Hands-on: This is the Galaxy J2 Core, Samsung’s Android Go smartphone

Samsung’s first step into the Android Go segment comes in the form of the Galaxy J2 Core. We were the first to reveal the phone in live pictures ahead of its official announcement, and other than the absence of an AMOLED display, leaked specs were rather spot on as well. The J2 Core, like other Android Go phones, is designed to offer a light and relatively quick Android experience with basic specs, especially low memory. There’s just 1GB of RAM on the Galaxy J2 Core, so it’s up to lighter versions of Google’s official apps and various memory management tools to ensure the phone runs well despite the low-end specs.

Galaxy J2 Core hands-on

We were finally able to get our hands on an actual Galaxy J2 Core following its launch in India. We have the phone in blue, and as you can see in the pictures, it looks pretty nice in that color. The J2 Core is priced at ₹6,190, roughly $90, and it’s good to see Samsung is offering at least one funky color option. The back panel – which is removable – also feels different than Samsung’s usual plastic backs for its budget phones. Well, that or we just haven’t used a Galaxy phone with a basic plastic back cover in a while and have forgotten how it feels. It’s smooth and a little slippery, but thanks to the 5-inch display, that shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to handling.

The front of the phone is all black, but sadly, Samsung has also placed its logo below the display. The bezels are also quite big, which is to be expected for a Samsung phone priced so low. And if you are wondering why software navigation keys were needed here, it’s clearly Samsung’s attempt to make things uniform across its Galaxy lineup. After all, now that flagship Galaxies have software keys, it’s only natural for the same to trickle down to lower priced devices. However, that also means unlocking this phone is a chore, since there’s no fingerprint sensor or physical home key.

Okay, now let’s talk about the reason this phone exists: Android Go. While a proper verdict on performance can only be given after a few days of usage, the J2 Core feels quick and smooth out of the box. There has been much contention about the fact that Samsung has slapped its custom interface on the J2 Core, but the company seems to have stripped away many features to keep things lighter than other Galaxy devices. For example, there’s no Advanced features menu in the settings. The recent apps screen, meanwhile, just shows all running apps as separate cards instead of overlapping ones.

But while general navigation feels smooth, browsing isn’t as nice. Both Chrome and the Go version of Samsung’s Internet app skip a few frames when scrolling through a website. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since the J2 Core is running off the entry-level quad-core Exynos 7570 chip. Thankfully, the Go versions of Google’s proprietary apps, such as YouTube and Assistant, seem very optimized as they have a more basic interface than the full-fledged apps. Of course, it remains to be seen how good the phone’s performance remains after a few weeks of usage. Samsung has built in the option to install apps directly to a microSD slot, and an uncrowded internal storage should help matters.

To be frank, our time with the Android Go phone has been rather short at this point. It feels well optimized for the specs under the hood, but we will need to test it out extensively to come to any sort of conclusion. For its price tag, it certainly seems like a better option than Samsung’s Tizen phones, so keep an eye out for our full review in the coming days.

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