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    Samsung’s budget smartphone lineup is getting frustratingly crowded


    Last updated: July 21st, 2016 at 10:05 UTC+02:00

    The budget smartphone market has seen major competition in the last year or so. Large manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and LG have been unable to match the value offered by smartphones from Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi and Lenovo. Recently, new players like LeEco have further heated up the competition. Last year, Samsung decided it could sit back and watch no longer and came out with the Galaxy J series of smartphones, which offered the best experience the company's devices had ever offered at a price south of $250.

    Samsung launched the Galaxy J1, Galaxy J2, Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J7 in 2015. Over in the Indian market, the company also released the Galaxy On series of smartphones. The Galaxy On5 and Galaxy On7 were similar to the Galaxy J5 and Galaxy J7 for all intents and purposes, except they had a regular LCD display instead of Samsung's excellent Super AMOLED panels. Here in 2016, Samsung has launched successors to all four original Galaxy J devices and also added the Galaxy J3 to the mix (which unnecessarily carries the 2016 tag in its name despite having no 2015 version).

    One would think five new budget smartphones would be enough, but no, Samsung didn't think so. The company, suddenly and completely out of the blue, announced that it had the new Galaxy On5 Pro and Galaxy On7 Pro set to go on sale as well, at least in the Indian market. That takes the total of sub-$250 smartphones from the Korean giant up to seven, and that's not counting devices like the Galaxy J1 Ace and Galaxy J1 mini.


    While more smartphone options, set at different price points, are nice to have, Samsung has made a mockery of the market with so many devices that are too similar to each other. The new Galaxy J2 and Galaxy J3 aren't much different, and neither are the On5 Pro and On7 Pro any unique compared to the Galaxy J5 (2016) and Galaxy J7 (2016). It feels like Samsung isn't looking at making great devices at lower price points, but that it is simply making successors to every device from the last year in order to keep the cash flowing.

    As folks who make their living from using new devices and reviewing them now and then, even we are finding it difficult finding words to describe these extremely similar smartphones. So the 2016 Galaxy J5 and J7 have nice displays, metal for cheap, good performance, and epic battery life. What about the Galaxy On5 Pro and Galaxy On7 Pro? Well, they don't get the nice displays, use a plastic body, and their batteries are smaller. But the On5 Pro is also priced lower than the J2 (2016), yet has better specs and only misses out on the Smart Glow ring. Instead of making separate J and On series devices, wouldn't it be a better idea to lower prices of the J5 (2016) and J7 (2016) and make them accessible to folks with slightly lower budgets?

    Or, maybe the Galaxy J3 (2016) could be more feature-packed than the Galaxy J2 (2016) and take over the On smartphones' place in the market? But Samsung, in its ever impressive wisdom, is simply flooding the market with multiple phones. India is especially crowded – Samsung knows it can't compete with the Chinese alternatives in the budget segment in terms of the overall experience, so it is simply making sure brand recognition and its country-wide offline presence will make consumers lap up anything carrying the Galaxy tag.

    The flagship and mid-range Galaxy lineup is amazingly clean and sensible compared to the mess that is Samsung's budget lineup. It's a huge sign the company has no idea what it can do to fight the competition from the world's most populous country and is just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks (a habit Samsung has had for a long, long time). It's a good strategy to keep business running while you figure things out, but for the consumer, it is becoming increasingly confusing to differentiate between everything Samsung is selling in the affordable smartphone market.