Samsung Galaxy A70 review: don’t judge a phone by its hardware specs

Rating: 8/10

Pros:

  • Incredibly large Super AMOLED display
  • Good battery life
  • Full-blown Samsung Pay is a great advantage
  • UFS 2.0 storage makes for a smooth experience
  • Dolby Atmos truly enhances the headphone experience

Cons:

  • Rear gets scratched very easily
  • Mono speaker is of average quality
  • No OIS in the rear camera

Introduction

To be entirely honest, I completely forgot about the Galaxy A70 after looking at the swivel camera, full-screen beauty – the Galaxy A80. But boy, was I wrong to shun the Galaxy A70 or what? 

This phone has completely taken me by surprise. The Galaxy A70 has a certain X-factor, that I can’t really put my finger on. It is not a perfect phone by any stretch of the imagination, but what in life is actually perfect?

It is time to find out what is it that makes the Galaxy A70 a good, if not great, an option under Rs 30,000. 

Samsung Galaxy A70 1

Samsung Galaxy A70 design: A50’s bigger twin

The Galaxy A70 looks like an elongated Galaxy A50. In fact, you cannot tell the difference between the two easily. So, what you get is a polycarbonate body that is made to look like glass with some special engineering. Our Black variant reflects light from the rear in unique colours. There are times when the phone looks Blue and times when it looks like someone dropped a bucket of a rainbow on it. It is a unique and attractive design, no doubt. 

Also read: Samsung Galaxy A50 review: the most premium smartphone experience under Rs. 20,000

That said, the use of plastic is a bit of a letdown for a phone in this price range. Samsung should’ve used metal or glass in the construction in my opinion. Especially because this plastic scratches very easily. I mean, even the most meticulous and careful user is bound to scratch it. You will absolutely need a skin or a case to go with the phone. Talking of cases, you do get a TPU case inside the box. But, fair warning, it is of very average quality. 

Moving on, the phone is massive. Thankfully, Samsung has shaved off a considerable size of the bezels from the top to the bottom. While that still doesn’t make it a one-handed phone, but we’ll take what we get. The tiny chin, especially, makes watching videos on this phone a treat. Also, the rear is curved slightly and doesn’t dig into your palms making it comfortable to hold. Furthermore, you won’t feel the seams where the rear blends in the metal mid-frame and then into the glass. It is a very premium construction, which you do expect from Samsung.

The rest of the button placement and the ports are standard. And yes, you get a Type-C port and a headphone jack at the bottom. So, yay!

Samsung Galaxy A70 display: the goodness of Super AMOLED all over again

Most of the action on the Galaxy A70 happens on the display. This 6.7-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED panel is crisp, offers punchy colours, and is bright and extremely attractive to look at. However, for some odd reason, the reds on the display are not as deep and look like a light orange instead. The brightness levels are great but like most AMOLED screens, you will notice a perceptible colour shift at a certain angle. Basically, the Galaxy A70’s display looks warmer than normal. Otherwise, it has a fairly accurate colour temperature. 

The display is only obstructed by a tiny water drop “Infinity U” notch. It is barely is a distraction, if any. Additionally, you get an in-display fingerprint scanner on the phone. It is slower than a sloth on a lazy day, unfortunately. You can use the facial recognition system that uses the camera to unlock your phone. It is not a very secure biometric recognition because it unlocks even when your eyes are closed. This happens even if you switch off faster facial recognition. 

Samsung Galaxy A70 multimedia: enhanced by Dolby Atmos

Considering the fact that the display is of excellent quality, your video-watching experience is going to be great. It would have been killer if Samsung had added HDR10 or Dolby Vision support. That apart, the massive display manages to reel you in with its inky blacks and vibrant colours. I watched a couple of episodes of the After Life show on Netflix, and apart from the dark, tragic Ricky Gervais humour that hooked me in, the Galaxy A70’s display turned out to be a perfect substitute for my big screen television for watching shows on the go. 

Your multimedia experience is further enhanced by the Dolby Atmos support on the phone. It works when you use a headphone/earphone with the Galaxy A70. With my KZ AS06, I noticed that the sound quality was genuinely better with far better dynamics. Regardless, the headphone experience on the Galaxy A70 is one of the best you can find in this price range among the current crop of phones. Unfortunately, the mono speaker at the bottom is a massive letdown. It is very soft and just doesn’t sound good enough.  

Samsung Galaxy A70 software: Not just OneUI, you also get Samsung Pay

The Samsung Galaxy A70 has the new OneUI software based on Android 9 Pie. I have discussed the software in length in my previous reviews (Samsung Galaxy S10+ review). It has the same new interface with bold cards with rounded corners and big fonts. Samsung has also made it easier to use with one hand by giving you the option to pull down the key UI elements and access points to the bottom half of the display. Obviously, it is a pity that the same philosophy doesn’t apply to the app drawer but we’ve passed on the feedback to Samsung. 

Now, the main draw for the Galaxy A70 is the full-fledged Samsung Pay support. Which means you can tap your phone on any POS terminal that accepts a Credit/Debit card and the phone will make you poorer. But, not all cards are accepted. For example, my Yes bank VISA debit card couldn’t be added because my bank doesn’t support it. There are only a few banks that support Samsung Pay at the moment. That said the ease of using Samsung Pay is unmatched and there is literally no competition for the Korean tech giant at the moment. 

By the way, there is a tiny software tweak that Samsung has done exclusively for the Galaxy A70. Essentially, to ensure that you don’t accidentally press any keys on the touchscreen keyboard, Samsung has moved it slightly upwards. This is a very thoughtful and useful change.  

