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South Africa’s lineup of mid-range smartphones has had some of its mediocrity mitigated thanks to the Samsung Galaxy A32.
Very high praise that, but it speaks to the environment we find ourselves in where Samsung is turning heads on every market level. Also, the competition in this segment is fierce and manufacturers have the difficult job of balancing affordability with a satisfying hardware package.
The Galaxy A32 arrived earlier this year alongside its A Series siblings, the A52 and A72, and is a direct successor to last year’s A31.
Prices for the A32 start at R5 499, with both LTE and 5G models available, and it sits in the same price ballpark as Huawei’s P40 Lite and the Oppo A53s.
We spent a month with the A32 and here’s what we thought…
I was shocked when I first saw the A32. The phone looks nothing like anything else in the entire Samsung range, let alone the A Series lineup. The single large camera hump is forfeited for standalone lenses that are neatly arranged and stick out solitarily in the top left of the rear.
Personally, I like it. The completely flat back makes the phone feel upmarket and the absence of black surfacing around the lenses positively contributes to the aesthetic.
The overall frame of the device is more angular and sharper than the A31 with its flat sides, though it has retained its large black chin at the bottom of the display. Build quality is up to standard. The back may be plastic but it’s soft to the touch and the device’s weight of 184 grams combine to create a phone that’s great to hold.
What excites me about mid-range phones is when we see features that were introduced on flagships trickle down to more affordable devices. Case in point: displays with higher framerates.
The A32 comes equipped with a 6.4-inch 90Hz Super AMOLED 1080p display. A 90Hz screen is not new in this segment (Oppo got there first). However, its addition is a positive one due to Samsung treating the display as a priority. It’s a great display for general and entertainment viewing. Dual speakers would have been a nice addition to binge-watch Shadow & Bone.
Brightness caps out at 800 nits and the A32 has kept the giant black chin bezel from the A31. The chin throws the display’s balance off and it looks ungainly.
Galaxy A32 camera
The A32 boasts a camera system near identical to its A52 sibling. The rear setup includes a 64MP main lens, an 8MP ultrawide lens, a 5MP macro lens, and a 5MP depth sensor.
A 20MP selfie camera on the front captures your better side — and it does a decent job.
The A32 continues Samsung’s trend of adding too much colour to the shots. Everything is a tad more saturated than it should be.
However, the shots are sharp and thanks to pixel binning, they have a decent amount of zoom potential. Samsung also excels with its Night Mode. Provided you can keep your hand steady, the resulting pictures are outstanding.
Samsung’s phone cameras come decked out with a variety of filming features. There are dedicated modes for portraiture, 720p and 1080p video recording at 30FPS, and more fun stuff like Slow Motion and Hyperlapse.
Overall, the A32’s camera meets everyone’s needs.
Undergoing a benchmark test for non-stop usage, the A32’s battery lasted for 12 hours and 40 minutes.
The 5 000mAh battery pack in the Galaxy A31 was one of the phone’s best features.
It was a solid battery that kept the phone going for around two days between charges.
I was initially concerned that the addition of a 90Hz display would impact the new phone’s battery life but I stand satisfied. The A32 offers a good run between charges just under the 48-hour mark with general usage.
Easily, the A32’s greatest weakness is its Mediatek Helio G80 chipset. The octa-core chip struggles to perform beyond general usage. Even then, I had instances when the phone took a moment to decide if it wanted to open an app or not.
It’s especially a problem when accessing the camera and taking photos. It takes its sweet time processing the shot to the point you’ve moved the phone while waiting and you’ve gone and ruined it.
Twice I had instances where it simply gave up and threw me out of the app and back to the home menu.
This reflects across the entire phone experience and it is severe enough that it will put some users off.
There’s another thing about the A32 range that’s somewhat bizarre. Samsung puts you in a bind when you have to decide between the LTE and 5G models of the phone.
Yes, 5G connectivity will only cost you R500 more. But with that, you are forced to forgo the 90Hz display in favour of a 720p TNT. Not only that, the main camera lens size drops from 64MP to 48MP and the depth sensor shrinks from 5MP to 2MP.
I can’t confirm if the 5G processor is a kingmaker in this decision, but it’s off-putting for a phone manufacturer to have this level of hardware distinction between two phones that are mostly supposed to be differentiated by connectivity support.
Only one is ‘future-proof’ and the other isn’t.
Samsung Galaxy A32 LTE review verdict
There’s only so much ill about the Samsung Galaxy A32 I can speak of. The Mediatek processor is a strong negative. I wish Samsung wasn’t forcing customers to choose between 5G and improved specs.
But with that said, the A32 is one of the strongest mid-range phones I’ve come across.
It makes a strong case for itself even in the shadow of the A52 thanks to its lower price. The camera’s good — same with the display.
Furthermore, Samsung’s user interface and lack of bloatware remains one of the best non-stock Android experiences. It’s a phone worth your money and your full attention.
Feature image: Sam Spiller/Memeburn