Budget phones are where it's at lately. Some of Samsung's mid-range handsets like the Galaxy A10e have topped the charts even in key markets like the United States. With the global economy taking a turn for the worse because of the pandemic, we're bound to see an uptick in demand for affordable devices.
The word “affordable” is relative, but for the sake of simplicity let's just limit it to smartphones that cost around $100. There are plenty of options from Chinese OEMs in this range and Samsung is wading into the pool with the Galaxy A01. Clearly, the company is looking to succeed in this segment with this device. Its not as barebones as something like the Galaxy A2 Core but it doesn't break new ground for phones in this segment of the market either.
Galaxy A01 hands-on: First impressions
The Galaxy A01 displays the Samsung branding on the back proudly but you need to have a keen eye and an understanding of where Samsung phones are made to realize that this isn't a phone that the Korean giant is making itself. That becomes evident immediately when you spot the Made in China tag on the box.
This is actually another ODM (original device equipment) phone from Samsung. What that means is the Galaxy A01 is actually made by a third-party for Samsung which in this case is Shanghai-based Huaqin Telecom, a company that also makes phones for Huawei.
The phone is still made to Samsung's strict specifications but the company is shifting some of its entry-level phones to the ODM strategy in order to cut costs and offer these devices at a lower price. The result is a device that doesn't feel as “Samsung-y” as you'd expect and that's largely because of the materials used and the way this phone has been put together.
Galaxy A01 display
As if the chunky chin wasn't enough, the substantial bezels are hard to ignore as well, and that's something that really takes you by surprise when you hold the phone for the first time. Some Chinese OEMs are pushing the envelope when it comes to bezels on low-end devices as well so you have to dock the Galaxy A01 some points for this.
There's obviously no expectation that the display will be able to knock your socks off. The 5.7-inch HD+ Infinity-V LCD display can't hold a candle to the AMOLED panels found even in the most affordable of Samsung phones. We have also found in our preliminary testing that it struggles out in bright sunlight as well.
Galaxy A01 performance
The Galaxy A01 is powered by the Snapdragon 439 processor and paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Qualcomm has made this chip, its first on the 12nm process, for entry-level smartphones. The octa-core chip allows for seamless multi-tasking on paper, but that's not the impression you get even after powering up the phone for the first time.
Even before you've filled it up with your favorite apps and media, you can notice the phone struggling under the load as animations stutter and apps take longer to launch or close. That's despite the fact that the Galaxy A01 runs on One UI Core 2.0, an iteration of One UI that's optimized for low-end devices.
Galaxy A01 hands-on: Preliminary conclusion
Does it feel as compelling as a budget smartphone like something from the Galaxy M series even? After spending a couple of days with the Galaxy A01, we can tell you that it doesn't. This device feels more geared towards not customers who routinely buy entry-level phones but more so towards those who may be buying their first smartphone.
In that particular context, we'll look at the device's performance, battery life, camera quality and more in our in-depth review of the Galaxy A01. Stick around, it's going to be up in around a week.