Samsung appears to have picked up a few tricks from its Chinese competitors. The Galaxy new M-series and reinvented A-series, which debuted just over a year ago, show that the company has not only embraced the idea of offering great specifications at low prices, but is also keeping up with incremental upgrades roughly twice a year. Not all the models that Samsung has introduced over the past year have made big splashes, but the Galaxy M30 and its follow-up, the Galaxy M30s both found themselves on our lists of recommended budget phones.
Not in any mood to let this momentum slide, we already have the brand new Samsung Galaxy M31 with us. We've only been able to spend a little time with it so far, but we can bring you our first impressions.
The headlining feature of the Galaxy M30s (Review), its 6000mAh battery, is carried forward. The 48-megapixel rear camera has been updated to a 64-megapixel one, and there's now a fourth rear camera. The Galaxy M31 has been launched in two variants; both have 6GB of RAM and you can choose between 64GB and 128GB of storage, for Rs. 14,999 and Rs. 15,999 respectively. This should set off a fresh round of battles with our current top smartphone picks priced under Rs. 15,000.
In terms of appearance, the Galaxy M31 is surprisingly plain. It has no gradient, pattern, or reflective coating. While we're happy enough to see this, it certainly bucks current trends and expectations. Some people might find the simple Space Black and Ocean Blue colour options a little too plain and bland (and a rumoured red option has not been launched, at least not yet). It remains to be seen how the glossy finish will hold up to scratches and scuffs, but it does pick up fingerprints very easily.
The front of the phone is pretty standard for a low-cost device these days. The chin is quite thick, and there's a simple waterdrop notch at the top of the screen for the single 32-megapixel front camera.
Samsung has used a Super AMOLED panel which is rather bright. Colours do seem vivid and punchy, if a little oversaturated. We'll tweak some settings and see how this works for us over the course of our detailed review, coming up soon.
The battery does of course make this phone relatively thick and heavy, at 8.9mm and 191g respectively. It doesn't feel unbalanced in the hand though, and the rear provides a decent enough grip that the phone didn't ever slip when we had to reach for the upper corners of the screen with our thumbs. The rear curves slightly towards the sides, which also helps with usability, and we like the fact that the camera module barely protrudes at all.
Speaking of the module on the rear, we have a 64-megapixel primary camera which uses Samsung's ISOCELL GW1 sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, a 5-megapixel macro camera, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. There's a Live Focus mode and a Night mode. The camera app is fairly easy to get around.
The power button on the right is easy to reach, but the volume rocker above it isn't. We were however happy that the fingerprint sensor on the rear is not only large enough but also placed very conveniently. There's a USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphones socket, and speaker on the bottom. The tray on the left will accommodate two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card.
One disappointment, on paper at least, is the fact that Samsung hasn't upgraded the Exynos 9611 processor, which a few previous Samsung phones including the Galaxy M30s have used. While our experience with the phone was smooth for the most part, Samsung's competitors are not sitting still and they already have more powerful options available in this price segment.
We are happy to see Android 10 though, and Samsung's OneUI 2.0 skin is relatively polished. We noticed a “receive marketing information” checkbox during the setup process, which was checked by default – if left as is, Samsung says it could use email, SMS, and push notifications to send you “news, special offers, and recommendations about our products and services”. We also think the animated lockscreen and bright candy-coloured wallpapers are overkill.
Being an M-series device, you don't get many frills. The box has nothing other than a 15W charger, USB Type-C cable, and SIM eject pin. The charger and cable are black, which is interesting, but 15W might be a bit too weak to charge this 6000mAh battery quickly.
We'll be putting Samsung's claims about battery life and camera quality to the test in our full review, and we'll also get into much more detail about its software, ergonomics, material quality, display, gaming performance, and more. Do stay tuned to Gadgets 360!
Can Samsung Galaxy M31 beat the Redmi Note 8 Pro, Poco X2? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.