Even with the onslaught of Chinese players with their feature-packed smartphones at attractive price points, the Korean giant Samsung has been able to maintain its top spot. As per Canalys and IDC, the brand has been able to maintain a healthy lead in comparison to its nearest rival(s) in the smartphone segment. Samsung’s budget Galaxy J series has played a key role in ensuring this lead, as both the Galaxy J5 (review) and J7 (first impressions), released last year, are among the most popular mobile phones in India, and the brand also released their successors recently.
With its latest offering, the Galaxy J3 (first impressions), Samsung is trying to replicate its success in the affordable segment as well. The J3 packs in decent hardware, but more importantly, comes with an innovative feature that was developed in India. However, the competition in this category is even stiffer, and it will take more than just good specs for the handset to make a mark for itself. So, has the Galaxy J3 succeeded in doing that? Read on to find out.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||HD (720 x 1280 pixels)|
|CPU||Quad core, 1.5 GHz, Spreadtrum SC9830A|
|Internal memory||8 GB|
|External memory||Up to 128 GB|
|Capacity||2600 mAH, Li-ion|
|Talktime||Up to 13 Hours (3G)|
|Primary camera||8 MP|
|Secondary camera||5 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
Design: strong family ties
Dimensions: 142.3 x 71 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 138 grams
If you look at the Galaxy J3, we’re sure you’d be able to recognise that it’s a Samsung smartphone. However, even if we hand it over to you, we’re almost certain you won’t be able to guess the model name. That’s because the J3 looks like just any other budget offering from the Korean giant.
With the use of a 5-inch display panel, the Samsung Galaxy J3 is quite compact and nestles in the hands perfectly. Using it with a single hand is a delight, and at 138g, it’s quite lightweight as well. It might not be the slimmest phone around, but at 7mm, it’s thinner than most devices available in its segment.
Along with the display at the front, the Galaxy J3 features an earpiece, a couple of sensors, a secondary snapper and Samsung’s logo above and the typical format of keys for navigation at the bottom. The physical home button is sandwiched between two capacitive keys, meant for recent apps and returning to the previous screen, respectively.
The edges of the phone feature a faux-metal trim. Here you’ll find the power button placed on the right, whereas the volume rocker is available on the left edge. The audio socket can be found up top, while the micro-USB port for charging and data transfers is at the base, along with a microphone.
The rear features a matte finish and houses the primary camera sandwiched between an LED flash and a speaker grille. There’s a Samsung logo in the middle and a mention of 4G further below. The matte finish ensures that the phone doesn’t slip easily even when your hands are sweaty. Removing the back panel exposes the user-replaceable battery, a pair of SIM slots and a microSD card slot.
Overall, the Galaxy J3 features the same ol’ Samsung design language, and the only thing we like about it is its compact build, making it an ideal option for one-hand usage.
Display: decent for its price
Size: 5.0 Inch
Resolution: HD (720 x 1280 pixels)
Display Type: Super AMOLED
Pixel Density: 294 ppi
With a 5-inch size, the screen on the Galaxy J3 offers good sharpness thanks to its 720p resolution. Of course, with a pixel density of 294 pixels per inch, it’s not really the sharpest display available. That said, it’s fine for most purposes unless you see it closely, which is when pixelation is visible. The AMOLED screen tech used by Samsung ensures that the colour reproduction is spot on, and brightness levels are also decent. Sadly, the phone misses out on an ambient light sensor, which seems quite odd considering most phones in its price segment offer this feature. There’s an outdoor mode, which helps in making the display legible under sunlight, though the screen remains reflective which somewhat defeats the purpose.
The viewing angles are also fine. You can also change the colour reproduction by choosing between the Adaptive display, AMOLED cinema, AMOLED photo and Basic modes. Sadly, the phone misses out on a screen protection layer, and hence we’d suggest you to apply a screen guard to act as a safeguard against scratches.
Software: as expected
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.1.1, Lollipop
While Samsung’s latest and greatest, the S7 duo, come with the goodness of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the Galaxy J3 is stuck with the old 5.1 Lollipop. The platform is topped up with Samsung’s custom skin dubbed TouchWiz. The interface is exactly the way you’d expect in offerings from the Korean brand – you get a dedicated app launcher, the notification bar with quick toggles menu on the top and a theme manager to change the look and feel of the interface.
While there’s not much bloatware, there are some apps and games that come preloaded on the Samsung Galaxy J3. These include Microsoft apps like Skype and the Office suite, along with demo versions of games such as Midnight Pool 2 and Prince of Persia. There’s MyGalaxy app as well, which lets you find best deals on popular services like eBay, Paytm, and Nearbuy, among a dozen others. Smart Manager is another useful app which provides an at-a-glance view of phone’s storage, RAM, battery, etc.
Ultra data saving mode is also a highly-useful feature. Samsung debuted this with its budget offering, the Galaxy J2 (first impressions), and now is bringing it to all its phone models. As the name suggests, the feature lets you conserve data usage. It’s powered by Opera Max and works with websites as well as apps, including audio or video streaming apps.
S Bike mode: tailor-made for bike riders
The trump card of the Samsung Galaxy J3 is its S Bike mode. The brand actually surveyed its target consumers and realised that most of them are youngsters who ride two-wheelers. To make their commute easier, it came up with an indigenously-developed solution.
The premise of S Bike mode is that the bike rider should have a smooth and safe driving experience, and not be bothered with phone calls. To ensure that remains the case, the S Bike mode does two things – it blocks incoming calls unless it’s super important, and you can’t pick a call until you stop and accept it.
