My week with the Samsung Galaxy A51
Jesse Simms • July 9, 2020
After using a Samsung Galaxy S10e for the past year, I decided to switch things up and give their new (and actually affordable) smartphone a shot, Samsung’s Galaxy A51.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Samsung’s latest mid-range line-up, so I was excited to finally try out an affordable phone that wasn’t made by Motorola. Samsung has always been a flagship pioneer, but seemed to lag a little behind when it came to more reasonably priced options. Until now.
I can finally say that Samsung has found its footing outside of the flagships. Other than missing a few “nice to haves,” the average user isn’t sacrificing anything substantial by choosing the Galaxy A51 over a high-end phone. To dive deeper into those differences, check out our comparison of the Galaxy A51 and Galaxy S10. The only surprising thing will be how much money you’ll save.
Things I love about the Galaxy A51
I didn’t think a camera this great was possible in a mid-range phone. I honestly can’t notice any difference in photo quality compared to the Galaxy S10e, which was a premium, flagship Samsung phone in 2019. The Galaxy A51 sports four cameras, including a wide-angle lens and macro lens for even more variety, so you’ll never snap a disappointing shot. For an in-depth look at how the A51 fares in comparison to its biggest competitor, the new iPhone SE, this CNET article is worth checking out.
With a whopping 128 GB of on-board storage, I never came close to running out of space. Having the option to download all my Netflix shows, Spotify playlists and podcasts ahead of time over Wi-Fi is huge for me (and other Ting customers) because the less mobile data I use, the less I pay each month. And if 128GB still isn’t enough, Samsung offers removable storage using a microSD card.
Look and feel
The only two people I saw in the past week both asked if I had the new Galaxy S20, and were blown away when I told them this phone only costs $400. It’s sleek, feels great in hand and has barely any bezel. Plus, after adding a case the bezel was essentially nonexistent!
The battery life
The Galaxy A51 lasted me two full days with ease. If you’re a heavy phone user, you’ll still get a day of use no problem. I can’t really see any reason why I’d need more battery life, and if I did, I’d just bring my power bank along for the ride.
At $400, the only real competitor is the new iPhone SE. Both are amazing phones for the price, so I’d suggest you choose yours based on two factors: the size of the display you want and the ecosystem you live in (whether Google or Apple). I genuinely believe this is the most anyone should pay for a smartphone right now, unless you really can’t live without a top of the line camera.
On-screen fingerprint sensor
This thing is awesome. At first, I was concerned that I wouldn’t always place my finger on the correct part of the display because it wasn’t indented like a physical fingerprint sensor, but it works flawlessly. Not a game-changer or anything I’d pay extra for, but the fact that they added it into a $400 phone is a nice touch.
I can’t believe this is now categorized as a feature, but since the headphone jack has disappeared from the latest and greatest flagships, it’s another reason to go with a cheaper phone like the A51. No need to worry about ensuring your Bluetooth earbuds are charged (or what to do once they die), just plug in your favorite pair of conventional headphones and you’re good to go.
I also loved receiving notifications when apps were using my location in the background, giving me the option to disable access entirely or allow only while using the app. I know this is a feature of Android 10 and not a Samsung-specific thing, but it’s a lot more useful than I’d ever expected. Can someone please tell me why Instagram tries to access my location when the app is closed? 🤔
Things I don’t love about the Galaxy A51
At 6.5 inches, I found the screen a little too large at the beginning of the week. I’m not the type of person who uses my phone for everything, mainly just texting, browsing reddit, taking some photos and as a streaming remote. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about one this size; one of my smartphone pet peeves is when I can’t hold my phone in one hand and pull down the notification tab with my thumb. No matter how far I’d stretch I couldn’t make it to the top of the Galaxy A51.
However, the more I used it, the more I started to enjoy the screen real estate that a phone this size offers. When I’d launch a video, I didn’t instantly think about Chromecasting it as I would have with my previous phone. I played some Roller Coaster Tycoon Classic and it was miles better than when I’d game on my Galaxy S10e. For smartphone gamers, I can see why a screen that’s six-inches or larger is a no brainer.
I’m not going to lie, going back to the Galaxy S10e was a struggle. Even though a 5.8 inch display wouldn’t be considered small, everything feels cluttered. But hey, at least my thumb isn’t sore anymore 🙂
I was a little disappointed that the Galaxy A51 offers no water resistance. I’m the guy who was voted “most likely to trip over a cordless phone” in high school, so my clumsy self loves not having to worry about dunking my device. I’d prefer this feature over the on-screen fingerprint sensor, but if you’re not like me, it’s probably not going to be a deal-breaker for you.
The last thing I think is worth mentioning is that I’ve read complaints about the processing speed of the A51. Some reviewers have noticed sluggish performance while using and switching between apps, but it rarely happened to me. The only time I can remember any delay is once while using “OK Google,” in which it took a couple seconds for the prompt to pop up on-screen.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve used a mid-range smartphone, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find out that you don’t need to spend more than $400 to get your hands on something that’s truly capable. Plus, with the release of the new iPhone SE from Apple, other manufacturers will likely put even more effort into their entry-level lines moving forward. That’s good news for all of us.
In fact, I suggest we change the phrase “mid-range” to “sensible-range.” Anything beyond this price point just doesn’t make sense. At least not to me.