Review

Galaxy On5 and On7 Review: Samsung’s budget phones still have too many limitations

The always on generation. That’s what Samsung is calling the audience it is targeting the Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 at, its latest budget smartphones that aim to offer as much bang for buck as possible without hurting the Korean manufacturer’s profits.  The On in the phones’ names is a play on the fact that people today are always connected, always online, and always glued to their smartphones. Both phones come with 4G connectivity on both SIM slots, large batteries to keep them going all day long, and free access to millions of music tracks through Samsung’s MixRadio service.

In terms of hardware, the Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 might not be too different from the Galaxy J5 and J7, but Samsung is pricing them considerably lower (roughly $135 and $165). The only notable difference, in fact, is the absence of a Super AMOLED display on either of the On devices. This is just the Korean giant’s way of saying that hey, we could streamline our product lineup and stop launching similar devices, but we want to continue flooding the market with more and more phones to keep the revenues flowing.

In any case, the Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 exist, with Indian consumers having the option of buying them from local retailer Flipkart. We’ve used both phones for a week or so, and here is what we think of Samsung’s newest smartphone lineup.

Design

The Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 are slightly thicker versions of the Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J7; the bodies might be thicker overall, but these devices don’t have the ugly fat rims that we see on the Galaxy J lineup. Their edges are also slightly less round. It’s a fully plastic construction, with a smooth soft touch back cover that we see on pretty much every Samsung phone these days. The back feels slippery and cheap, and it’s all a pretty low-cost affair when it comes to the devices’ look and feel.

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All the buttons and components are placed right where they usually are on Samsung smartphones. Navigation keys and earpiece on the front (the capacitive keys aren’t backlit); volume buttons and the power button on the left and right; camera, loudspeaker and LED flash on the back, and microUSB and 3.5 mm headphone jacks on the bottom. The SIM slots, microSD slot and the battery are accessible after removing the back cover. There is no 4G LTE logo on the back on the On series, but these devices do support 4G networks, that too on both SIMs.

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Display

With the On5 and On7, Samsung has gone back to using LCD displays for budget smartphones, after putting Super AMOLED displays on a slew of devices, including the Galaxy J2, Galaxy J5, Galaxy J7, and the Tizen-powered Z3. As a result, the On5 and On7 aren’t that appealing when it comes to the visual experience. The contrast is a bit high compared to what we usually see on LCD screens, and these displays can get rather bright.

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Viewing angles are pretty good, though you can see a slight hue appear on-screen as you tilt the devices to any side. The On5 is the sharper one as it has a 5-inch display with HD resolution, compared to the 5.5-inch display of the same resolution on the On7. That’s not to say you won’t be seeing pixels on the On5’s screen, but on the On7 the pixelation is a tad more pronounced.

Like most recent budget Samsung smartphones, there is no ambient light sensor on the spec sheet, meaning you don’t get auto brightness. The outdoor mode makes a comeback, and enabling it removes any semblance of viewing issues under bright light. Both the On5 and O7 have displays that are more or less sufficient, but you should be looking elsewhere if nice displays are high on your list of must haves.

Camera

The On5 has an 8-megapixel rear camera, while the On7 has a 13-megapixel sensor. Both shoot in the 4:3 ratio at their maximum resolutions; the front cameras are 5-megapixel units, but aren’t accompanied by an LED flash unlike the Galaxy J5 and J7. The rear cameras on the two phones are quite sufficient outdoors under the sun, with good detail and little noise in shots. We were actually able to zoom in on far away buildings and actually see some detail in the windows, even on the 8 MP camera on the On5.

It’s a different story indoors, with very less detail and a lot of noise in most pictures. The cameras can’t focus quickly enough in poor lighting conditions; it’s a problem even costlier devices face, so we won’t really fault the On5 and On7 in this regard. As for the front cameras, these seem to be the same sensors as the ones found on the Galaxy J series and Samsung’s Tizen-powered Z3. Photos have slightly above average detail, though the LCD displays on these phones mean the colors don’t look as appealing (they do look more accurate, however.)

There is a discrepancy we noticed between the On5 and On7. The former comes with the exposure control option on the viewfinder that we have seen on the Galaxy S6 lineup and the Galaxy Note 5, but the On7 doesn’t, despite the software being mostly the same on these phones. The exposure control basically works by giving you a slider right on the screen after you focus on a subject, and it’s odd that the higher-resolution camera on the On7 doesn’t support it but the On5 does. It’s almost a pity that Samsung can’t maintain consistency in its software even in two devices that were developed at the same time, and the option didn’t come to the On7 even after a software update right upon first boot.

Here are a few camera samples.

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Software

The On5 and On7 come with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box, with the newest iteration of Samsung’s TouchWiz UX on top, the same one we see on flagship phones and other recent budget phones from the company. However, it’s a somewhat stripped down version, with none of the fancy add-on features that we see on costlier Galaxy phones. There’s no support for themes either; the Galaxy J2 didn’t have the option to install additional themes but it did have some pre-installed themes, but none of that is present on the Galaxy On5 and On7. That’s a shame, since both phones are priced higher than the J2 (or the Z3), and their focus on the young audience makes the lack of themes even more confusing.

