Samsung's flagship offerings have so far remained popular with those who have lots of money to spend, but the company hasn't been as competitive in the budget segment of the market. That has begun to change this year, as Samsung seems to have finally gotten with the programme with its new Galaxy M and Galaxy A series phones, with as many as six new models launched in recent weeks.
The Samsung Galaxy A50 (Review) and Galaxy M30 (Review) fared very well in our tests, and we feel that both these phones are worth recommending. Today, we'll be taking a closer look at the Galaxy A30, which is the more affordable sibling of the Galaxy A50. It features two rear cameras instead of three, and a less powerful processor. The Samsung Galaxy A30 overlaps with the Galaxy M30, both in terms of features and price, so it will be interesting to see how it compares, and whether it makes sense to buy this model over the Galaxy M30 and the rest of the competition.
Samsung Galaxy A30 design
The Galaxy A30 is a big phone to carry around, even if you have large hands. Samsung has maximised the front of the phone by using a big 6.4-inch display with slim borders all around. The chin area is thicker than the other sides, but it's not an eyesore. The Galaxy A30 has a full-HD+ Infinity-U display, just like the Galaxy A50 and Galaxy M30. It's a Super AMOLED panel too, which means colours are vivid and everything from images to text really pops. There's no mention of Gorilla Glass or any other kind of reinforced glass, but the display seemed pretty resilient to scratches in the time we spent using this phone.
The glossy sides and back look good but also attract smudges and fingerprints easily. The phone is fairly slim but we found the grip to be adequate. The buttons on the right have the same glossy treatment as the rest of the sides. The SIM tray can accommodate two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card (up to 512GB). The speaker, 3.5mm headphone socket, and USB Type-C port are all at the bottom.
The back of the Galaxy A30 has slightly tapering edges, which make it look slender. The back has the appearance of glass but it is actually plastic. It didn't pick up scuffs easily with everyday use, but a more forceful impact could leave a lasting scar. The fingerprint sensor is placed a bit too high up for our liking and we had to really stretch our index finger, or at times, shuffle the phone around to reach it. Fingerprint recognition is quick but the placement was a bit awkward.
You have the option to use face recognition instead of — or in addition to — using the fingerprint scanner, but it's not very quick, not even under good light. There's no raise-to-wake gesture, so you'll have to double-tap the display to wake it. In low light, the screen brightness is boosted to light up your face, but it's still not very quick.
In the box, you get a silicone case, SIM eject tool, power adapter with Adaptive Fast Charging, USB Type-C cable, and headset. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy A30 is a well-built phone, which looks decent even with its plastic body. It's available in multiple colours, and the one we have is the black version, although it looks more grey than black.
Samsung Galaxy A30 specifications and features
The Samsung Galaxy A30 is powered by the same processor as the Galaxy M30, which is the octa-core Samsung Exynos 7904. There's only one version of this phone in India, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Samsung hasn't gone into much detail about the phone's specifications on its website, but with the help of some Android diagnostic apps we know that it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, gyroscope, Hall sensor, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, compass, GPS, FM radio, and USB-OTG.
Unlike the Galaxy M30, the Galaxy A30 runs on Samsung's new One UI, which is based on Android 9 Pie. Our unit even had the fairly recent February 2019 security patch. We've already seen One UI in action on recent phones such as the Galaxy A50 (Review) and the experience is pretty similar.
By default, the icons on the home screen are comically large but this can be fixed easily by choosing a denser grid for the home screen and app drawer. You can even enable a one-finger swipe-down gesture on the home screen to pull down the notifications shade. This is immensely helpful as it's nearly impossible to reach the very top of the screen comfortably with one hand.
The phone supports Samsung Pay Mini, which is a cut-down version that only lets you set up UPI accounts, gift cards, and payment wallets. Android Pie's Digital Wellbeing is supported, which is nice to see. There are a whole bunch of motion gestures such as one-handed mode, Smart Stay, etc, which can be toggled on. The Galaxy A30 also has some pre-loaded apps including Dailyhunt and Amazon Shopping, which can be uninstalled if not needed.
When we first began using the phone, we received a lot of unwanted promotions from the Galaxy Apps store, and this was before we even opened the app. However, once you go through the initial setup of Samsung's apps, you can opt out of receiving such information. When setting up the phone, you need to be a little cautious before you hit that final ‘Finish' button, as there's a checkbox right at the bottom for opting out of promotions from IronSource. This is a very sneaky way to push ads to the user, which is a little disappointing to see coming from Samsung.
You also get Samsung Max, the reincarnated Opera Max VPN, which lets you browse the Internet securely. Other programs such as the calculator, Samsung Notes, etc are all optional, and you can choose not to install them when you first set up the phone.
