Galaxy A15 review: how good is Samsung’s cheapest smartphone?
Product test

Galaxy A15 review: how good is Samsung’s cheapest smartphone?

Lorenz Keller
21.5.2024
Translation: Katherine Martin

For just 130 francs, you can buy a 2024 Samsung phone. But how many compromises do you have to make in day-to-day situations when using the Galaxy A15?

The top-of-the-range smartphone of the moment, the Galaxy S24 Ultra, will set you back well over 1,000 francs or euros. Meanwhile, Samsung’s entry-level Galaxy A15 is almost ten times easier on your budget. It comes in at just 130-150 francs or euros – a surprisingly low price tag.

Look and feel: there’s lots of plastic – but it’s the good kind

Samsung has carried its design philosophy over to its budget model. The A15 has three round, slightly raised camera lenses, a flat front and back, and a case with markedly rounded corners. If you’re not familiar with the models, it’s easy to mistake the A15 for the mid-range flagship A55 or even the top-of-the-range S24.

Once I’ve got the A15 in my hand, however, the difference is unmistakable. The back and frame are made of plastic. Did this bother me during my review? Not really. You see, the A15 feels comfortable to hold, looks good and might actually be less vulnerable should it ever slip out of your hand. In any case, there’s no potentially breakable glass on the back.

The brightly coloured plastic back is reminiscent of the iPhone 5c.
The brightly coloured plastic back is reminiscent of the iPhone 5c.
Source: Lorenz Keller

What does bother me, however, is that it doesn’t have an IP certification. Because of this lack of information, I’ve no idea if I need to stash the phone away if it starts raining. That said, smartphones under 200 francs rarely have waterproof casing. If that’s what you’re after from Samsung, you’ll need to go for something like the mid-range A35 model at the very least.

In the table below, you’ll find an overview of Samsung’s three entry-level phones. That is, the key specs for the A15, A35 and A55.

Processor: poor performance, good update policy

I’ll be focusing on the cheapest version of the A15 in my review. Its built-in Mediatek Helio G99 processor only comes with four gigabytes of RAM and doesn’t support 5G. The 5G version, which costs about 20 francs extra, contains a different processor – the Mediatek Dimensity 6100+. It’s the only point of difference between the A15 and the A15 5G.

A benchmark comparison reveals that the A15’s processor doesn’t pack much power. In fact, hardly any device I’ve tested in recent months has scored as low. Strikingly, the Volla Phone X23, with the same processor and 6 GB of RAM, is measurably more powerful.

But how do these figures play out in practice? Android 14 generally runs smoothly on my test device. I can even play Asphalt Legends 9 in the highest graphics resolution. When I quickly switch between apps or menus, however, there are occasionally short delays and jerkiness.

Samsung sets a good example by guaranteeing four years of new Android versions and five years of security updates for its entry-level model. I was concerned there’d be fewer than that. Especially since, a few years back, it wasn’t uncommon to get zero updates in this price range.

Display: good enough despite thick edges

The 6.5-inch AMOLED screen is more than fit for everyday use. It’s usually bright enough to be easily read. Not only that, but it’s resolution is high enough for you to enjoy pictures and videos. Plus, a decent refresh rate means content runs on it smoothly.

The 6.5-inch screen is sufficiently bright.
The 6.5-inch screen is sufficiently bright.
Source: Lorenz Keller

However, the black edges around the screen are very in-your-face and, more importantly, not symmetrical. The dark stripe at the bottom is almost twice as wide as the ones at the top and sides. It’s a cost-cutting measure that catches my eye every day.

The edges around the screen are massive (and annoying) – especially at the bottom.
The edges around the screen are massive (and annoying) – especially at the bottom.
Source: Lorenz Keller

It’s also why the A15 is the same size as the pricier A35 and A55 models. However, these handsets boast a larger display thanks to their thinner edges.

Excellent battery life

Like its more expensive counterparts, the A35 and the A55, the A15 has a 5,000-mAh battery. It can be charged with a maximum of 25 watts – though only with a cable, not wirelessly.

The battery life is very good, partly because of the undemanding processor and display. When I ran the PC Mark Work 3.0 Battery Test, the phone held out for 13.44 hours. Simulating various activities, the test drains a battery from 100 to 20 per cent.

