I don’t buy the idea of affordable 5G phones in mid-2021 but some of you do, and so does Samsung. Hence, a phone like the Galaxy A22 5G exists: a phone that wants to bring 5G to more people without asking for exorbitant prices (by Samsung standards). At its starting price of Rs 19,999, it isn’t exactly the most affordable of the lot, given that Realme and Xiaomi are raining much cheaper 5G phones with similar specs.
Samsung, however, maintains a premium for its Samsung experience and on the Galaxy A22 5G, you get a lot of the features you find in more expensive Samsung phones. It looks pretty too, especially in the Mint colour variant, and is built like a tank. This phone is clearly aimed at existing Samsung users as well as young buyers wanting a taste of the 5G experience, which is still a concept in India as you read.
So, is it any good? After using the Galaxy A22 5G for almost 10 days, here are my thoughts.
The Galaxy A22 5G is a pretty smartphone; there are no two thoughts about it. Similar to the Galaxy A52 and A72, the A22 5G gets that chic design: matte finish, flat surfaces, and an overall design that’s trying to set its own trend in a sea of similar-looking phones. The Mint colour variant (light green) complements the design and incorporates a light-reflective gradient. The done-and-dusted square camera design somehow adds to the elegance.
Similar to most affordable Samsung phones, the Galaxy A22 5G has a plastic unibody construction. The designers have, however, used good quality plastics that emulate a matte glass finish. The build quality is, in fact, comparable to those Nokia Lumia devices of the yesteryears. The thick profile allows Samsung to integrate a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a power key-mounted fingerprint sensor. The rear is also capable of keeping smudges and scratches at bay.
Sadly, all that appeal wears off once you look at its front: a front that resembles the cheap Android smartphones from 2019. A bulbous chin and a large droplet-style notch seem out of place for a phone that starts at Rs 20,000. It also makes the phone a giant, given that the actual display measures 6.6-inches. Factor in the 203 grams weight and this isn’t a comfortable phone by any means.
5G-induced cost-cutting is evident on the Galaxy A22 5G but Samsung has managed to balance it all well. I might even go on to say that the Galaxy A22 5G is among the prettiest looking and well-built phones in the world of affordable 5G smartphones.
Samsung has made a name for itself with its AMOLED displays in the past but the 5G-induced cost-cutting sees it skipping the OLED panel in favour of an IPS LCD panel. Despite trying my best to not spice up the AMOLED vs LCD debate on social media, an AMOLED display appeals more. And, this LCD display that Samsung uses is dull. It looks fine while browsing social media or watching YouTube videos but next to a Galaxy M42 5G’s AMOLED display, it looks bland. Compared to Xiaomi’s Mi 10i LCD display too, this A22 5G’s display looks washed out.
I understand the cost-cutting efforts and as long as you know that, you are likely to not complain. Samsung tries to pull in geeks with a refresh rate of 90Hz and that helps to a large extent with smoother scrolling. Viewing angles are wide without notable loss in colours but sunlight legibility is bad. Samsung hasn’t specified any kind of glass protection on the A22 5G, hence you should apply a screen protector to keep it safe; my unit didn’t get any scratches.
MediaTek’s Dimensity 700 is making it possible for brands to bring affordable sub-Rs 20,000 5G phones to the market. I have witnessed this chip on the Poco M3 Pro 5G first hand and on the Galaxy A22 5G, it delivers the same user experience. With 6GB RAM and 128GB storage on my base version, the Galaxy A22 5G is among the fastest Samsung phones money can get you in this segment.
Despite running Samsung’s resource-intensive One UI 3.1 interface, the Galaxy A22 5G keeps it going all smooth and fast. I haven’t witnessed unnaturally long app load times or random app crashes on this phone yet. If you primarily do social media browsing, deal with emails, make video calls, watch videos, and take photos, this Galaxy A22 5G has adequate performance potential to keep you happy.
Switch over to mobile gaming and the Dimensity 700 starts showing its limitations. Demanding games like Call of Duty: Mobile, Battlegrounds Mobile India and Asphalt 9: Legends stick to medium/low graphics settings, and occasional frame drops are more frequent. Lighter-on-resources games like Shadow Fight 4: Arena and F1 Clash also stick to lower graphics, often miss frames. Given that my phone ran on an early software build, I give the Galaxy A22 5G the benefit of doubt. An update could iron out these bugs.
Where it struggles with gaming, it makes up with the One UI user experience. Samsung’s One UI 3.1 on Android 11 is elegant when compared to the Xiaomi’s complicated MIUI 12 and Realme’s bland Realme UI 2. The basic software experience is on par with what you get on an expensive Galaxy S21, i.e., beautifully formulated icons, well-designed interface elements, and all the bunch of Samsung extras neatly integrated with the system. The Edge Panel is useful if you multitask frequently.
