When it was launched earlier this year, we had called the Galaxy A50 “perhaps one of Samsung’s best efforts in the budget flagship segment”. And while it might not have made as many headlines as other devices, but Samsung’s Galaxy A50 was one of the surprise hits of 2019. Priced in the region of Rs 20,000, it emerged as one of the highest selling phones not just in India, but also in the global market – in fact, it was one of the top three highest selling phones in the first half of 2019. And now it has a successor, the Galaxy A50s, in a naming pattern that seems so similar to one of its rivals (add a ‘s’ to the new generation). Few phones have as massive shoes to fill as this one does.
Similar fronts, and prismatically different backs
And the Galaxy A50s does a daily good job of being an improved version of the Galaxy A50. In terms of proportion, it is exactly the same size and weight as the A50 – 158.5 x 74.5 x 7.7 mm and 166 grams – and from the front, both phones look like twins who were separated cruelly by an S-shaped destiny at a festival, with 6.4-inch Super AMOLED displays, minimal bezels and a drop notch above and a fingerprint scanner below.
Turn the phone around, however, and the differences confront you – yes, the Galaxy A50s also has Samsung’s multicoloured finish which reflects different colours depending on the angle at which light falls on it, but whereas the Galaxy A50’s back was a plain one, the Galaxy A50s’ has diamond-like panels on it that create sections of different colors – what Samsung calls “3D Prism Design.” The back itself is smooth plastic (and all too prone to smudges) but seen from a distance will give the impression of being cut into sections that reflect light differently – very prismatic indeed. A more sophisticated and more colorful version of the design we have seen on some Realme devices, we think. We are not too sure everyone will like it, but it sure catches attention. There is however no mention of dust and water resistance, something that is increasingly becoming hygiene in this price segment.
Bumped up cameras
The other big difference between the two phones is in terms of cameras. Cameras if you recall our review had not been the forte of the A50, but Samsung has fixed that in the Galaxy A50s. There are still three cameras at the back, but the main sensor now is a 48 megapixel one as compared to the 25-megapixel one in the A50, accompanied by an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. The front camera has also been bumped up to 32 megapixels, from 25 on the Galaxy A50.
And these are not just numbers on a spec sheet. The Galaxy A50s is definitely a notch above the Galaxy A50, and although we think it needs to do a little more to join the ranks of the lives of the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the Realme XT in terms of photographic excellence, it delivered some superb shots, especially in daylight. Even the night mode pictures were striking although glare sometimes became an issue. But yes, if you are mainly going to do most of your photography in good light conditions, the Galaxy A50s is a very good option. We were a little surprised to see colors appear richer in low light than in sunlight on some occasions, though. The selfie camera also snaps good pictures, although it can be a little inconsistent when it comes to handling colors and will smoothen out skin and “touch” up your appearance irrespective of the settings.Click here for full resolution samples]
It is not all good news, though – we still find Samsung’s camera UI a little overwhelming. There is an amazing array of features there but finding the one you are looking for can be a task – for instance, figuring out how to take a 48-megapixel shot was a challenge. We also wish the wide-angle camera had a higher resolution, as we ended up losing some detail, especially when compared to the main sensor. Finally, the Live Focus mode – Samsung’s version of portrait mode – can be a little hit and miss. But most users who stick to the main sensor will come away content with the cameras.
A generally steady performer
That sense of contentment is also likely to extend to the performance of the phone in general. The displays of both phones seem largely similar and superb – both are 6.4-inch Super AMOLED full HD+ – although the Galaxy A50s seems to be marginally brighter. Of course, this being a Samsung mid-segment device, the display is absolutely top-notch and among the best in its segment – a little too saturated in handling colors but we do not see too many people minding that! In terms of processing, the Galaxy A50s is powered by an Exynos 9611 processor which is nominally literally a step of the Exynos 9610 that powered the Galaxy A50. While both phones had 4 GB and 6 GB RAM editions, the base edition of the Galaxy A50s has 128 GB storage, whereas the Galaxy A50 started at 64 GB. Both devices had a dedicated microSD card to expand the memory, and similar connectivity options, including 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. The battery stands at 4000 mAh, and supports 15W fast charging, although there’s only a 10W charger in the box. And, of course, all this is topped off with Samsung’s One UI on top of Android 9.
We are sure that the new processor brings some improvements to the performance of the device but these are not significant enough to jump out at you. You will be able to run PUBG at maxed-out settings on the device but we did find lags creeping in after about half an hour, and some signs of heating on the upper side of the phone (nothing alarming, though). We actually felt the Redmi K20 handled gaming better. In other regards, the phone was snappy enough, whether switching between apps, handling routine tasks or playing casual games.
Although Samsung has kept bloatware at lower levels, the interface takes some getting used to (the Settings remain a nightmare) and we are still not convinced about the utility of Bixby when one has Google Assistant around. Battery life remains a bit on the lower side – you can just about get through a day on it – and at this price point, we think a 15W charger should perhaps been added to the box. Sound quality from the single speaker is decent enough but not the greatest, although Samsung has not just retained the 3.5 mm audio jack on the device but also packed in a pair of wired earphones (which are about adequate) in the box. The fingerprint scanner under the display definitely seems to work better than on the A50, although it remains slower as compared to the ones we find on the back of phones (companies really need to rethink this!)
Slotting into the Rs 20,000-25,000 zone
So should you be going for the Galaxy A50s? Well, if you are looking for a good phone and have a budget of around d Rs 20,000, then this is easily one of the best options out there – the base 4 GB/ 128 GB variant starts at Rs 20,999, while a 6 GB variant (same storage) is available for Rs 22,999, which is slightly above the Rs 19,990 at which the A50 had started (albeit for a 4GB/ 64 GB variant). The display is top-notch, the cameras competitive and the overall general performance definitely on the smoother side. Yes, there will be those who will point to the likes of the Poco F1, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip and starts at a lower price and also the Redmi K20 which has a Snapdragon 730 and a very eye-catching design as well as comparable cameras, but we think the Galaxy A50s holds its own against them, and we can see many people preferring a Samsung to a Xiaomi product at this price point.
The A50s slips very neatly into the Rs 20,000-25,000 price segment where there is actually very limited competition (the Redmi K20 is the only significant new device there). Given its performance and pricing, and, of course, its considerable brand equity, Samsung could have another bestseller on its hands here.
- Eye-catching design
- Very good display
- Significantly improved cameras
- Generally smooth performance
- Fast charging support, but no fast charger in the box
- We expected better battery life
- The UI still needs work
The Galaxy A50 saw Samsung entering the budget flagship wars, delivering very good specs at a relatively affordable price. The phone was a massive hit. The A50s, therefore, has some very big boots to fill. But is it able to do so?