Samsung recently allowed us the opportunity to review its Galaxy A50 and this may just be a perfect device if you're looking for a great mid-range device that doesn't break the bank. Starting at prices as low as $267 on Amazon with a retail starting at $299, the Samsung Galaxy A50 is essentially a budget-friendly flagship.
Not only was Samsung's goal with the newly relaunch A-series to provide precisely that experience. It also built the gadget with the future in mind. Namely, this is a smartphone that strives to deliver forward-thinking software. The company aligned that with hardware powerful enough to smoothly execute that.
Because of that approach, there are many use cases where this smartphone is going to be indistinguishable from a flagship for most users. That's definitely a good thing but it's also not without caveats, given that Samsung chose to use lesser hardware to keep the cost low. It's going to be well worth exploring exactly what those are.
But, even at under $300, nobody should expect any big dealbreakers here. This smartphone is ready to take on just about anybody's needs.
Hardware and design belie bolstered power under the hood
When discussing the build and hardware of the Samsung Galaxy A50, the first thing to note is that it isn't technically rated against incursion. So it isn't waterproof in any sense of the word. The device will stand up to splashes, sweat, and other light wetting. But it's a bad idea to expect this handset to withstand heavy rain or submersion.
Setting those caveats aside, this smartphone does feel extremely well made. Despite Samsung choosing to use a flat panel at the front, the in-hand feel is similar to that of its flagships. That is, of course, thanks to a similar design on the rear panel. That back portion also feels like glass, although Samsung hasn't explicitly made that claim and calls the design "Glasstic." It's also substantially more bendy. So it does feel weaker than that other premium material.
Simultaneously, all of the buttons and ports are snug-fitting without any wiggle. The inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack is included too, a feature that's becoming a rarity despite blowback from consumers over its removal.
As a result, this phone genuinely feels like a flagship when it's in use.
In terms of looks, Samsung opted to include a water-drop style notch in what it dubs is an Infinity-U screen. The earphone speaker resides in a grill-covered slot above that forward-facing camera and the 'chin' area is kept slim. As noted earlier, the rear panel looks and feels like glass, accented by metal-feel rounded edges.
Thanks in part to that and in part to Samsung using slim-profile cameras on the back, with great color options, the Samsung Galaxy A50 looks as much the part as it feels in terms of comparing to modern flagships.
Samsung offers this handset in Black, White, Blue, or Coral. Each is 'inspired' by 'scattered light' and that shows in how it reflects light. My Samsung Galaxy A50 review unit is the Blue coloration but it hardly looks the part under most lighting. There's just a hint of blue, typically visible around the edges or across the entire device under flat lighting.
Under most other circumstances, the device shows tints of rainbow-effect not dissimilar to what's seen with the Galaxy S and Note flagship series devices. A lot of dark, almost-black hue shows through that across the majority of the device's surface, shifting to purple under natural sunlight. It's an almost intoxicating effect to watch with shifting light.
All of that sets the phone up to be great looking but also to feel great to use. It's anything but cheap although it does fall short of a flagship's expectations.
Samsung's display offers the first hints at the Galaxy A50's flagship-like prowess
I mentioned above that the screen on the Samsung Galaxy A50 follows the company's Infinity-U design and leaves most of the front side open for UI interactions. But that's also a Samsung-built AMOLED panel, following — again — in line with its flagship gadgetry. What that meant for me throughout my review of the Galaxy A50 was that blacks were pitch and colors are super vibrant.
Color tones are adjustable just like a high-end Samsung as well. Found in the settings under the "Display" submenu, there are a total of four options with advanced settings. The adaptive display mode is the default and the most adjustable. The display under that mode does what it says, adapting to best suit the content that's being displayed and the external light conditions.
In adaptive settings, unlike the remaining four modes, Samsung offers users the ability to adjust white balance from warm to cool. It also provides all the sliders needed to adjust individually for reds, greens, and blues. From there, Samsung also included AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo, and basic screen modes.
