I spent a week using Samsung's best-selling phone (which costs just $150!)
Smartphones are quite like actors: it’s easy to enjoy and admire a flagship phone, but it’s good to remember that Oscars are awarded for supporting roles too. After testing many high-end flagship devices, I decided to pay homage to the little guys. The everyday heroes. And what better way to do this than picking the winner of the Oscar for smartphone supporting role in the Q3, 2019, the Samsung Galaxy A10? Hollywood metaphors aside, it’s the best-selling Samsung smartphone for the aforementioned quarter. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
I was really surprised by the sheer size of the Samsung Galaxy A10 when I opened the box. It’s a big phone, contrary to what you would expect after reading the model name. Previously, smaller numbers meant more compact devices, but that’s not the case with the Galaxy A10. It sports a 6.2-inch display which Samsung calls “Infinity-V” (accentuating the V-shaped notch at the top where the selfie camera resides).
The design of the phone is quite up-to-date, actually. It features minimal bezels, the aforementioned V-shaped notch, and a smallish chin at the bottom. The Galaxy A10 uses a plastic unibody and it is quite curvy. There are no sharp edges to be found anywhere and the phone feels good in the hand. Plastic is plastic though and you definitely won’t mistake it for metal or glass. The quality is surprisingly good, however, for such an entry-level model.
Next to my previous daily driver, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the affordable (it’s an understatement) Galaxy A10 looks okay. When displays are turned off there’s not a huge difference between the two phones. Blasphemy, I know. I’m not saying they’re identical, not in the slightest. I’m just saying that looking at the Galaxy A10 from a distance, you can’t say that it’s 10 times cheaper than the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Picking up the Galaxy A10 spoils the first impression but not by much. Samsung did a great job disguising the cheap nature of this phone. Yeah, it feels a bit plasticky, but nothing wobbles, bends, or screeches. The single-camera system on the back is the only giveaway that this device won’t require a bank robbery to own it; otherwise - the looks are getting a thumbs up.
The Samsung Galaxy A10 misses the core feature most Samsung phones are known for - the AMOLED display. That’s one of the biggest compromises and it shows. The 6.2-inch IPS LCD display has a resolution of 720 x 1520 pixels and a pixel density of 271 PPI. Cutting the nerd talk to a minimum, the display is just not that sharp and interface icons look a bit blurry. I wish Samsung had chosen a smaller display or a higher resolution, but unfortunately, it is what it is. I’ll have to live with it (at least for a couple of days).
Another disappointment is the loudspeaker. It’s just not very good, sound quality is lacking, it’s not very loud either (despite the name). The openings for the loudspeaker are located on the back of the phone and also in a place that’s easy to cover with your hand when holding the Galaxy A10. And when you do cover it, the result is dead silence. Pretty convenient when your mistress is calling and you have to silence the phone quickly, before your wife notices, but quite annoying in all other scenarios.
Both the main and the selfie cameras won’t impress you, to say the least. Don’t let the pixel count fools you - 13MP looks good on paper, but images lack detail and dynamic range. With perfect lighting conditions, you can probably make some decent shots but the overall quality is lacking. Taking selfies requires some effort too, as you’ll probably end up with quite a few out-of-focus results.
Now for the good stuff
The performance is actually very good, and let me explain what I mean. Yes, the Galaxy A10 uses Exynos 7884, which is not the fastest chipset out there, but when dealing with everyday tasks, the phone feels snappy. The real problem is the amount of RAM, it’s just 2GB (there’s a version with 4GB and I can understand why). When the system memory fills up, the throttling begins. But if you don’t play heavy games or open dozens of tabs in the browser, you’ll be okay.
Battery life is great. The Samsung Galaxy A10 features a 3,400 mAh battery and this capacity is plenty for such an underpowered device. You can easily get two full days of battery life and when your initial curiosity for the device wears out (the honeymoon phase) you can stretch that even more. There are not many pixels to be lit up in the screen and the engine inside the A10 is not a V8, so you get a high MPG as a result, to put it in automotive terms.
There’s a 3.5 mm audio jack, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to put it under the positives. Thing is, even with a decent pair of headphones the sound quality is not that great, courtesy of the sound chip itself, probably. But as the 3.5 mm jack is an endangered specie, I’ll mark its existence as a plus.
And the Oscar goes to…
It’s quite hard to review an affordable phone. Especially when you’re spoiled by all the flagship devices with their premium looks, amazing camera systems, powerful chipsets, etc. These are the key findings after my week with the Samsung Galaxy A10.
- It is a good-looking phone and you won’t be ashamed to take it out in front of your friends
- The plastic unibody feels plasticky (big surprise!) but it’s comfortable to hold and won’t shatter to pieces if you drop the phone
- The HD display is quite low-res and blurry, and I just couldn’t get used to it after several days using the phone
- On the other hand, the display is quite bright and viewing angles are excellent
- The Galaxy A10 uses a microUSB port (big nuisance)
- Battery life is excellent
- Performance is quite decent - Android 10 works smoothly with the OneUI 2.0 over it. But you can’t play heavy games or open many things at once - the phone has only 2GB of RAM
- No fingerprint scanner, but the face recognition works surprisingly well
- The main camera (13MP) underperforms (which is to be expected, I guess - no multi-camera magic here)
- It’s just $150 bucks! A perfect backup phone and, if you’re not picky or tech-obsessed, it can be a daily driver too