Introduction

Until recently Samsung was known for its all-plastic smartphone shells. Pressured to evolve its product design, it came up with the Galaxy Alpha, super slim smartphone with an angular metal frame. But Samsung surely likes to spread its design concepts across the entire portfolio and there we have the Galaxy A3 and its bigger brother, the Galaxy A5.

The plastic panels didn't stop millions users worldwide to choose Samsung's phones over the competitors. It's debatable whether that's due to Samsung's almost exclusive Super AMOLED screens, their R&D hardware advancements or their aggressive approach towards adding new features to Android OS. It's a fact nonetheless. And as you can imagine, you can't go wrong with adding metal to their already winning recipe mix.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 official pictures

Today, we get to enjoy the company of the most junior representative of the new metal-clad lineup - the Samsung Galaxy A3. Just like the Alpha smartphone, the A3 offers an aluminum frame, which highlights a lightweight design, built around a Super AMOLED display. And let us tell you, it does look as nice as it sounds.

Samsung Galaxy A3 at a glance:

  • General: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA/LTE connectivity;
  • Dimensions: 130.1 x 65.5 x 6.9 mm, 110 g;
  • Display: 4.5" qHD Super AMOLED touchscreen, 245ppi pixel density;
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 410 chipset, quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53, Adreno 306 GPU, 1.5GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz;
  • Memory: 16GB storage, microSD card slot (up to 64GB);
  • Camera: 8MP auto-focus camera, LED flash;
  • Video camera: 1080p video recording;
  • Front camera: 5MP front-facing camera;
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 (ANT+), NFC, microUSB 2.0 port, GPS/GLONASS receiver, 3.5mm audio jack, digital compass, ambient light sensor, secondary mic for ambient noise cancellation;
  • Battery: 1,900mAh Li-Ion non-removable battery;

It's obvious that with a chipset like that, the Galaxy A3 won't top any performance charts. But it doesn't need to. It's a mid-ranger with a proper quad-core chip, an AMOLED screen and an adequate camera. On a positive note, it has a 64-bit processor and a microSD expansion slot, two things the original Galaxy Alpha is short on. Android and its app ecosystem is yet to make proper use of 64-bit processors, but we're sure it's only a matter of time before we see 64-bit optimizations in real life, but the Galaxy A3 will be ready when it's time.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 live pictures

So, the Samsung Galaxy A3 is all unpacked and ready for a spin. We are definitely eager to check it out. Follow us after the jump for an in-depth hardware tour.

Design and build quality

It's not like Samsung has never designed beautiful, metal phones. It's just that most of those came before the Android era. Samsung wasn't afraid to experiment with materials back then. Remember, the Samsung S8500 Wave?

Well, change is in the air and after the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung is making the next step by re-imagining the design of its mid-range devices.

All the phones in the Galaxy A lineup share the metal frame along the sides, which has beautifully machined edges.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 features a 0.2" smaller display than the Alpha, which has resulted in the _phone_ having an overall smaller footprint - 130 x 65.5 x 6.9 mm and 110 g. That's 2.3 mm shorter, 0.2mm thicker and 5g lighter than the original Galaxy Alpha. Here are few shots sizing up the two.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 sized up to the Galaxy Alpha

Aside from the white metal frame, the Galaxy A3 also uses metal as a trim to the camera lens, the loudspeaker, the power key and the volume rocker. The non-removable rear cover is made out of solid matte plastic with a smooth surface, which glistens as light falls on it. In fact this finish reminds us of how a pearl would glisten under light to an extent that it has a sort of a feminine feel to it.

Overall, handling the Galaxy A3 is a real pleasure - the _phone_ is impressively thin and light, the overall build is great and the matte rear cover provides a solid grip. The A3 would easily fit even in a shirt pocket and it's so light that you may forget that it's there altogether.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Handling the Galaxy A3

Controls

A key feature to the Samsung Galaxy A3 is its 4.5" Super AMOLED screen of qHD resolution. That's 540 x 960 pixels or 245ppi density. Such pixel density may not be what's become known as Retina grade (generally, above 320ppi), but it's OK for the class.

