The Samsung Galaxy A35 Is Samsung’s Secret Best Value Phone

The Samsung Galaxy A35 Is Samsung’s Secret Best Value Phone
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Samsung gets a lot of headlines and a lot of attention for its flagship Galaxy phones.  I’ll admit, I’m as keen as anyone – maybe even more than most – to see what the Galaxy Z Fold6 brings to market once Samsung’s ready for it to properly break cover.

However, that’s rarefied air that demands a lot out of your wallet, and it’s not Samsung’s only Galaxy phone play. 

Samsung also offers up the Galaxy A series phones, which range all the way from the affordable-but-mediocre Galaxy A05s all the way up to the Galaxy A55, which we’ve already reviewed here.

The Galaxy A35 sits just below the A55 in Samsung’s pecking order, and that’s typically a story of compromises to make sure that the star of the range has the best features.

This is why if you’re in premium land, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has an S-Pen and the best Samsung cameras while the S24+ doesn’t. No S-Pens for A-series phones, but the same on-paper observations do apply between the Galaxy A35 relative to the A55, this is a balancing act that favours the A35 a lot more than you might expect.

Image: Alex Kidman

Looking Good (In its own way)

The Galaxy A35 shares much of Samsung’s design language for its layout, so it’s easily recognisable as a Galaxy Phone. Unlike the A55, however, you don’t quite get the “trying hard to look like an S24” metal aesthetic in play. 

Instead, it’s built around a plastic chassis with rounded corners, available in Australia in either “Awesome Navy” or “Awesome Ice Blue” finishes. We do miss out on “Awesome Lilac” and “Awesome Lemon” finishes down under, but I’m a notable sucker for blue phones generally, so I’m not so personally fussed by that. Your perspective may naturally vary.

Is that less of a premium play than the Galaxy A55 or any of the Galaxy S24 phones? 

Probably, but what you lose in shiny metal, you gain in a phone that’s genuinely more comfortable to hold in your hand. There’s really not a lot in size terms between the A55 and the A35, but that rounded plastic fits so much more comfortably in my hand than the metal frame of the A55 does. 

The Galaxy A35 features a 6.6 inch Super AMOLED 1080×2340 pixel display with support for up to 120Hz refresh rates. That’s nice to see, though in typical Samsung style you don’t quite get full control of refresh rates, with the choice between Standard (60Hz) and Dynamic (up to 120Hz) refresh rates relative to the content you’re viewing. 

The Galaxy A35’s screen also has prominent bezels, though this is hardly new territory for mid-range and budget phones. Honestly, after only a small time using the A35 I kind of forgot they were there. 

Equally some people really don’t like anything but an edge-to-edge screen for their daily driver. If that’s you, then the Galaxy A35 might not be the phone you’re looking for.

All of this adds up (at a physical level) to a phone that feels perfectly fine for its $549 asking price. Samsung’s smartphone displays are amongst the best in the market right now, and it’s genuinely nice to use the A35’s screen for gaming and binge watch streaming.

Performance feels familiar (for the most obvious of reasons)

Dig beneath the Galaxy A35’s screen, and you’ll break it, so maybe don’t do that. But if you did, you’d find at its no-longer-beating heart lies one of Samsung’s Exynos 1380 processors, a step and a generation behind the Exynos 1480 in the Galaxy A55. Again, the fancier and more expensive model gets the better engine.

Mind you, not that long ago, Samsung really did consider the Exynos 1380 as its best mid-range option, because that’s exactly what ran last year’s Galaxy A54. Even the RAM (6GB) and onboard storage (128GB) are identical.

If I were a more cynical writer (and some would argue I’m already there), I might suggest that Samsung simply retooled its Galaxy A54 line to drop plastic frames around it in order to make the Galaxy A35, because they’re really that similar as phones.

My innate cynicism aside, this is really no bad deal for anyone looking for a mid-range phone. Samsung’s Exynos processors are rarely the absolute top of class in performance in a given year – which is why we so frequently see Qualcomm Snapdragons in the very top of the line Galaxy devices – but by making last year’s best A series phone into this year’s more affordable A series model, you’re still getting a phone that’s highly capable of running most Android apps, including games at a reasonable pace.

Can you run games like Call of Duty Mobile or Diablo Immortal at absolute top-tier graphic quality and frame rate? No, not quite, but when you’re gaming on a smaller screen like this, unless you’ve got devices side by side the differences there really can become hard to discern. Over a lot of testing between web browsing, social media, gaming and streaming, I’ve rarely been truly disappointed in the Galaxy A35’s application performance.

Image: Alex Kidman

Getting slightly more technical with the A35, it does benchmark a little slower than the A55, as you might expect, but those differences aren’t all that apparent in most day-to-day use. It feels likely that most people updating to the A35 would be doing so from a phone that’s two to three years older than it is, and in nearly every case there if you were talking mid-range (or even low-end premium phones), it would still feel like an operational upgrade.

On the software side, it’s an Android 14 phone running Samsung’s OneUI 6, which means you get goodies like Samsung’s Knox platform, as well as Samsung’s alternate takes on a lot of standard Android apps if that’s your thing. 

One great feature here is the promise that Samsung has made around future Android OS upgrades. You don’t quite get the seven years of the Galaxy S24 series, but you do get four years of OS upgrades and 5 years of security updates. In the mid-range Samsung used to be quite slack in this regard, leaving upgrades to devices like the Pixel A phones and some HMD Global/Nokia devices, though in the latter case that’s a promise they’ve dropped on more recent phones. Four years means it should see at least Android 18, and that’s very good for a $549 handset.