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There are also signs the On5 and On7 were developed by two different teams. Exhibit A: the default shortcut icons on the homescreen are differently placed on both phones. There is also a minor difference in the settings menu. On the On5, the software information in the About device screen is in a dedicated Software info section, similar to the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+. On the On7, that’s not the case, and combined with the missing exposure control in the camera that we talked about in the camera section, it’s an indication the larger On device is running a slightly older version of Samsung’s software than its smaller sibling.

Like all dual SIM Samsung phones, these two have a dedicated SIM card management menu in the settings. There’s also Samsung’s new Ultra Data Saving Mode feature for compressing internet traffic in order to save data. Download Booster is present as well, so if you aren’t interested in reducing data usage, you can combine your mobile data and Wi-Fi connection to increase download speeds. Elsewhere, it’s all standard fare, and if you’ve used an Android device from the Korean manufacturer before, you should feel right at home.

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Performance

The On5 and On7 might not have all the features of its friends in the Galaxy lineup, but we’re happy to report that performance on the duo is rather snappy and smooth. With quad-core Exynos 3475 and Snapdragon 410 processors under the On5 and On7 respectively, along with 1.5 GB of RAM, everything usually happens without any stutter or lag. Apps launch quickly enough without reaching the speed faster devices, and animations were smooth throughout the interface. Stutters seeps in when you try to switch between apps, but this was only an issue on the On5 thanks to its weaker processor.

A big limitation that is present on all cheap Samsung phones is present here as well, and that’s the low internal storage (8GB, out of which around 4.5GB of space is usable). After a while, you run out of space for installing new apps. Installing high-end games with high space requirements is almost never possible, and we think it’s high time Samsung and other manufacturers start making 16GB the basic storage option even on low-end phones.

When it comes to gaming, basic games like Despicable Me and Temple Run ran fine on both phones. We managed to install Real Racing 3 on the two devices after removing some of the installed apps, and only the On7 was able to offer a smooth frame rate. It was also able to run Modern Combat 5 without too many hiccups, so the On7 is clearly the better choice if gaming is an important part of the smartphone experience for you.

Audio, Call Quality

The audio quality on these two phones is pretty much what you would expect at these prices. The loudspeaker at the back is a quiet one and produces somewhat hollow sound, with neither a focus on high (treble) nor low (bass) frequencies. On the supplied earphones, things get better, with sufficient volume and balanced sound. As for call quality and network reception, we found both to be slightly above average. Network reception was fine in strong signal areas, but getting a 3G connection was not always easy in basements and other areas that network signals can’t easily penetrate.

Battery

When you pair modest hardware with large flagship-like batteries, battery life is bound to be stellar, and that is exactly the case with the On5 and On7. Like the Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J7, these two phones manage to last all day long with regular usage, and through the entire work day with heavy use. With regular use these phones are good enough that you won’t always need to plug them in at night, especially since idle drain is very controlled. Staying online all the time requires good battery endurance, and that is exactly where the On lineup shines.

Thanks to the built-in power saving modes, you can enhance battery life even further when needed. The regular power saving mode isn’t really that helpful thanks to the already good idle drain, but Ultra Power Saving Mode can turn your phone into a device that can last for at least two days, by disabling all but the most basic functions. Unlike the Samsung Z3, you still can’t play music when this mode is enabled, though you can use WhatsApp and the Samsung browser.

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Wrap Up

Samsung has been coming up with new budget phones every few months in the last year, with each new handset bearing slightly better hardware than the last for the same price. The Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J7 were successful because they were the most feature-packed low-cost phones from the Korean giant, and the Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 more or less offer a similar experience at even lower prices.

So there is no Super AMOLED display here, the front camera has no LED flash, and the Galaxy On5 is powered by a rather weak CPU, but both devices feature the nicest hardware we have seen at these prices in the Galaxy lineup. But that’s good only when you look at the numbers in the spec sheet; the software experience still isn’t as good as it should be, and battery life is pretty much the only thing that’s awesome.

The Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 can only be recommended when considered in a vacuum, one where Chinese manufacturers like Lenovo and Xiaomi don’t offer a much better experience at sometimes lower prices. But it’s a vacuum that doesn’t exist in India, the only country where the On series is available, making Samsung’s brand value and after-sales support the only true reasons why buying the Galaxy On5 or Galaxy On7 would be a good decision.

ProsCons
Excellent battery lifeDesign and build not so great
4G support on both SIM slotsStutter issues on the On5
Displays can get really bright
Average sound quality
Gaming performance on the On7No auto brightness
Cameras can capture nice detailLow internal storage for apps

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manojmcn
manojmcn

A lot of these lower end model seems to be driven by specific regional teams. Samsung may not match up more specs for affordable price like Xiaomi or Lenovo or other local companies. The reason is the brand value and to keep the average selling price respectable enough. Else the tiny profits will not contribute anything to their billion dollar profit table. It may make a difference in balance sheet for ailing companies like HTC. A lot of people buy these lower end Sammy phones for their family members as they insist they don’t want cheap Chinese (and they don’t… Read more »

n900mixalot
n900mixalot

I agree but at the same time the same regional cannibalizing happens with their flagships and it drives me crazy. I don’t just mean things like Samsung Pay, but things like color selection and TouchWiz features vary between model numbers and the between carriers. It’s a mess.

Thanks for the review Abhijeet. Great as usual. My favorite author on here. I wish Martin R had your level of patience and understanding … ;0)

Martin R.
Martin R.

Please do explain yourself 😛

If you look up Patience in the dictionary you’ll see my picture!