Samsung Galaxy A30 performance, cameras, and battery life
We found the Galaxy A30 to be a good performer when using the usual chat and productivity apps. It's not the most fluid experience though, as there's always a bit of lag when using some parts of the UI. We felt this when swiping over to the Bixby home screen, trying to open the gallery after taking a photo, and even simply accessing the recent apps carousel to switch between apps.
Benchmark numbers are unsurprisingly similar to those of the Galaxy M30 (Review) and Galaxy M20 (Review). AnTuTu returned a score of 1,06,260 points, while GFXbench returned just 23fps in the T-Rex test. These numbers aren't impressive, especially when you that other phones at the same price and lower feature processors such as the MediaTek Helio P70 and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 675, which post better numbers.
The good news is that the phone doesn't heat up too much. It did get warm when the CPU and GPU are really stressed, like when playing PUBG Mobile, but even after taking a bunch of photos and videos outdoors, the phone didn't overheat. The Exynos 7904 does a decent job with games, but we had to scale the graphics settings down in heavier titles for a smooth enough frame rate. Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile both ran smoothly after dropping the graphics settings slightly.
The audio output from the speaker is quite weak. The volume was especially low in the games we tested but even in other apps such as YouTube, it didn't get loud enough for our liking, even in a quiet room. The speaker placement is good though, as it's not easy to block it when you hold the phone in landscape mode.
The bundled headset isn't much to look at but the sound quality is surprisingly decent. You can enable Dolby Atmos for wired and Bluetooth headphones, which boosts the audio level and spatial separation a bit.
There's no notification LED, but thanks to the Super AMOLED display, you can enable an always-on display to see the time and unread notifications.
The Galaxy A30 has a 16-megapixel primary camera with a f/1.7 aperture, and a secondary 5-megapixel wide-angle camera without autofocus. The camera app offers the Scene Optimiser, just like on the Galaxy S10+. This automatically detects objects and adjusts the exposure accordingly. We noticed that it boosts colours slightly and also softens textures a bit, which is not something you'd always want.
Landscapes had fairly good detail, and with the wide-angle sensor, you can get a lot more of any scene in the frame. There is a bit of a barrel distortion when using the wide-angle camera and details aren't as good as when shooting with the main one due to the lack of autofocus. The macros we captured under good light had good detail and colours. Edges were sharp and well defined, which was nice to see.
Despite the wide aperture, low-light landscapes were blurry and lacked good detail. Noise was surpassed well, but overall, photos taken in low light were quite underwhelming. It was even worse when we switched to the wide-angle sensor in low-light. Macros fared a little better but were still below average.
Samsung's camera app has the typical modes such as Panorama, Pro, and Live Focus, which is Samsung's portrait mode. With the latter, you can adjust the level of background blur before and after taking a shot. Edge detection is good and the Galaxy A30 got it right most of the time. However, in low-light, images shot using Live focus looked patchy and lacked good detail.
The front 16-megapixel selfie camera has an f/2.0 aperture and it did an okay job in daylight. Selfies turned out a little soft for our liking but colours were good and HDR worked really well when shooting against the light. There's Live Focus here too, but edge detection isn't as good. In low-light, selfies lacked good detail, with visible grain.
The Galaxy A30 can shoot up to full-HD videos with good quality, but the lack of stabilisation is disappointing. Unless you're staying still, videos often end up looking shaky and unusable. Continuous autofocus isn't very quick, and we saw visible lag when the camera was trying to refocus onto another subject. You can shoot video with the wide-angle camera too, but details are low, there's no stabilisation, and footage looks grainy in low-light. The camera app also has AR Emojis which are fun to play around with.
The 4000mAh battery is one of the Galaxy A30's strong suits. It lasted for a good 15 hours and 8 minutes in our battery loop test, which is well above average. With day-to-day usage, which typically involved a few calls, some gaming, and using chat and social apps, we easily managed to push past a full day on one charge. The bundled fast charger is able to take the battery to about 70 percent in an hour, which is not bad at all.
Samsung's new strategy seems to be throwing everything at consumers and seeing what sticks. Unfortunately, we don't think the Galaxy A30 is the most successful of its many recent launches.
Other than the good battery life, Super AMOLED display and decent build quality, there's not much that stands out at its price tag of Rs. 16,990. The 6GB RAM variant of Galaxy M30 that is available for just Rs. 1,000 more offers slightly better camera performance, a bigger battery, and more RAM, and storage despite running an older version of Android. Or you could save Rs. 2,000 and get the 4GB/ 64GB variant of the Galaxy M30.
The processor in the Galaxy A30 just isn't competitive enough at this price, when you have phones such as a the Oppo K1 (Review) and the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) that offer much better app and gaming performance. The cameras on the Galaxy A30 are another let-down. They take passable images under good light, but performance is severely lacking in low light.
All in all, in our opinion, Samsung's own Galaxy M30 offers better value than the Galaxy A30. If you or looking for a more powerful option, you can consider the likes of Oppo K1 and Xiaomi's Redmi Note 7 Pro.