Tech review: Galaxy A50
€360, or from free on contract
Budget model offers flagship features
Are you a mid-level employee in an office with subsidised staff smartphones? Then take a good, hard look at this new Galaxy A50 model from Samsung. Because there's a very strong chance that this is what you're getting next as your replacement handset. Why? Because it ticks many of the boxes that company decision-makers like. And by many, I mean one: it's relatively cheap - about a third of the price of Samsung's top flagship models (the ones the company directors get).
But unlike the last set of Samsung 'A' phones, which I found pretty mediocre, the A50 is actually decent. For a phone priced under €400, it can even be considered very good. I've had the A50 for a few weeks. I'll probably return to a flagship phone after using it. But if I was stuck on this one, I could definitely live with it. Here's why:
The phone's big 6.4-inch screen is certainly as good as any handset you'll get for under €500, and beyond. It's visible in outdoor conditions and uses the same basic technology (super-Amoled) that Samsung has adopted for flagship devices for the past couple of years, with 409 pixels per inch and a brightness level of 574 nits.
A good screen is one of those things that you only appreciate when you see it. It's very hard to go back from an Oled display, for example, to an LCD one without noticing the difference. Just as it's impossible to watch, say, a football match in standard definition on a large telly when you've been used to them on HD or 4K screens over the past three to five years.
128GB is a generous amount of internal storage for a smartphone at this price point.
In truth, it's the same as you'll get for the Galaxy S10+ or other €1,000phones such as Huawei's P30 Pro. You won't be running out of space for things like photos any time soon.
This isn't the best battery life I've ever used on a smartphone but, again, it's better than average for a device in this price range. The 4,000mAh battery usually had little difficulty lasting a full day with my usage patterns (which can be heavy).
Overall, it's good. The bezels on the front of the device are thin, allowing the screen to max out the available space on the front of the unit, thus saving you space in your pocket.
Another clothes-friendly facet is its weight - this is one of the lightest smartphones of its size I've ever encountered. This brings a double-edged sword to the table: its lightness makes it feel a little cheap, at least initially. In time, this feeling ebbs away.
One niggle is that the rear casing makes it an absolute fingerprint smudge-fest.
The camera quality on the A50's main 25-megapixel (f1.7) rear lens is decent, but nowhere near outstanding.
That said, it does have one feature that puts it ahead, in terms of flexibility, of almost all sub-€500 rivals: it has a second super-wide angle (8-megapixel, f2.2) lens, and a third 5-megapixel camera used 'for depth' (if you want to replicate blurry depth-of-field effects with portraits, for example).
The super-wide focal length is taken from the pricier flagship Samsung phones and I think it's a great addition. It comes at the expense of an optical zoom lens
(higher-end devices have all three: a normal, zoom and super-wide rear-camera array). But if you were choosing one, I'd definitely have gone with what Samsung has done.
Super-wide angle shots are great fun and let you get really interesting cityscapes and indoor shots. They're also excellent when used as a video lens.
For anyone interested, the A50's selfie lens is also 25 megapixels. I happen to think that this is overkill and comes at the expense of better low-light conditions.
But it does have the advantage that if you want to take a group selfie photo in good lighting conditions, you'll get more detail on each person when you zoom in on the finished photo.
6. Its 3.5mm headphone jack
The number of phones that still have headphone ports is dwindling. But I still think it's something to be cherished. It means, at a minimum, that if you're stuck in an airport, you'll be able to get a cheap pair of headphones that work with your handset.
Other things you need to know include its reasonably effective facial recognition unlocking system (but only in good light) and underscreen fingerprint reader.
Also, it doesn't really have the same level of water resistance as more expensive phones, so an accidental fall into a pond or the toilet may leave you with a problem.
In conclusion, for the money, this is actually a really good phone. Would you choose one over an S10+? No; the latter has better all-round features.
But you need no longer weep on your cheap office carpet when your handset crawls to a standstill because it's trying to open a photo attachment.