Samsung is killing it in the high-end smartphone space, thanks to its Galaxy S8 (Review) series and Galaxy Note 8 (Review) smartphones. However, the company hasn’t had many stand-out offerings in the entry-level segment, with a few exceptions of course, such as the Galaxy J7 Prime (Review) and the Galaxy On Max (Review). The new year has only just begun and we’ve already seen a slew of new launches in the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment, and Samsung’s new Galaxy On7 Prime is one of them.
The new offering shares most of its specifications with the Galaxy On Nxt and the older Galaxy J7 Prime, but focuses on software features such as Samsung Pay Mini and Samsung Mall, the latter of which makes its debut with this phone. With prices starting at Rs. 12,990, the positioning of the Galaxy On7 Prime means that it overlaps with some of Samsung’s own offerings from the Galaxy J and Galaxy On series, so it will be interesting to see whether this new model stands out.
Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime design and build quality
The Galaxy On7 Prime has a metal unibody which feels sturdy and robust. It’s relatively slim at 8mm and feels quite comfortable to hold. The metal back has a smooth texture to it, which thankfully doesn’t attract any fingerprints, but the glass in the front does. We also can’t help but notice the similarity in design to the Galaxy J7 Prime (Review), a phone that Samsung launched way back in 2016. In fact, apart from a newer style of icons for the capacitive buttons, both smartphones seem virtually identical.
This phone does look good from the front thanks to the 2.5D curved glass. The Galaxy On7 Prime sticks to the traditional 16:9 screen aspect ratio so right off the bat, it lacks the ‘wow’ factor of 18:9 displays that many manufacturers have adopted in this segment. The size is 5.5 inches and the resolution is full-HD, so text is sharp. Colours are fairly well represented thanks to the PLS TFT LCD, and don't look exaggerated.
Strangely though, this phone lacks an ambient light sensor which we noticed instantly when we first tried to use it in the dark. Skimping on features like NFC and Wi-Fi ac at this price point could be forgivable, but to not have something as basic as an ambient light sensor is very disappointing. Due to this, we had to keep adjusting the brightness manually when moving about, which became quite a chore very quickly.
Above the display, we have a 13-megapixel selfie camera, notification LED, and earpiece, while below it are the physical home button, which also houses the fingerprint sensor, and capacitive buttons placed on either side of it. The sensor works well for authentication and a simple touch of the home button is enough to wake the display up. The capacitive buttons aren’t backlit, which is another annoyance.
On the left side, there are volume buttons on the top and slots below for the two SIMs and microSD card. The first slot houses the primary SIM card while the secondary slot accommodates the second SIM and a microSD card of up to 256GB in capacity. The speaker and power button sit on the right side of the phone. At the bottom, we have a Micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphones socket.
In the box, you get a travel adapter (7.75W), data cable, SIM eject tool, and some safety and quick start guides but no headset.
Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime specifications and features
The new Galaxy On7 Prime features the same octa-core Exynos 7870 SoC from Samsung that we’ve seen in plenty of its budget and mid-range devices since 2016. We're reviewing the higher-end variant of this phone which features 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but it's is also available with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for a bit less money. Other connectivity options include single-band Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, Glonass and Beidou for navigation, FM radio, and USB-OTG.
Samsung has skimped a lot on the sensors, and you only get a proximity sensor and an accelerometer. There's no compass or gyroscope in addition to the crucial missing ambient light sensor. 4G is supported, along with VoLTE. There’s an option to enable Wi-Fi calling in the notifications shade, so you’ll be able to take advantage of this if your carrier supports it.
For software, you get the now-dated Android 7.1.1 Nougat (Android security patch dated August 2017), which is another disappointment. The phone runs on Samsung’s Experience UI (v8.5), which is similar to what we’ve seen on the Galaxy On Max (Review) and other recently released phones. Swiping right on the first home screen takes you to the Bixby screen, which presents you with cards for the weather, your schedule, reminders, and even notifications from your social feed. You can choose which apps are allowed to send notifications or updates to Bixby.
Samsung is heavily marketing its new Mall app, which makes its debut with the Galaxy On7 Prime. It’s essentially an online shopping aggregator with Bixby’s visual search baked in. At the time of this review, Samsung has Amazon, Jabong, Shopclues, and Tata CLiQ on board as partners, so when you search for a product within this app, it will pull up relevant results from only those sources. Before buying anything, you’ll need to sign in with a Samsung account. The app can sync your wishlists and other details in case you switch phones.
The Mall app itself doesn’t store any payment or delivery information, so once you decide to go ahead with a purchase, you’re redirected to the respective seller's Web portal. For instance, buying something from Amazon will open up Amazon India’s Web interface even if you have the Amazon app installed. If you put multiple products from different sources in your checkout cart in the Mall app, you’ll have individual checkout options for each one. The interface of the Mall app is very basic and doesn’t show a lot of information on products, such as whether a specific item qualifies for Amazon Prime. It only pulls basic details such as the product description, user reviews, images, and ratings (if any).
Rather than typing the name of what you’re looking for, you can search for products with your voice or by taking a photo of an object, using the buttons at the end of the search box. Alternately, you can tap the ‘shopping bag’ icon in the photo gallery to search the Mall app for a product in your existing photos. There’s a ‘Samsung Mall’ option in the camera app too, which will try and look for an object you’re pointing at. Voice search is handled by Google, while image recognition is handled by Bixby.
