Samsung is making an effort to regain its number one spot in the Indian smartphone market, and is besieged by younger brands including Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Infinix. At every price point other than the ultra-high-end, its products haven't always offered the specifications that others offer. When it comes to buyers who don't have huge amounts of money to spend, every little feature and bump to the specifications counts as added value.
Samsung is fighting back with its Galaxy J series, which is aimed at young buyers. The company tells us that this series is extremely popular thanks to the modern styling of recent models and software features developed specifically for young Indians. The new Samsung Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+ are extremely similar, and in fact they feel like they’re just two variants of the same device. Priced at Rs. 10,990 and Rs. 15,990 respectively, they will go up against some of the most in-demand models in India right now. We’ve got both of them in for review, and we’re curious to see how Samsung plans to fight back.
The two phones are practically identical in terms of design. The only external differences are that the Galaxy J6+ has two cameras on its back, and a wide, sunken power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor on its right, while the Galaxy J4+ has a single rear camera and ordinary power button. Both are available in blue and black, but gold is exclusive to the Galaxy J4+ while the Galaxy J6+ gets a bold red option instead, which is unusual for Samsung phones. Other than these things, it’s impossible to tell the two models apart. Both have exactly the same dimensions and feel the same in terms of weight.
Both the Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+ feature 18.9:5 screens, which Samsung calls Infinity Displays even though the sides of these phones aren’t curved and there are still substantial borders above and below. The glass on the front and rear is slightly rounded, and both are quite slippery. There’s a pattern of very tiny dots under the glass on the rear, and unfortunately it really highlights the amount of smudges that both phones pick up.
On the left of each phone, you’ll find individual volume buttons as well as two trays — one for a single Nano-SIM, and a larger one for a second Nano-SIM as well as a microSD card. This means that you don’t have to choose between a second SIM and more storage. Both phones have 3.5mm audio sockets and Micro-USB ports on the bottom, and nothing on the top. For loudspeakers, there are tiny slits on the upper right of each phone, and we noticed that these tended to pick up quite a lot of pocket lint over the course of a few days.
The Galaxy J4+ doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor at all, and its stubby little power button is placed a little too high for our comfort. The sensor on the Galaxy J6+ takes quite a bit of getting used to because it’s integrated into the power button on the side and is completely flush with the body in a very subtle recess. The positioning will not be very convenient for left-handed people. We also found ourselves groping and sliding up and down the side of the Galaxy J6+ quite often. When this phone was lying on a table, angling our fingers just right proved to be awkward and frustrating.
Both phones are relatively large, even by today’s standards. You’ll be happy if you like big screens, but we found both a bit too heavy and unwieldy for comfortable everyday use.
Samsung seems to have studied the market and prioritised style and features over raw power. The screens on both phones measure 6 inches diagonally with resolutions of 720x1480. They’re both bright and vivid despite not using OLED panels like Samsung’s more expensive models, but they do suffer slightly in terms of sharpness. The Galaxy J6+ in particular is priced up against many phones that do better in this department.
Considering how competitive the Indian smartphone market is, we were quite surprised when Samsung announced that the Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+ use Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processors. This SoC launched in late 2016 and we’ve seen it in several extremely low-end phones such as the Xiaomi Redmi 4A (Review) and Redmi 5A (Review), 10.or D (Review), Infinix Hot 6 Pro (Review), Moto E5, and Nokia 2.1. The Snapdragon 425 has four ARM Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.4GHz and the very basic Adreno 308 integrated GPU.
The Galaxy J4+ has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, and the Galaxy J6+ has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Interestingly, microSD support goes up to 512GB. Both phones have the same 3300mAh battery, but there’s no quick charging even though the processor used supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. VoLTE is supported on both phones, but 4G can only be active through one SIM at a time.
Other miscellaneous features include Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetootoh 4.2, GPS, GLONASS, and a gyro sensor. Thankfully both phones do have ambient light sensors, which Samsung skimped out on with the Galaxy J6 (Review) not too long ago. Also, Samsung has stated clearly that both phones are Widevine L1 DRM certified to support HD video streaming, no doubt in response to other high-profile manufacturers deciding that this isn’t important.
Samsung Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+ run Android 8.1 with Samsung Experience 9.5, and both received the September 2018 Android security patch at different points during our review period. There are a lot of customisations including Samsung’s promotional apps and widgets. My Galaxy in particular was extremely aggressive, sending us multiple notifications every day for “entertainment and exclusive offers” on everything from Bollywood to music, movies, product sales, and even insurance consultations.
There’s a lot to find within each phone’s Settings app. You can choose to reorder the navigation buttons or hide them and swipe upwards in each one’s place to trigger their actions. Given the bulk of these two phones, we found the gestures inconvenient, but your mileage may vary. There are assorted gestures, Dual Messenger mode which only works with certain apps, a blue light filter, game mode, easy mode, and ultra data saving mode. Samsung’s J series is also known for Indianised features such as S Bike Mode to improve on-road safety, S Power Planning for battery management, and the ability to install apps to a microSD card.
New with the Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+ is an Emotify feature, integrated into Samsung’s keyboard. It’s somewhat like Apple's Animojis but without the facial recognition and modelling. You create an avatar by selecting various attributes such as hairstyle and clothes, and then a gallery of animated stickers is generated. Most of these are very India-specific with Hinglish slang and pop culture references.
The preinstalled Samsung Pay Mini app works with UPI payments in India. Without even setting it up, we noticed that a shortcut tab randomly appeared sometimes at the bottom of the screen on both phones. There’s no way to disable this without signing in, but then it disappeared just as suddenly on its own. Another major annoyance was that with two SIMs inserted, Samsung’s SMS app showed two tiny send buttons right next to one another, and we had to be very careful about which one we were hitting when sending messages.