Of course, the company includes a blue light filter and associated options too. That's on top of Samsung OneUI Android 9 Pie Night mode, which can be turned on automatically depending on the time of day or all the time. Finally, Samsung includes all of the usual display settings in addition to always-on display options, just like in its flagship devices.
Thanks to Samsung's decision to utilize an FHD+ (1080 x 2340) resolution for the 6.4-inch panel, there's not much by way of pixelation either. All things considered, the screen acted as a substantial part of why I never missed my flagship device during my use and review. In fact, I ended up using this device almost exclusively throughout that process.
Setting aside all of the top-end-style adjustments and tools, Samsung's display here is extremely responsive. I never noticed a bit of lag in inputs. There was one caveat and problem I found worth noting. This display doesn't quite shine brightly enough to be easily read under bright sunlight. Under every other condition, it works almost flawlessly.
The Samsung Galaxy A50 is sensationally good on the performance front
In terms of performance, the entire experience with Samsung's Galaxy A50 can be best described as consistent. That's consistent with Samsung's Galaxy S and Note series devices. Of course, this isn't a flagship, as its Exynos 9610 SoC can attest. But Samsung has spent a lot of time to make the experience as close as possible.
Throughout my review of the Galaxy A50, the optimization meant that while apps launched a bit slower than on my Galaxy Note 10+, they didn't launch with enough delay to become annoying. Once loaded up, app performance was stellar. That remained the case even when I opened up applications in split-screen or pop-out views. Multitasking here is great.
One issue I did make a note of was that there are some apps where the performance seemed a bit lacking. For the most part, those were apps designed for photo and video editing. Since Android devices, in general, have issues performing those tasks quickly, I wasn't too surprised. But it's worth pointing out.
The phone also showed issues with latency in long-term app use. That's in terms of app responsiveness. Primarily, that happened when the phone was left on and running an app or a few apps over long periods without exiting the app. That, presumably, comes back to the amount of memory on this phone. So it isn't surprising that happened.
Samsung built its new A-series devices with the goal of emulating a flagship experience with the only minor, expected caveats showing up across the board. And in terms of phone performance, it mostly succeeded at that goal.
The touch input performance was accurate and snappy. The in-display fingerprint scanner worked precisely as well as hoped. Unlike Samsung's flagships, this fingerprint reader didn't suffer latency or inaccuracy issues. Instead, it responded more like a traditional fingerprint scanner. That is to say, the scanner worked more quickly than either Samsung heavy-hitter. It was also accurate almost 100-percent of the time.
Camera performance isn't perfect but is consistent with Samsung's A-series goals
The biggest advantage the cameras in the Samsung Galaxy A50 offer are all on the software side. The camera sensors perform admirably. But the detail capture and zoom functionality just aren't as great as one might think. After all, this is an affordable smartphone.
Samsung ships the Galaxy A50 with a triple camera on the back and a single selfie-snapper. Digging into that reveals a 25-megapixel primary snapper, matched by the 25-megapixel forward-facing camera. The rear panel also houses an 8-megapixel ultra-wide lens and a 5-megapixel sensor for depth, live focusing, and enhancements. Put simply, Samsung set these lenses up to take advantage of the same software in its flagships.
The way the software handles those and the sensors themselves aren't going to equate to the best experience on the market. As can be seen via our Flickr gallery for this Samsung Galaxy A50 review, color accuracy is high. But details tend to get lost.
That latter issue is almost certainly tied to how autofocusing and user-initiated refocusing work. Samsung appears to have tuned that just a little too tightly.
As a result, the area that's within focus is narrower. The camera also produces artifacts far too easily. In particular, I noticed artifacts when night mode was off and the camera was pointed at Christmas lights. It effectively recreated additional points of light off to the side of the subject and where there shouldn't have been any.