Since this is a Super AMOLED unit, it delivers punchy colors, unmatched contrast and great viewing angles, and it's clearly legible outdoors. The Samsung Galaxy A3 also offers a number of screen presets to adjust the screen to your liking.

Above the display we find an earpiece, the usual bunch of sensors and a high-resolution 5MP selfie snapper. There is nothing unusual below the screen either. There, a hardware Home key is flanked by a touch-sensitive App switcher and Back keys.

Unlike the Alpha, the Galaxy A3 doesn't offer a finger-print sensor under the Home button, nor is there a heart-rate monitor on the back.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The traditional face of a Galaxy smartphone

The metal sides of the phone host a single hardware control each - the Power button on the right and the Volume rocker on the left. Both are made of metal. They are slightly too slim for our liking, as that makes pressing them harder.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The hardware controls: the volume rocker on the right and the power/lock key in the left

The microSD and nanoSIM trays are on the right-hand side, easily ejectable with the provided metal pin.

In contrast, the original Galaxy Alpha smartphone didn't offer a microSD expansion, but it did allow you to access and remove the battery.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The microSD and nanoSIM trays are on the right

The top of the phone features only the secondary microphone, which is used for ambient noise cancellation in calls.

The bottom of the smartphone is more crowded, accommodating the exposed 3.5mm audio jack, the microUSB port and the primary mic pinhole.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The top and bottom of the Galaxy A3

The Samsung Galaxy A3 boasts a 1,900 mAh battery, but it isn't user accessible.

The 8MP camera is on the back, accompanied by a rather big LED flash. The camera itself protrudes slightly from the back of the phone, extending past the 6.9mm thickness.

The loudspeaker grille is to the left of the camera lens.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

8MP camera with LED flash • loudspeaker grille

The camera is capable of recording 1080p videos.

Unfortunately, we can't post sample images and videos from this one as the unit we have here is an early pre-production device.

We would have to wait for a proper review unit until we measure the chipset performance, check the camera image quality and do the whole battery of tests we usually do in our full-featured reviews.

Connectivity

The Samsung Galaxy A3 comes loaded with wireless connectivity features. It starts with LTE Cat. 4 (up to 150Mpbs down, 50Mbps up), while regular 2G and 3G connectivity is, of course, supported, too.

Local includes Wi-Fi b/g/n and Wi-Fi Hotspot capabilities. There is no dual-band support, unfortunately.

Other local connectivity includes Bluetooth 4.0 LE and ANT+, both of which are low-power and can be used to connect with wireless sports accessories. NFC rounds off the wireless connectivity section.

The Galaxy A3 relies on a standard microUSB 2.0 port for charging and wired data connectivity. That's fine as USB 3.0 ports are rare and require a fairly large female jack on the side of the phone.

What we do miss here is a wired TV-out option either via MHL or SlimPort.

The Samsung Galaxy A3 also has a dual-SIM version, which sacrifices the microSD slot for of a second nanoSIM tray. The Dual SIM A3 will be available in two distinct regional flavors - a Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos with LTE and NFC connectivity and a Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos with 3G support and no NFC.

Latest TouchWiz on Android 4.4.4 KitKat

The Samsung Galaxy A3 runs on the latest available Android 4.4.4 KitKat enhanced with the TouchWiz UI - it's almost the same version that powers the Galaxy Alpha.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The lockscreen

The homescreen features the My Magazine tab, which displays both news articles and social networking updates. It's powered by the popular Flipboard app and you can enjoy your reads in a clean interface, and easily share links or post social updates straight from the homescreen pane.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

My Magazine keeps you up to date with news and social networking updates

There are regular homescreens too, with shortcuts, widgets and folders. If you want just those, My Magazine can be disabled completely.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The regular homescreens • Themes menu

For the first time ever, the TouchWiz now features Theme support. Quite expectedly, they change your default wallpaper, system icons, and system colors scheme. The themes however won't change the notification area or any apps or submenus.