Samsung preloads a bunch of Microsoft apps, the usual Google apps, loads of its own that duplicate Google’s functionality, and then on top of that there’s also some third-party bloatware.
While Samsung’s official spec sheet explicitly states that neither of these phones supports face recognition, we saw the option to set it up in both of their Settings apps. There’s a warning that it isn’t as secure as a pattern or PIN, and that “someone or something that looks like your image” could be able to unlock these phones. The registration process took unusually long on both, and there was some lag when trying to actually use recognition, but it did work almost every time we used it.
We had hoped that Samsung would somehow manage to optimise its software to run smoothly on these two phones, but that proved to not be the case. Everything was laggy and frustrating, more so on the Galaxy J4+, most likely due to it having only 2GB of RAM. It sometimes took up to five seconds just for the home screen icons to be shown after unlocking this phone, and simple things like rotating the display from portrait to landscape often involved long pauses. On both phones, there was severe delay when launching the camera app either from the home screen or from the lock screen, which made it difficult to take shots spontaneously.
Benchmark performance highlighted just how weak the processor chosen for the Galaxy J4+ and Galaxy J6+ is. AnTuTu gave us scores of just 41,986 and 42,668 respectively. The Geekbench single-core scores were 645 and 640, and the multi-core scores were 1752 and 1708 respectively. The two phones were unable to run several of our graphics tests and managed only 13fps each in GFXBench’s T-rex scene. We were able to play casual games, but Asphalt 9: Legends was jittery even with low graphics quality. Both phones are vastly outclassed by many models at their price levels, and many that cost well under Rs. 10,000 as well.
On the positive side, both phones’ screens were quite good for watching videos on. They’re bright enough to use under sunlight, and colours do pop nicely. We were able to stream videos with YouTube and Hotstar, and they were enjoyable. Placed side by side, the Galaxy J6+ seemed to be able to display richer, more saturated colours and had a more natural white tone, while the Galaxy J4+ was slightly duller and yellower. The built-in speakers on both phones are extremely harsh and screechy though.
The Galaxy J4+ has a single 13-megapixel camera on the rear, while the Galaxy J6+ has an additional 5-megapixel depth sensor and a Live Focus mode in its camera app. It also has a Social Camera mode that lets you quickly broadcast photos and clips to social media. In all other respects, including the app UI, both phones' cameras are identical. Our experiences using both phones were also pretty much the same, except that the Galaxy J4+ was slower and much less responsive. Shutter lag was a problem with both phones, but it was noticeably worse with the lower priced model. With HDR enabled, we actually saw a progress bar animate around the shutter button, and it often took several seconds before we could even attempt to frame our next shot. You get stickers, a panorama function, and a pro mode.
When shooting with both phones, we found that light metering was a struggle. Especially at night, the phones would rapidly switch between white balance profiles as they tried to figure out what would work best. This of course added extra lag to the process. Photo quality was just about okay, and once again we’re disappointed considering the prices of these two phones. Photos were blotchy and grainy when seen at full size, with bright areas completely blown out and fine details completely muddled. Both phones also really only did well with close-ups, and objects in the background were sometimes unrecognisable. The depth mode on the Galaxy J6+ delivered very crisp results. You can tweak the strength of the depth effect and we’d recommend a medium setting, because the highest level looked a bit overexaggerated.
Predictably, both phones' cameras were of very little use at night. Quality took a sharp nosedive and even autofocus locking became problematic. Some shots looked decent because there were strong light sources nearby. If you’re just sharing photos socially and looking at them on phone-sized screens, you might find this enough, but anyone serious about capturing memories should look at other phones.
Videos can be recorded at up to 1920x1080, and they came out looking pretty shaky. There’s no option for stabilisation. With moving objects in the frame, we saw constant focus hunting, which made our recorded videos very difficult to watch. The Galaxy J6+ has an 8-megapixel front camera while the Galaxy J4+ steps down to 5 megapixels. Both have front LED illuminators with adjustable brightness, which is a nice touch. Selfies also came out looking just about acceptable.
The Galaxy J4+ lasted 12 hours, 45 minutes in our HD video loop test but the Galaxy J6+ only went on for 11 hours, 38 minutes. The difference is surprising. With light use, both phones should be able to get you through a full day from morning to night. We found that charging was extremely slow, and it took half an hour to get up to 10 percent on the Galaxy J4+. After a full hour we were at 28 percent, and it took over three hours to fill the battery completely.
Samsung is clearly relying a lot on its brand value and software features to sell these phones. They might have some appeal in terms of physical appearance and software features, but their performance is just not competitive at all as compared to other smartphones in the respective price segments.
The Galaxy J4+ is priced at Rs. 10,990 which places it right against the Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro (Review) with a Snapdragon 625, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage; the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review) with a Snapdragon 636, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage; and the Realme 1 (Review) with a MediaTek Helio P60 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The only reason we can think of for someone to choose the Galaxy J4+ rather than any of its competitors would be that they only have the most basic needs and really value the Samsung brand above all else.
The Galaxy J6+ will cost a rather unbelievable Rs. 15,990, which means it takes on the 6GB/ 64GB version of the Realme 2 Pro (Review) with its Snapdragon 660 processor; and the Moto One Power (Review) and Nokia 6.1 Plus (Review) which both have Snapdragon 636 processors, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. You could spend slightly less and pick up the ZenFone Max Pro M1 (6GB) (Review), or a little more and choose the Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review) with its Snapdragon 660. As you can see, there’s no shortage of better alternatives, and Samsung has to know this.