I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with the Samsung Galaxy A02s’ name. It certainly makes it a mouthful to say out loud, and feels a bit silly when a simple typo would bring up results for 2019’s Samsung Galaxy A20s instead.
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Nonetheless, it’s here and it’s cheap, costing £20 less than the slightly disappointing Samsung Galaxy A12. But while the A12’s main fault was down to sluggish performance from a MediaTek chip, the A02s has a Qualcomm processor instead.
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: What you need to know
That Qualcomm chipset isn’t all that recent, as it turns out. The octa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 was mid-range hardware way back in 2017, so it’s not clear how kind the years have been since release. Regardless, it’s backed by 3GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a generous 5,000mAh battery. Both the A12 and A02s are 6.5in handsets, and it’s extremely likely that they use 720p IPS panels plucked from the same production line, too.
They diverge again when it comes to photography, however. While the A12 had a four-camera array led by a 48MP sensor, the A02s simplifies things considerably. It has three cameras, with the 13MP f/2.2 main camera supported by two 2MP f/2.4 lenses – one for depth and another for close-up macro photography.
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Price and competition
For this, you’re looking at paying just £140, which is competitive by anybody’s measure. It’s £20 cheaper than the £160 Galaxy A12, for a start.
It is, however, £10 more expensive than the Moto G10, which is yours for just £130 and powered by the far superior Snapdragon 460 chip. Other competition includes the Nokia 3.4 for £130, the Motorola Moto G30 for £160, and the Realme 7, which has an RRP of £179 but is often found around £150.
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Design
If there’s one thing that Samsung does well, it’s handset design. Whether you’re buying a top-of-the-range Galaxy S21 or something that costs just under a sixth as much, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good-looking phone.
The 6.5in touchscreen dominates the front of the display, with a bezel just a couple of millimetres thick framing the sides and top. This is roughly twice as thick along the bottom of the handset, leading to a prominent chin, but the front-facing camera is neatly concealed in a notchlette at the top of the screen, right in the centre.
Flip it over, and it’s plastic all the way. It’s a good look, though: smooth to the touch and stylishly understated in black, with a faint diamond pattern that becomes more visible when light reflects on it. A white version is also available, but it looks slightly more odd for my money, thanks to the rectangular camera housing being black on both. The camera bump protrudes a tiny bit, but we’re talking a fraction of a millimetre, and the phone certainly doesn’t wobble when placed on its back.
It’s a strong look, and once again Samsung is up there with the best of them in consumer-friendly design choices. There’s both a 3.5mm headphone jack, and support for microSD cards of up to 1TB in capacity. Not only does it also support two SIM cards at once, but you don’t have to choose between expanding your internal storage and using a second microSD.
In short, it would be top marks here if it weren’t for the lack of fingerprint reader – c’mon, Samsung, even the Motorola E6 Plus managed that, and it cost £100 in 2019.
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Screen
Another area where Samsung tends to flourish is on screen quality, and this is another decent budget effort. The 6.5in IPS display has a resolution of 1,600 x 720, which means you’re getting around 270 pixels per inch. That’s low as far as big-screen phones go, but still what you’d expect from your average laptop, so nothing to get too worked up about.
Our colorimeter confirms it’s a solid panel for the money, too, covering 85.1% of the sRGB gamut with a volume of 93.5%. Contrast is excellent at 1,800:1 and it reaches a bright 450cd/m².
All in all, it’s a quality screen for the price, as I’d expect from a Samsung phone. It’s marginally better than the Motorola Moto G10’s panel, but it really is a small difference and, of course, it does cost £10 more.
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Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Performance
Performance is where things begin to fall apart. I started this review hoping that a return to Qualcomm chips would make this a far superior handset to the disappointing Galaxy A12, but it turns out that pretty much any 2021 budget chip beats a 2017 mid-range SoC.
The processor in question is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 450, and in 2017, it was decent, pushing both the HTC Desire 12 Plus and Motorola Moto G6 to middling (the former) and strong (the latter) reviews at their ~£200 price point.
But time is not kind to mobile chips, and even though the A02s felt surprisingly smooth out of the box, the benchmarks don’t lie.
That’s bad. Really bad. In the CPU benchmark above, the Samsung Galaxy A02s is not only significantly slower than the sloth-like Galaxy A12, it’s also behind the Motorola Moto E6 Plus – a phone that sold for much less around two years ago. More importantly for today’s buyer, the £130 Motorola Moto G10 and £160 Moto G30 comfortably beat it, before we even get onto the Realme 7, which leaves it in the dust.
The story’s not much better when it comes to graphical performance, either.
Once again, the Galaxy A02s loses out to the Moto E6 Plus – albeit narrowly this time – and is trounced by everything else. Indeed, the best thing you can say about the Galaxy A02s’ performance is that it makes the disappointing Galaxy A12 look good by contrast.
Fortunately, there is a bright spot. Thanks to the 5,000mAh battery and 720p screen, the Samsung Galaxy A02s’ stamina is excellent. In our looped video battery test, we found it went nearly 22hrs 30mins without needing a recharge.
Even then, however, it’s shown up by the Samsung Galaxy A12, which managed three-and-a-half hours more on the same test.
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Camera
Despite lacking a fingerprint reader, Samsung has found enough budget to squeeze three cameras onto the Galaxy A02s. A main 13MP f/2.2 camera is supported by two 2MP f/2.4 lenses – one for depth and the other for macro photography.
The camera actually fares pretty well, assuming lighting is on your side. Even on a slightly overcast morning, I was able to get a nice image of the local church with ample detail: budget phone cameras have come a long way in four years, even if the chipsets are being reused.
Unfortunately, anything the A02s can do, the Moto G10 can do better. And so it proves with photography. Here, the same shots taken at the same time are zoomed in, and you can see that while both are good, the Moto G10 is just that bit more detailed.
In low-light conditions, the Galaxy A02s struggles a bit, which is hardly surprising given the narrow f/2.2 aperture. This picture in my garden at sunset isn’t terrible, but it’s obvious that a lot of detail is lost:
Sure enough, zoomed in the Moto G10 triumphs here too. Neither are especially great examples of photography, but it’s clear that A02s is the noisier of two noisy snaps.
The front-facing camera is a 5MP affair, which is a bit on the low side when you compare with pretty much every other selfie lens around these days. In truth, it’s fine – though avoid the beautification options which verge on the comic. My eyes looked a bit alien-like when dialled up to max.
The phone supports video capture in 1080p or 720p at 30fps. It’s serviceable enough, but it doesn’t benefit from either optical or electronic stabilisation, and tends to struggle with sudden changes of light.
Samsung Galaxy A02s review: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy A02s feels like a return to the bad old days when cheap handsets sold based on name recognition, even if the internals bore little resemblance to the brand’s trusted products. This may be a Galaxy in name and looks, but the four-year-old processor makes it a pretty poor choice in 2021 – especially when the Motorola Moto G10 is £10 cheaper and is the same or better on every metric.
Either save £10 and buy that, or spend a little more and hunt for a discounted Realme 7. Don’t, however, buy this.
|Samsung Galaxy A02s specifications|
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 (1.8GHz)|
|Screen resolution||1,600 x 720|
|Screen refresh rate||60Hz|
|Front camera||5MP (f/2.2)|
|Rear camera||13MP (f/2.2), 2MP (f/2.4) macro, 2MP (f/2.4) depth|
|Dust and water resistance||No|
|3.5mm headphone jack||Yes|
|USB connection type||USB-C|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD|
|Dimensions (WDH)||164 x 76 x 9.1mm|
|Operating system||Android 10|