage don’t help, so you might want to look at the 4GB RAM/64GB storage version if you can find it.
Three different app suites, two different app stores, and a pair of Samsung shops is just too much.
Although Samsung packed a solid main lens on the Galaxy A12, the fun peripheral options aren’t always in good form. The macro lens offers just 2MP, and it took quite a few attempts to achieve the reasonably clear sample image below. You won’t find a dedicated night mode on the Galaxy A12 either, so you’ll probably have to endure some trial and error beyond daylight hours.
While all phones add a little magic after pressing the shutter button, the end result for photos taken on the Galaxy A12 were often notably better than what the camera app showed. For example, the low-light image below looked significantly darker when I pressed the shutter button, and neither image in the comparison looked as clean as what you see. Most times this turned out to be a nice surprise in the end, but it does make judging your shot a little tricky. Portrait mode also wasn’t great at edge detection, as you can see in the sample around my hair.
Samsung may have fit a solid battery into its Galaxy A12, but the 15W charging speeds are woefully underpowered even for a cheap phone like this. I was only able to go from 3% to 23% charge after 30 minutes, with a full charge taking more than two hours.
Samsung Galaxy A12 camera samples
Samsung Galaxy A12 specs
|Samsung Galaxy A12|
1,600 x 720 (20:9)
MediaTek Helio P35
2GB up to 6GB
32GB up to 128GB
Rear quad camera:
48MP wide (f/2.0)
5MP ultrawide (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
6.46 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches
(164 x 75.8 x 8.9mm)
Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
Samsung Galaxy A12 review: Should I buy it?
The Samsung Galaxy A12 is a solid upgrade over the Galaxy A11 in almost every way. What this budget-friendly phone does bring to the table is a good 48MP main camera, excellent battery life, and Samsung’s crisp and attractive One UI software. Unfortunately, the peripheral cameras lack punch and the laggy performance can be frustrating, but these are expected trade-offs at this price tier.
The Samsung Galaxy A12 is an upgrade over the Galaxy A11 in almost every way and well suited for someone buying their first smartphone.
We’ve mentioned that the Galaxy A12 lands right around Motorola’s Moto G Power ($249) and Moto G Play ($169), and it’s well suited for someone buying their first smartphone. The lack of 5G limits its future prospects, though you can try out the OnePlus Nord N200 ($239) or splurge a bit on Samsung’s Galaxy A32 5G ($279) if you want to tap into top speeds. Samsung’s Galaxy A12 is also available on Verizon, US Cellular, and AT&T.