We couldn't find a way to install additional themes, but we believe that Galaxy Apps repo should add such option as soon as the feature launches officially.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Two of the default themes

The notification area is filled to the brim with features. The toggles work as usual and below them are two buttons (S Finder and Quick connect). Below that is the brightness slider, which can be hidden to save space.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Notification area

In the app drawer, icons are presented as a customizable or alphabetized grid. You can also view only the ones you've downloaded yourself or just hide the ones you don't need. You can also disable some of the pre-installed apps so they won't take any RAM.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The app drawer

The Galaxy A3 has an App Switcher button below the screen, which, as you can guess, calls up a custom app switcher UI. As usual, you can go into the task manager for more advanced controls or just hit the Close all button.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The app switcher and task manager

TouchWiz special features

The Samsung Galaxy A3 features Private mode. It secures photos, voice recordings, music and other files with a pattern code, pin code or a password. Those files are only accessible when the Private mode is unlocked and are completely hidden from their respective apps otherwise.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Enabling Private mode and moving photos to a secure location

Note that this feature works separately from your lockscreen security feature. For instance, you can have the insecure Swipe to unlock lockscreen and still keep your files safe with Private mode.

Samsung offers two Power saving modes on its recent smartphones. Much as on the original Galaxy Alpha, those modes are particularly welcome on the Galaxy A3 with its smallish battery. The first can restrict chipset performance and background data and even turn the screen to greyscale for extra power saving.

If you really need to make those last few percent battery charge last, The Ultra power saving mode will conserve the available battery charge for as long as possible. This mode cuts off all advanced functions and even changes the homescreen to a simple one with only six big shortcuts.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The two power-saving modes

Multimedia

Samsung has provided its own custom apps for the gallery and music player. The music player has SoundAlive presets plus a manual equalizer. It can automatically adjust the equalizer with the Adapt Sound feature and level out differences in volume between tracks with Smart volume.

FLAC audio playback is supported, too. There is FM radio support via an FM radio app.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The Galaxy A3's music player has more options, including an equalizer

Samsung's Gallery shows photos by time and by album, though here "album" just means folder. One special trick that Samsung implemented is that you can filter images by person - the facial recognition software will group photos by the faces it manages to recognize.

The TouchWiz gallery integrates your Facebook, Dropbox and Picasa albums so you can browse your online images as easily as local ones.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung's custom Gallery

First impressions

Samsung Galaxy A3 seems to have gotten most of the things right. It is a proper midrange offer with solid specs and feature-rich software.

The Galaxy A3 features the same premium design the Galaxy Alpha introduced, within a slim and lightweight body. And the captivating Super AMOLED screen sure boosts both the value and the looks of the smartphone. The battery could have been bigger, but that's the price you pay for such a slim profile.

The Galaxy Alpha was criticized because it didn't have a microSD slot and here we see the memory expansion option. If you don't care about more storage, you can exchange it for a secondary SIM slot but keep the LTE connectivity intact.

Samsung Galaxy A3

One thing that we can't quite agree with is the expected €300 price tag. Of course, the price will only go down once the device hits the shelves early next year, but for this amount of cash even Samsung itself has better phones to offer.

Anyway, if the Galaxy A lineup has got your fancy, but you'd like a more screen real estate or better specs, you can check out the mid-range 5" Galaxy A5 (€400), the high-end 4.7" Galaxy Alpha (€500) or the soon to-be-announced 5.5" Galaxy A7. We're Samsung wouldn't mind whichever one you pick.

Samsung Galaxy A5
Samsung Galaxy Alpha
Samsung Galaxy A7

Samsung Galaxy A5 • Samsung Galaxy Alpha • Samsung Galaxy A7

So that about sums it up for now. We'd love to get a proper Galaxy A3 review unit from Samsung so we can put it through its paces to see how it really stacks against the competition. Stay tuned!

Design and build quality

It's not like Samsung has never designed beautiful, metal phones. It's just that most of those came before the Android era. Samsung wasn't afraid to experiment with materials back then. Remember, the Samsung S8500 Wave?

Well, change is in the air and after the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung is making the next step by re-imagining the design of its mid-range devices.