In terms of other caveats, there are several. In night mode, the camera also tends toward the yellow end of the color spectrum. For zooming, the biggest caveat seems to be a heavy degree of pixelation even at just 4x zoom. Don't expect 2K or 4K video captures on the video side of things either. The camera shoots those at a Full-HD resolution, resulting in heavier blurring and less stability in high-action captures.
Setting aside those caveats, this camera actually performs quite well. It's even fair to say that it performs better than the majority of other smartphones in its price range. The software is also identical to Samsung's flagships. AR stickers and tools, live focus, super slow motion, and other features are present and accounted for. Those all work as well as can be expected, exceeding my initial predictions for the camera based on the rest of the experience.
Speakers and audio aren't surprising, don't disappoint
It should be fairly obvious by now that smartphone speakers, with just one or two exceptions, are pretty terrible. That's not going to change much in the Samsung Galaxy A50 either, with my review showing speakers that start out somewhat tinny and only get worse at higher volumes. a minimum, at least there's no distortion to be found in the speakers.
The speakers here are also loud and have a bit better balance than other smartphone speakers I've tested at this price range. That isn't quite enough to get rid of the underlying treble issue. But it's better than might be expected.
Unfortunately, things don't do a complete turn-around when using the 3.5mm audio jack. Although it's always good to see a company continue using the port, the audio on that front isn't quite as powerful as some other phones. And that includes phones within the $250 – $400 price bracket.
To clarify, the audio quality over wired or Bluetooth isn't bad by any stretch. It just isn't as good as I'd hoped for from a Samsung that was supposed to emulate a top-level handset. Samsung could have put a bit more effort into its audio but it also could have been much worse. The Galaxy A50 reviewed here isn't at all a high-end device. So this twist in the testing results isn't at all bad or even surprising.
There are going to be caveats to any device within a family as pricing gets lower. This phone can't be expected to live up to the Galaxy A70 or A90 entirely. It's also unreasonable to expect every aspect to match up with the S or Note series Samsung devices. It just so happens that this handset suffers some on the audio front in that regard.
The Galaxy A50 software is all but indistinguishable from a Samsung flagship
On the software front, users aren't going to miss out on much by buying a Samsung Galaxy A50 instead of the Samsung Galaxy S-series devices. Samsung's software takes the lead here just as it does with other devices made by the company. But, as with the other phones that Samsung has put out operating on OneUI, the software doesn't feel too bloated or redundant.
The key differences here are mostly hardware related. For example, this phone doesn't hold extra features associated with the edge-heavy displays used on Samsung top-tier gadgets. Otherwise, the company provides all of the settings and features found on a Galaxy S or Note device.
Over the course of my review, the lack of contrast between this sub-$300 device and Samsung's $1000+ devices on the software front was probably the most astonishing aspect of the phone. I found myself looking for differences and not really finding many.
Probably the best part about that is the fact that the phone was still easy to navigate even at 6.4-inches. OneUI places interactive elements on the lower half of the screen while the upper half shows items that can't be tapped or interacted with. That made it easy to use the Samsung Galaxy A50 throughout my review without ever needing to stretch my thumb except to access notifications.
Simultaneously, Samsung also worked in some elements of Android 10 with this handset. While it is still possible to change to on-screen buttons and to customize those with Samsung's Good Lock app, it's all gesture-based by default after an update to the firmware. That consisted of three swipe bars at the bottom. Samsung assigned the right-hand swipe bar as a back button, while the center works as a home key and the left-hand bar is the recent apps button.
It was surprisingly intuitive to navigate with those swipe-up gestures. The company additionally decided to set a short swipe up or down on home screens to launch the app drawer, making that process even easier. All of that is a step forward from software in Samsung's past, which wasn't always consistent with stock Android and often felt bloated.
Battery life follows Galaxy flagship devices as readily as the software experience
One of the most interesting aspects of the Samsung Galaxy A50 that I noticed during my review is that battery life and charging are remarkably similar to another Samsung I happen to use daily. Namely, that's the company's Galaxy Note 10+.