In lasting more than 13 hours, the A15 has achieved a top score. It can even go toe to toe with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, the top-of-the-range model. Under typical usage conditions, I only needed to charge the phone once every two days.

Features: some surprising plus points

You have to live without 5G when using the cheapest version of the A15. The manufacturer has also opted against the latest Wi-Fi connectivity standards, going for Wi-Fi 5 instead of 6, 6E or even 7.

On the plus side, you can expand the 128-gigabyte storage capacity. The second SIM slot accommodates an SD card – something you rarely see on devices these days. Another feature harking back to days gone by (in a good way) is the A15’s headphone jack. Yes, really. In fact, it’s the only model besides the A25 in the current Samsung range to have one.

Apart from the A25, the A15 is the only current Samsung model with a headphone jack.
Apart from the A25, the A15 is the only current Samsung model with a headphone jack.
Source: Lorenz Keller

A surprising main camera

At least when it comes to the main camera, the A15 doesn’t need to shy away from its Samsung rivals. Its 50-megapixel sensor with a f/1.8 aperture promises good pictures – at least in theory. But if I’m being honest, I’m not expecting masterpieces from a phone costing under 200 francs. At best, I imagine I’ll get some passable everyday images.

In trying out the camera, I compared Samsung’s cheapest smartphone, the A15, with the most expensive model in the range, the S24 Ultra. No soon had I taken my first snap, than I got a major surprise. The nature shots I took outside in daylight prove the A15 can easily compete with the S24. I actually like the A15 shot’s neutral colours better than those in the photo taken by the S24, which has a greenish tint.

What if the software’s forced to compensate for photographic error? When I point the camera directly at the sun, I get two different results.

The A15 struggles, producing quite a dark, washed-out image. Not only that, but many of the details in the branches and leaves are lost. Meanwhile, the S24 rises to the challenge, capturing a green tree with lots of details, a blue sky and a glistening sun.

These previous two examples underline my verdict on the main camera – that the A15 often takes surprisingly good photos. Photos that are more than just passable. The sensor just has trouble in settings where there’s too little or too much light or where contrasts are very high.

When I use the five-megapixel sensor and its wide-angle lens, however, it’s a different story. At first glance, it bugs me how unnaturally the colours have been enhanced. The effect, incidentally, is much more pronounced than when using the main camera, so I end up with totally different coloured photos of the same stuff.

Taking a closer look at the A15’s photo, I notice the background is really blurry. It looks more like a watercolour than a photo. This considered, the wide-angle camera really doesn’t cut it.

On the other hand, I really like the 13-megapixel selfie camera. As long as I don’t zoom in too much, the sharpness and level of detail are decent enough. What’s more, the colour fidelity and contrast are actually really good. I can easily snap nice self-portraits with it.

A selfie in default mode.
A selfie in default mode.
Source: Lorenz Keller

In a nutshell

Plenty of smartphone for your money

If you need a budget smartphone but don’t want to make heavy compromises in every aspect, you should definitely look into the Samsung Galaxy A15. The stylish smartphone impresses with its long battery life and good main camera. And thanks to its five-year update period, it’s far from being a throwaway device.

That being said, such a low price tag obviously demands certain trade-offs. The processor’s poor, the display’s just so-so and the wide-angle camera’s useless. However, if you have modest demands when it comes to smartphones, you’ll definitely be able to live with these compromises in day-to-day situations.

Pro

  • long battery life
  • surprisingly good main camera
  • headphone jack and memory expansion
  • robust casing
  • large screen

Contra

  • poor processor
  • useless wide-angle camera
  • case isn’t water-resistant
Samsung Galaxy A15 (128 GB, Blue, 6.50", Hybrid Dual SIM, 50 Mpx, 4G)
145.– CHF

Samsung Galaxy A15

128 GB, Blue, 6.50", Hybrid Dual SIM, 50 Mpx, 4G

Samsung Galaxy A15 (128 GB, Blue, 6.50", Hybrid Dual SIM, 50 Mpx, 4G)
Smartphones
145.– CHF

Samsung Galaxy A15

128 GB, Blue, 6.50", Hybrid Dual SIM, 50 Mpx, 4G

Header image: Lorenz Keller

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Gadgets are my passion - whether you need them for the home office, for the household, for sport and pleasure or for the smart home. Or, of course, for the big hobby next to the family, namely fishing.


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