In our experience, the visual search feature didn’t work accurately on many occasions. For example, instead of the identifying the Galaxy Note 8, it threw up results for Samsung’s tablets and other random phones. Searching for a handheld microphone gave us results for curling irons instead. We did have some success, for example, it managed to find results for the specific DSLR camera we pointed at. It also works to some extent with some clothes - at least it's able to show results with similar patterns. However, the process of taking a photo and waiting for objects to be recognised is a bit cumbersome.
The phone also supports Samsung Pay Mini, which lets you make transactions using UPI and online wallets (Paytm and Mobikwik). These work well, but the lack of credit card integration means that payment options are limited. You get a couple of preinstalled apps from Samsung such as Health, Notes, Galaxy Apps, Samsung Members (a community and support app), and also the usual Google and Microsoft apps. You can download Samsung’s own music and video player apps from the Galaxy Apps store if you want to, or use Google’s defaults instead. The Settings app is similar to that of other recent Samsung offerings, and contains options for a one-handed mode, the ability to launch the camera app by a double tap of the home button, an SOS mode, and Dual Apps.
Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime performance, cameras, and battery life
With everyday use, the On7 Prime works decently well but we still would have liked a bit more fluidity in the interface. There’s a bit of intermittent stutter in the animations, especially when you’re scrolling through Bixby’s feed. Switching between portrait and landscape orientation in apps isn’t very quick either. We also a found the touch response to act up at times, where our initial input wouldn’t get registered. Again, this was not a consistent issue but it’s something that we faced intermittently during the course of the review. The screen's brightness is good enough for outdoor use but you’ll have to constantly adjust it manually. Also, the lack of a compass means you can’t tell which direction you’re facing when using Google Maps.
One good thing that we observed is that the phone rarely heated up. Even while gaming or using the camera for a long time, it didn't get too warm. Benchmark performance wans't too impressive though. AnTuTu gave us a score of 45,734 points and GFXbench only managed 12fps in the T-Rex test. Actual gameplay was slightly better, abd Shadow Fight 3 and Xenowerk ran relatively smoothly. Heavier titles such as Asphalt 8: Airborne however, struggled to run smoothly at the default settings.
The Galaxy On7 Prime handles video playback at up to 1080p well, and it even managed to play all our high-bitrate files. Audio through the speaker sounds weak and isn’t loud enough for media, but thanks to the placement on the right side, there is a lower chance of blocking it when watching videos or gaming. The phone has a decent in-built DAC so it easily powers even premium headphones such as the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear headphones.
The primary camera at the back is has 13-megapixel sensor and f/1.9 aperture. The autofocus system is quite sluggish, even in daylight, so you need to be steady in order for the camera to lock focus. Due to this, it was next to impossible to get sharp shots of moving objects, even in Sports mode. Landscapes have decent amounts of detail but the phone struggles with getting the exposure right under bright light. HDR helps mitigate this to an extent but the end result isn’t great most of the time.
Close-up shots are better, but the camera fails to capture accurate colours, especially if there are subtle gradients. For instance, the petals of a flower came out looking duller than we would have liked. In low light, autofocus is slow, which makes it tough to get usable shots. Video recording tops out at 1080p and continuous autofocus works decently well under good lighting, although it’s still not very quick. The quality of video is average, and there’s no electronic stabilisation. You get a bunch of shooting modes for stills but nothing for video.
The front 13-megapixel camera has a fixed focus and the same f/1.9 aperture. It captures good selfies in daylight but doesn't fare well in low light. There is a screen flash but it’s not very effective. You even get a bokeh mode, called ‘Selfie Focus’, but the end result isn’t great most of the time.
The camera app has a neat social sharing feature which lets you quickly share photos. Currently, only Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp are supported. Once you select your social channels, taking a photo automatically queues it to be shared. All you have to do is then tap the respective icons in the viewfinder to post them. The ‘Geo-Like’ toggle button in the camera app gives your photos a small watermark that’s representative of the location you’re shooting in. There are also stickers, a feature that’s borrowed from the Galaxy S8 series.
The Galaxy On7 Prime has a decently sized 3300mAh battery, which managed to last us an entire day of light to medium usage. When using heavy apps, we didn’t register any drastic dips in the battery level either. Samsung drops the brightness level of the screen to minimum when the battery dips to about five percent, and you can’t increase it even if you want to. Fast charging isn't supported. From an empty tank, the phone needed an hour to get up 46 percent, but we had to wait nearly three hours for it to reach 100 percent.
After spending sufficient time with the Galaxy On7 Prime, it makes sense that Samsung chose this phone to debut its Mall app on. Without it, the On7 Prime simply isn’t compelling enough, even at the lower-end variant's price of Rs. 12,990. The version we reviewed will set you back by Rs. 14,990, which is expensive for a phone that lacks something as basic as an ambient light sensor. We guess that it won’t be long before the Mall app comes to other mainstream Samsung phones.
Battery life is decent, but there's nothing that this phone excels at, which is why it's hard to recommend. Samsung Mall is a neat idea but the visual search feature that Samsung is boasting of definitely feels like something that will get better with time. The Galaxy On Max costs a little more than the higher-end version of the Galaxy On7 Prime and has a stronger overall feature set, making it a better choice if your budget allows it. Outside Samsung land, the Moto G5S Plus (Review) and the Xiaomi Mi A1 (Review) are great choices and offer better value for money.