On the battery usage front, of course, results are going to vary. But in terms of my own testing and usage, I divide battery usage into four separate categories. Throughout the battery tests and for this Galaxy A50 review, those are video streaming time, music listening, gaming, and standby. The latter category includes light web browsing, phone calls at just one or two short calls per day, dozens of messages through various apps, and literal standby time.
For standby time with this test, I used the Galaxy A50 for eight hours and 43 minutes total. The overnight time for that should drop the battery capacity by just a few percentage points, based on my test.
For the screen-on use, 30 minutes was listening to music streaming out of a total of 2 hours with the screen off. I spent four hours and six minutes watching videos or movies. The phone was working to run some relatively hardware-intensive games for just fifteen minutes short of three hours during my test. That all stacks up to around seven hours and 21 minutes of screen-on time.
In total, that equates to just over 17.5 hours of use on a single charge. Because this phone utilizes 15W fast charging, its 4,000mAh capacity battery filled up in just 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The battery life and charging with the Samsung Galaxy A50 is approximately the same as I've managed with my 2019 flagship Samsung device. That's impressive for a device that mostly performs like a flagship at just $299.99 retail.
Summarily, Samsung has done a great job here emulating its flagship experience. Battery life can actually get much better too, with proper adjustments.
For my review, I kept automatic brightness and battery-saving features turned off. I placed the volume level right at just a click below Android's high-volume warning message threshold. Brightness fell in at right around 75-percent. Because all of that contributes to a higher-than-necessary battery drain, it should be patently easy to get at least a couple of more hours of use out of the Galaxy A50 even within the context of screen-on time.
Connections work as expected
In terms of connectivity, I can't speak for connections on every network. My review of the Samsung Galaxy A50 took place primarily on a Straight Talk network powered by AT&T. In that regard, it worked flawlessly. Throughout my test, I didn't drop a connection even once. Phone calls were clear on both ends, with or without speakerphone. And the same held true for calls made with Bluetooth headphones.
In terms of other Bluetooth connections, I tested the Galaxy A50 across multiple devices and multiple categories of accessories. Whether I was using a Bluetooth gamepad, headphones, or connecting to other phones, the connection stayed solid. That's not surprising since its an accomplishment most phones pull off. But it's still pretty great because that isn't always the case 100-percent of the time. So it's good to see Samsung pull through here.
NFC worked as expected as well and Wi-Fi didn't suffer any drops or hiccups either. So using this phone for some light online gaming, uploading photos, making transactions, or pretty much any other connection is going to be almost identical to any flagship around.
The sole exception to that is going to come when compared to dedicated gaming devices. Those typically have better-than-average connections and software to help manage those. But this isn't a gaming phone. So it performs well within my expectations and surpasses at least some experiences I've had with connectivity in the past.
For wired connectivity, Samsung doesn't include the usual adapter for phone-to-phone links. It has included those with its flagships and those adapters should perform as flawlessly and quickly as other functions here. But I didn't test that for my review of the Samsung Galaxy A50.
This phone easily steals its place among the best in its category
The Samsung Galaxy A50 is, without question, among the highest-value devices on the planet. Not only has Samsung gone out of its way in a bid to recreate an experience that emulates its flagships. The company has arguably achieved that very goal.
Power users, of course, will note issues here and there. The camera isn't quite as detail-rich. There are photo artifacts that can appear under certain circumstances. Audio, even via headphones, isn't quite top-notch but won't be noticeable except to those with the most sensitive ears.
Although there are obvious aspects of the design that fall short, that's chiefly down to cost-cutting measures. And Samsung has done a great job where it really matters. Each of those caveats is eloquently masked, moved just below the surface where they simply don't come to light often, if at all. For those accustomed to the budget-friendly mid-range, the Galaxy A50 feels like a step forward for the entire category.