That said, Samsung is relying on partnerships to keep the pricing low, and hence, you get a lot of pre-loaded apps and integrated ads. There are a bunch of TikTok clones pre-installed, all of which can be removed. Samsung is also pre-loading a dozen of Google and Microsoft apps alongside its own system apps. You will find ads in the weather app while occasional Samsung ads are displayed in the notifications.
The overall user experience isn’t as clean as Motorola’s near-stock Android experience but you know what you are getting into when buying a Samsung phone these days. While I had the time and curiosity to dig deeper into settings to turn the ads off, Samsung needs to make it easier for casual users to do the same.
Samsung is also promising two years of Android OS upgrades and three years of security patches. This sounds fine for a Rs 20,000 phone but given that the A22 5G is about future-proofing at this stage, three years of OS upgrades could have been ideal, especially looking at 5G’s induction pace in India.
How’s the audio? There’s only so much you can expect out of a single tinny loudspeaker. Volume levels aren’t as high as the ones on similarly prices Realme and Redmi smartphones. While taking calls on the loudspeaker, the volume is dismal and it’s better to stick to a pair of earphones. On Reliance Jio’s network, I haven’t witness connection issues so far, and mobile data speeds have been on par with other phones even in the basement.
However, the main reason you buy the Galaxy A22 5G is for (cue the drum roll) 5G, which is just something Juhi Chawla cares to discuss with the courts. There are 11 5G bands on offer, which is a relief when compared to the cheaper 5G phones with only the A78 band, and a few more. It sounds good but at this point, this is all uncertain.
Another area where Samsung has compromised in favour of 5G. The Galaxy A22 5G has got three cameras on the rear and a single 8-megapixel camera on the front. On the whole, the rear cameras are nowhere near as good as Xiaomi’s Mi 10i 5G and Samsung’s own set of 4G smartphones.
The main 48-megapixel camera is the only one worth using. It misses out on OIS from the 4G variant but the core camera performance remains unchanged. Compared to the Poco M3 Pro 5G and Realme Narzo 30 5G, the Galaxy A22 5G’s main camera can leave shutterbugs happier. In daylight, the camera maintains a closer-to-natural white balance along with decent amount of details. However, it struggles with exposure and as light levels fall, it relies on artificial enhancement to brighten up the photos as the cost of sharpness and details. The Night Mode is great for a phone of this price.
The ultra-wide camera lacks the dynamic range but in most brightly lit situations, it does a good enough job. The 5-megapixel sensor doesn’t care about details and sharpness, and in low light, it struggles. You get good portrait mode photos courtesy of the dedicated depth sensor, and Samsung’s algorithms do a good job at subject separation.
The front camera is good as long as there’s ample light falling on your face. Details aren’t great but the dynamic range is fine and the algorithms love enhancing the skin tones. Any photo against the light or bright background, and the Galaxy A22 5G ends up making you look like an anime cartoon. Samsung could fix this with a future software update.
With 4G networks running the show, the Galaxy A22 5G delivers supremely good battery life. The 5000mAh capacity battery can last up to a day and a half with moderate usage (with 6.5 hours of screen-on-time on an average). For those spending almost 2-3 hours on social media, gossiping with friends for an hour over a call, taking lots of photos, and texting, this is a phone that will last an entire day and leave some for the next.
Sadly, Samsung continues to bundle its patience-testing slow 15W charger with the Galaxy A22 5G. It takes close to two hours from under 10 percent to top-up the battery. There’s support for the 25W fast charging as well but you need to buy that adapter separately. For a phone built for the 5G generation, bundling a slow 15W charger in 2021 makes zero sense, especially when a similarly priced Realme X7 comes with a 50W charger capable of doing a 0-100 percent in less than an hour.
5G is definitely the future but at this point in time, it makes no sense to invest in an affordable 5G smartphone, especially with all the compromises brands are making to keep the price low. The Galaxy A22 5G is no different than its brethren, as it rides the 5G hype wave with a lot of compromises for a 2021 phone. By the time 5G drops in India, the Galaxy A22 5G might be nearing its end of life, i.e., no more updates, obsolete performance, etc.
That said, if you are fixated on buying a Samsung phone for almost Rs 20,000 now, the Galaxy A22 5G is an overall appealing package. Next to the Galaxy A32 4G, this one’s got more raw power. Compared to the Galaxy M42 5G, you have got a modern design and better build quality, a promise of two years of OS upgrades, and superior battery life.
On the other hand, the competition from OnePlus, Realme, Xiaomi and iQOO is strong this year. The likes of the Realme X7 and iQOO Z3 make the Galaxy A22 5G look pale in comparison. When compared to other Dimensity 700-powered phones from Realme, Redmi and Poco, the Galaxy A22 5G is expensive by a huge margin, which may drive away value-for-money seekers.
However, the overall smartphone experience is great for a 5G phone costing Rs 20,000; we dig the chic looks, the solid build quality, the fast performance, a pleasant One UI experience, and the battery life. It is expensive for what it offers and Samsung needs to drop the price to make it more competitive, but those wanting to wear the 5G tag without spending a lot will like this one.
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