I can still remember where I was when the Samsung GALAXY S2 was released. The excitement that covered me then was much. I have not felt that way in a long time about a Samsung GALAXY device, not even the Samsung GALAXY S4.
Then came the Samsung GALAXY A5 Duos — not even a flagship/high end phone in the category of the S2, S3, S4 and S5.
The Samsung GALAXY A5 is touted by Samsung as a mid range smartphone. The chipset in the phone and some other features of the phone makes it clear it isn’t a flagship device.
Although the design of the entire phone just screams premium, high end and flagship.
Samsung phones have been teased for being cheaply made out of pure plastic, while they are sold costly. If you want to know what people mean, you should pick up a Samsung GALAXY S3 or S4 and see for yourself — the removable back cover looks like very cheap plastic.
But, the Samsung GALAXY A5 is made from premium metal unibody with a 5-inch HD Super AMOLED display, and ultra-slim 6.7 mm body. The first thing people tell me when I allow them to hold the phone is;
“this phone is incredibly light.”
The unit I have with me is from Samsung Mobile West Africa and it is Dual SIM with dual stand-by capability. The version being sold in Nigeria is not LTE enabled.
At every point in time, I have more than one phone that I am carrying about for different purposes — camera, music, and reading of books but, the Samsung GALAXY A5 gives me a kind of emotional fulfilment similar to the type I was accustomed to having when I use Apple’s iPhone.
It is the design.
Most people who bought Samsung GALAXY smartphones in the past aren’t buying them for premium feel or an emotional feeling that it evokes it them, they have been buying it because it helps them get things done — either it is play or work.
Samsung has taken it a step further now I think, I am tempted to say Samsung finally listened and built a phone with premium metal.
The two SIM trays are side by side on the right side of the phone; that is the same place where the on/off button is placed. It is only the volume rocker that sits on the left side of the phone.
There’s a Samsung logo in front of the phone at the top; close to the logo is the front facing camera. The USB 2.0 charging port and the 3.5mm Jack port are both at the bottom of the phone.
There is nothing at the top of the phone. At the back of the phone is the 13 MP camera, LED flash and loudspeaker. The loud speaker at this position is small and doesn’t sound out as loud. Well, not too bad from a mid range smartphone anyway.
A premium feature missing here is that the A5 doesn’t have water resistant feature like the Samsung GALAXY S5. So, don’t go swimming with the A5.
GALAXY A5 runs Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) with a touch of TouchWiz, the Samsung signature launcher that is used by Samsung in all of their phones.
While the Samsung GALAXY S4 and S5 are already getting Android 5.0 (Lollipop) in some markets, there is no news of Android 5.0 being ready for the GALAXY A5, though the phone was just released in November 2014 globally. Hopefully, Lollipop will be released for the A5 is due course.
There is ultra-power saving mode and power saving mode, just as we have in the Samsung GALAXY S5 and the GALAXY Note 4. The drop down bar by the notification panel has a striking resemblance with that of S5 and Note 4 too.
There are reports that Android 5.0 has made Samsung GALAXY S4 and S5 snappier. If that is to be believed—I am yet to try 5.0 on an S4 or S5—then, Samsung should make Android 5.0 available to the GALAXY A5 as well. Why?
While using the A5 in the past three and the half weeks, I observed that after loading a couple of apps, say 6 to 8 apps running at the background, the phone starts to lag. When this lag happens, I remind myself that the A5 is not a flagship phone though it has a premium built quality. It is not using a faster/speedier chipset like we have in the S5 (the S5 has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801, while the A5 is having Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410).
You will experience some lag on the A5 if you load too many apps at the same time. I hope that will be fixed as soon as the A5 is updated to Android 5.0 from 4.4 running on it right now. This lag doesn’t get in my way of using the phone, when it slows the response of the phone, I shut down a few apps and it starts working well again.
If you are a super heavy smartphone users, get the S5 or the Note 4. But the average user won’t experience this lag as they are less likely to load as much as I loaded. Aha! I am a heavy user.
Anyone making an Android phone with less than 2500 mAh, should ship a power bank with the phone. So, when one is out and about and still needs to use the phone, one can easily top up the battery power using the power bank.
On the A5, you can manage the power consumption by enabling Power Saving mode or Ultra Power Saving mode. This can come in handy if you are on a very long trip and far from power supply.
The 2300 mAh non-removable battery takes me an average of 7 hours of heavy use. My heavy use is Twitter, Instagram, Emails, BBM, WhatsApp, always on H+, mobile data tehhering, some Web reading and minor phone calls. But on days when I am not rigorously using these services, the battery takes me till I get back home in the evening at 7—that is a total of 12 hours. Don’t expect an all day battery from the Samsung GALAXY A5, except you apply some power management tactics.
The charger that comes with the A5 gives me a 100% charge in about 1 hour 20 mins; this happens to be a plus, as you can easily get charge on your phone if your phone goes off. I will encourage you to always use the charger that comes with any phone you buy for optimal performance.
Camera and Photography
The Samsung GALAXY A5 does a superb job at taking selfies and regular photographs outdoors when the day is bright. The Samsung GALAXY A5 doesn’t do well in low light conditions. The LED flash won't solve the low light problem. Your best bet is to shoot only where there is sufficient light (natural/artificial) outdoor and indoors.
Some of the photographs I shot outdoor are so lovely, that everyone tucked in their phone. This is partly due to the superb 13 MP rear camera, the 5 MP front facing camera and my ability to control light. I did a detailed review of how to shoot excellent smartphone photographs sometime ago on the blog. You should read it to take better phone photographs. You might find that your smartphone is enough to take with you on your next vacation.
It is a phone I would use, travel the world with and use as my primary camera on my holiday. The fact that the phone is Dual SIM and I have the option of adding microSD card just blows my mind.
Besides the minimal lag and not being able to shoot superb photos in low light conditions, this phones scores a whooping 8.5 out of 10 with me. The Samsung GALAXY A5 Duos costs $384.33 in NIgeria and $522.40 in South Africa (that is after I converted the cost using Google Search).