The S Bike mode doesn’t require any setup, and you all you need to do is to turn it on by long-pressing the power button or going to the notification panel. However, the best way to enable it is to stick the bundled NFC sticker to your bike or helmet, which lets you switch the mode on simply by tapping the Samsung Galaxy J3 on it. Another reason we liked this idea is because you might forget to enable the mode manually, but this brings in a behavioural habit and is also instantaneous.
Now you may be wondering how the device identifies urgent calls. Well, for that, Samsung has set up a pre-recorded message which plays whenever someone calls your number. It says that “the person you’re trying to reach is riding a bike and can’t take your call.” And, after that comes the interesting part – “If you want the person to stop the bike and take your urgent call, then press 1.” In this case, the call gets through and the ringtone is louder to alert you. Of course, you can decide whether you still want to pick up the call or not, and if you want to accept, then you’d need to stop the bike, which ensures safety.
The interface of the S Bike mode is extremely user-friendly and lets you see notifications, set up a smart reply and check your rides. With the first option, you can see all the calls that you missed while you were riding. The second option is quite useful, as it lets you draft a message which will be sent automatically to a select few, in case they call you. The message mentions that you are currently driving, and give an estimated time as to when you can call them back, depending upon the location you have fed. Lastly, you can see your ride statistics such as travel distance and time.
Camera: strictly for casual photos
Primary camera: 8 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP
The Samsung Galaxy J3 is decidedly a budget offering, and that’s quite apparent with its specs. The same ideology continues in the camera department as well. An 8-megapixel sensor is mounted at the back, while at the front, it gets a 5MP shooter for selfies. The rear camera also gets an LED flash to illuminate low-light conditions.
The camera app available on the Galaxy J3 is similar to other Samsung smartphones, offering the option to capture still shots or videos, switch to the front camera, preview images / videos or change various modes with the buttons on the right when the phone is kept in the landscape orientation. You can also toggle flash, self-timer or enable various effects with the options on the left. The settings menu lets you choose the picture or video size, turn on gridlines, or choose the function of the volume keys – take pictures, record a video or zoom in. Talking about effects, the options seem to be limited to only grayscale, sepia, and negative. The modes are interesting as even though the J3 is a low-cost option, it lets you control ISO levels along with whitebalance and exposure. Other modes on offer include continuous shot, sound and shot, HDR and more.
So, does the Galaxy J3 impress when it comes to the image quality? Well, if you’re looking for casual photographs, then you’d be fine. The images shot by the phone offer decent sharpness and nice colours in daylight, though noise creeps in when you see them in the full resolution. Images shot indoors also seem to be fine, but low-light conditions spell trouble. We didn’t find the HDR mode to be effective either.
Take a look at some of the pictures captured by the Samsung Galaxy J3.
The phone can also capture videos in 720p. The front camera on the Samsung Galaxy J3 does a fine job for selfies.
As can be seen from the images, the Galaxy J3 isn’t necessarily bad in terms of its photography prowess, but actually, the competition is much better.
Performance: manages to keep up the pace
CPU: Quad core, 1.5 GHz, Spreadtru…
GPU: Mali-400 MP2
RAM: 1.5 GB
Memory: 8 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 2600 mAH
Doing the grunt work inside the Samsung Galaxy J3 is a quad-core chipset running at 1.3GHz. It’s combined with 1.5GB of RAM. Sadly, the processor isn’t from leading chip maker Qualcomm or its Taiwanese rival MediaTek, but it’s from relatively lesser known company Spreadtrum. The hardware packs in decent firepower and manages to handle basic navigation or multiple apps well. Playing games is a smooth experience too, for the most part at least.
There were noticeable jerks or lags while playing casual titles such as Subway Surfers or graphics-heavy Riptide GP2. We also noticed occasional hangups while navigating from one screen to the other. The good thing however, is that the phone doesn’t heat up, even after prolonged usage.
Storage is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Samsung Galaxy J3. The devices feature a paltry 8GB of memory on board, out of which around 4.1GB is available to the end user. At a time when even lower-priced smartphones are offering 16 gigs of internal storage or more, Samsung’s decision is baffling. You can extend the available storage up to 32GB with the use of a microSD card, but that’s primarily meant for multimedia files since many apps can’t be installed on the external storage.
The battery life of the Galaxy J3 is stellar. The handset packs in a 2,600mAh battery but don’t go by its capacity as it can go on and on. In day-to-day usage, it can easily last more than a day even with heavy usage of GPS, Wi-Fi, etc. In case of light use, the phone can be kept away from the charger for more than two days. In our video loop test, where we play an HD video with both the volume and brightness set at 50 percent and Wi-Fi turned off, the phone was able to last 11 hours. You can also enable the power-saving mode which enhances the battery by limiting the CPU performance and reducing brightness among other things.
Priced at Rs 8,999, the Samsung Galaxy J3 is priced quite well and sits below other devices from the Korean giant. It fares decently well in the hardware department, be it the display or the cameras or the performance. Where it shines though are highly-practical features such as the S Bike and UDS mode.
However, it’s up against some really powerful options. If you’re looking for a compact smartphone, the Lenovo VIBE K5 Plus (review) is a good choice, though its battery life is average. Coolpad Note 3 (review | FAQs) and its upgraded sibling, the Note 3 Plus (first impressions) are other brilliant options and come with some premium features such as 3 gigs of RAM and fingerprint scanners. If you can increase your budget slightly, then there’s the segment leader – the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review), which comes with loaded hardware.
If you are after a branded offering and ride a bike, then the Samsung Galaxy J3 could be an apt choice for you, but otherwise, there are much better options out there.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Decent hardware
- Long-lasting battery
- S Bike mode is extremely useful
- Display isn’t as sharp
- Average cameras
- Older build of Android
- Internals not as powerful as the competition
Photos by Raj Rout