All the phones in the Galaxy A lineup share the metal frame along the sides, which has beautifully machined edges.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 features a 0.2" smaller display than the Alpha, which has resulted in the phone having an overall smaller footprint - 130 x 65.5 x 6.9 mm and 110 g. That's 2.3 mm shorter, 0.2mm thicker and 5g lighter than the original Galaxy Alpha. Here are few shots sizing up the two.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Samsung Galaxy A3 sized up to the Galaxy Alpha

Aside from the white metal frame, the Galaxy A3 also uses metal as a trim to the camera lens, the loudspeaker, the power key and the volume rocker. The non-removable rear cover is made out of solid matte plastic with a smooth surface, which glistens as light falls on it. In fact this finish reminds us of how a pearl would glisten under light to an extent that it has a sort of a feminine feel to it.

Overall, handling the Galaxy A3 is a real pleasure - the phone is impressively thin and light, the overall build is great and the matte rear cover provides a solid grip. The A3 would easily fit even in a shirt pocket and it's so light that you may forget that it's there altogether.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

Handling the Galaxy A3

Controls

A key feature to the Samsung Galaxy A3 is its 4.5" Super AMOLED screen of qHD resolution. That's 540 x 960 pixels or 245ppi density. Such pixel density may not be what's become known as Retina grade (generally, above 320ppi), but it's OK for the class.

Since this is a Super AMOLED unit, it delivers punchy colors, unmatched contrast and great viewing angles, and it's clearly legible outdoors. The Samsung Galaxy A3 also offers a number of screen presets to adjust the screen to your liking.

Above the display we find an earpiece, the usual bunch of sensors and a high-resolution 5MP selfie snapper. There is nothing unusual below the screen either. There, a hardware Home key is flanked by a touch-sensitive App switcher and Back keys.

Unlike the Alpha, the Galaxy A3 doesn't offer a finger-print sensor under the Home button, nor is there a heart-rate monitor on the back.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The traditional face of a Galaxy smartphone

The metal sides of the phone host a single hardware control each - the Power button on the right and the Volume rocker on the left. Both are made of metal. They are slightly too slim for our liking, as that makes pressing them harder.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The hardware controls: the volume rocker on the right and the power/lock key in the left

The microSD and nanoSIM trays are on the right-hand side, easily ejectable with the provided metal pin.

In contrast, the original Galaxy Alpha smartphone didn't offer a microSD expansion, but it did allow you to access and remove the battery.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The microSD and nanoSIM trays are on the right

The top of the phone features only the secondary microphone, which is used for ambient noise cancellation in calls.

The bottom of the smartphone is more crowded, accommodating the exposed 3.5mm audio jack, the microUSB port and the primary mic pinhole.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

The top and bottom of the Galaxy A3

The Samsung Galaxy A3 boasts a 1,900 mAh battery, but it isn't user accessible.

The 8MP camera is on the back, accompanied by a rather big LED flash. The camera itself protrudes slightly from the back of the phone, extending past the 6.9mm thickness.

The loudspeaker grille is to the left of the camera lens.

Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3
Samsung Galaxy A3

8MP camera with LED flash • loudspeaker grille

The camera is capable of recording 1080p videos.

Unfortunately, we can't post sample images and videos from this one as the unit we have here is an early pre-production device.

We would have to wait for a proper review unit until we measure the chipset performance, check the camera image quality and do the whole battery of tests we usually do in our full-featured reviews.

Connectivity

The Samsung Galaxy A3 comes loaded with wireless connectivity features. It starts with LTE Cat. 4 (up to 150Mpbs down, 50Mbps up), while regular 2G and 3G connectivity is, of course, supported, too.

Local includes Wi-Fi b/g/n and Wi-Fi Hotspot capabilities. There is no dual-band support, unfortunately.

Other local connectivity includes Bluetooth 4.0 LE and ANT+, both of which are low-power and can be used to connect with wireless sports accessories. NFC rounds off the wireless connectivity section.

The Galaxy A3 relies on a standard microUSB 2.0 port for charging and wired data connectivity. That's fine as USB 3.0 ports are rare and require a fairly large female jack on the side of the phone.

What we do miss here is a wired TV-out option either via MHL or SlimPort.

The Samsung Galaxy A3 also has a dual-SIM version, which sacrifices the microSD slot for of a second nanoSIM tray. The Dual SIM A3 will be available in two distinct regional flavors - a Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos with LTE and NFC connectivity and a Samsung Galaxy A3 Duos with 3G support and no NFC.

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