Image: Alex Kidman

Battery that just keeps on going

The Samsung Galaxy A35 runs off a 5,000mAh sealed battery, and while that might sound like a big fancy number, the reality is that the only Android phones you typically find in market right now that don’t have 5,000mAh batteries are the ones that fold or flip or twist in some way. 5,000 mAh isn’t big; it’s average.

What isn’t average is the Galaxy A35’s battery endurance, which is exceptional.  

Using the Official Gizmodo Australia Battery Test, pitting the Galaxy A35 against the entirety of Avengers Endgame, the Galaxy A35 dropped to 95 per cent after the first hour, 88 per cent after the second hour and 80 per cent after the third hour.

To give that some perspective, in the same test, the Galaxy A55 was down to 89 per cent after just one hour and 80 per cent after two hours, which means that the A35 essentially grabbed an extra hour’s worth of performance for much the same battery cost.

It feels likely that you don’t watch Avengers Endgame every single day (and if you do, who am I to judge?) but for more regular use, the Galaxy A35 tracks basically the same way.

A single day’s usage unless I absolutely hammered it was all but assured, and if you’re looking for a phone that more casual users could carry into a second day, that’s entirely feasible too. You will have to supply your own charger, however, with support for up to 25W USB-C charging.

Battery life, as I’ve argued before is the most important metric when buying a phone, simply because a phone with no power is just a glass and plastic brick. The Galaxy A35 really is exceptional on this score for mid-range phones.

Fair camera results, but from slow lenses

The Galaxy A35 runs off a triple lens array at the rear, with a primary 50MP wide lens, 8MP ultra-wide and 5MP macro lens, while for the selfie-obsessed, it takes photos with a 13MP front sensor housed in a holepunch array. At a specifications level those numbers are fine, but then smartphone photography is so much more than just a game of numbers.

First of all, the good news. For most basic everyday shots, the Galaxy A55 is fine, even bordering on good if you’ve got a little patience. Samsung being Samsung, there’s a strong tendency to oversaturate colours in shots, but a lot of people do tend to like that punchier colour look in their Instagram food snaps or travel photos:

Sydney City through the lens of the Galaxy A35. Image: Alex Kidman.
Look at that colour! Image: Alex Kidman.
I didn’t realise red onions were so beautiful. Image: Alex Kidman.

The Samsung Galaxy A35 macro lens can deliver some nice shots, again with a little patience (and luck, though that’s often a factor for smartphone macro shots in the wild)

Image: Alex Kidman

Selfies can look a little on the smooth side thanks to some overly aggressive beautification – I’ve earned my wrinkles, dammit! – but again that’ll probably work well for most use cases:

The power (?) of beautification. Image: Alex Kidman

Now for the bad news. All of these shots rely on essentially optimal conditions. 

Samsung’s contention for 2024 is that it’s upped its game for low light photography to improve results, but I didn’t really see that when shooting with the Galaxy A35, either in simple low light situations:

Image: Alex Kidman

Or actually at night:

Image: Alex Kidman

Notably missing – though it would be surprising on a phone that only costs $549 – is any kind of telephoto zoom, which means you’re once again playing in digital crop plus AI optimisation land. Samsung tends to push this a little farther than most, often with seriously diminishing results as you go closer into your subject. Here’s an example series of shots to show what I mean here, taken at a nearby park

Ultra Wide lens is naturally enough fine, with a slippery dip in the far distance:

Image: Alex Kidman

Wide is likewise snappy enough:

Image: Alex Kidman

The next default is for 2x zoom, and a 50MP sensor gives you more than enough scope to deliver a decent shot:

Image: Alex Kidman

At 4x zoom, the quality starts to drop – and if I were you, that’s where I’d stop.

Image: Alex Kidman

Samsung didn’t stop, however, with the Galaxy A35 going all the way up (and down) to 10x zoom, where the quality really drops:

Image: Alex Kidman

Honestly, digital zoom is like this, but the bigger problem that I have with the Galaxy A35 is that if you are shifting between regular lenses, turning that panoramic ultrawide landscape into something more personal with the wide lens, or opting for a macro shot instead of a regular closeup, you’ll be waiting a long time between lens shifts. 

It’s super slow to change, and that does mean that if you’re shooting any kind of dynamically moving target, you will almost certainly miss that shot.

The verdict: Should you buy the Galaxy A35?

I’m fussy about my photography, and the slower lens changes on the A35 are a bit of a problem for me… but that’s about the only detail on the Galaxy A35 I don’t like. Given the $150 price difference between this and the A55, I’d say the A35 was the model to buy if you wanted a mid-range Samsung phone right now.

Is it a lesser phone next to the Galaxy A55 on paper? Yes, absolutely, and the A55 would be the Samsung buy if camera usage was your key priority – but then again, with price cuts hitting the Pixel 7a price hard, that’s the phone I’d opt for at that price range. Meanwhile, if you buy the A35, you’re getting most of what makes the A55 appealing while walking away with $150 more in your pocket.

It’s hard to see how that’s not a good deal.

The Samsung Galaxy A35 is $549.

Buy it at Samsung Australia | The Good Guys | Bing Lee

Image: Alex Kidman/Gizmodo Australia

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At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.