Samsung Galaxy A70 camera: feature-packed but not the best 

The Galaxy A70’s front camera is its marquee feature. The 32MP Samsung ISOCELL GD1 sensor is the one uniting factor between the Galaxy A70, V15 Pro, and the Redmi Y3

P.S. Please note that pictures have been resized for the web

The Galaxy A70’s front camera takes great selfies that look crisp, detailed, and are very colour accurate. But here’s a revelation: you can also take selfies in wide-angle but there is no dedicated wide-angle camera. Then how does it do that? Essentially, the Galaxy A70 crops into the picture when you are shooting a regular selfie. Which means that it is not shooting at 32MP resolution by default? Yes sir, Sherlock. 

32MP shot at 4:3H wide angle

20MP shot at 4:3H regular

8MP shot at 4:3 regular

The Galaxy A70 shoots a full 32MP resolution image only in the 4:3H wide mode. At 4:3H regular mode, you get a 20MP crop of the same shot. And guess what? By default, the Galaxy A70 shoots at 4:3 aspect ratio, which captures an 8MP image. I am beyond astonished! This is just a weird implementation IMO. Regardless, it goes without saying that at 32MP full res, you get the best looking selfies. 

After that little bit of investigation, let’s talk about 4K video recording using the 32MP camera. It is crisp AF but the dynamic range is off. The sound recording is, as usual, great considering it is a Samsung phone. There is no image stabilisation to speak of, but I didn’t notice a jerk or stutter that’d make me cringe. However, the stutter and jerk in the 4K and 1080p videos from the rear camera are really bad. There is no stabilisation to speak of. What is the point of good audio recording and great colour reproduction, if the visuals are going to be so jerky? 

Moving on, the rear camera captures great, accurate colours but the details are missing and the images look soft even in daylight. Thankfully, camera2api is on and I managed to install a semi-working build of GCam on the phone. You will immediately see that it can capture slightly better details. But the colours are unnatural to the point that it looks like you are in a different place. It is too heavy on the browns and cranks up the warmth in general. Here’s the thing, GCam is an unofficial software and it is not very stable so comparing the images really don’t make sense. However, I have added the comparison here because a lot of you folks seem to prefer it over the stock camera on many phones. 

 

1st shot: Stock camera, 2nd shot: Gcam

Overall, I think the Galaxy A70 could’ve benefitted from a better set of rear cameras and OIS as well. And for what it is on offer, I will probably stick to using the selfie camera more.  

Samsung Galaxy A70 performance: speedy thanks to UFS storage

The Samsung Galaxy A70 uses a Snapdragon 675 SoC coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. This is the de facto SoC on many mid-range and super mid-range smartphones, so there is no need to worry about performance. Yes, the Poco F1 offers a Snapdragon 845 SoC and the Redmi Note 7 Pro comes with the SD675 chip. And, both the phones are considerably inexpensive in comparison, but these phones are outliers. Most of the other phones in this price range use either the SD710 or the SD675.

And trust me when I say this, the performance is excellent through and through. The Galaxy A70 makes a strong case for — “don’t judge a phone by its hardware specs” — to actually be recognised as a modern adage. It is nimble, responsive and extremely swift in whatever daily task you throw at it. I didn’t face a single stutter in my time with the phone. 

Weirdly though, my benchmark tests showed a lower number compared to the other SD675 phones like the Redmi Note 7 Pro or the Vivo V15 Pro. For example, in AnTuTu, the Galaxy A70 scored 1,67,240 compared to the 1,79,346 and 1,75,863 scored by the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the V15 Pro respectively. Even the Geekbench numbers were lower for some reason. However, if you ask me the Galaxy A70 was faster than both the phones.

And, here is the reason why: the Samsung Galaxy A70 uses UFS storage. The read/write speeds of 505.17MB/s and 193.76MB/s are much higher than many phones in its price bracket. This enables faster app load and app switching times, making your daily usage experience even smoother. The advantages of using faster flash storage have been seriously underplayed in my opinion. Couple this with the excellent RAM performance, I think the Galaxy A70 is a great performer. No questions asked. 

The Galaxy A70 is no slouch when it comes to gaming either. PUBG runs at High graphics and it looks great on the massive display. I got a constant 30fps reading with a 97% fps stability using Gamebench. And the best part: after a 30-minute gaming session, the phone just went up from 33 to 36.5 degrees. The phone doesn’t heat up even after intensive gaming sessions. 

Samsung Galaxy A70 battery life: no complaints here

Now, all this performance grunt will mean that the 4,500mAh battery might take a hit. Well, that is where you are wrong my friend. The Galaxy A70 has great battery life and you can easily eke out a little more than a day’s worth of usage from the phone. I got an average SoT of around 6 hours and 30 minutes from the phone, which is good of course. You can also use the Adaptive power saving feature for extended battery life. 

But let’s not forget that the Galaxy A70 also has another trump card under its kitty: the 25W fast charging support. This is the fastest charging Samsung phone yet. And, I could manage to charge the large 4,500mAh battery in 1 hour and 53 minutes. It is still not blazing fast but it is great nonetheless. 

Samsung Galaxy A70 call quality and network reception: stellar, as usual

With the Galaxy A70, you really don’t have to worry about call quality or network reception. It is the best. I had no time hearing the person on the other end in calls and my voice was crystal clear too. The 4G performance was excellent as well.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy A70?

The Samsung Galaxy A70 is the phone that broke my pre-conceived notion that it will be “yet another” A-series phone. Using this phone was a great experience for me and I didn’t miss my flagship during that time. In fact, I can keep using this phone no worries. It has a great battery life, reliable performance, excellent audio-video capabilities, and more. However, I would have ideally liked slightly better cameras and for the speaker to be louder. 

Let’s check how the Galaxy A70 fares against other phones.

Poco F1 (Review

The Poco F1 is a mass favourite, of course. Especially because it has a far more powerful SD845 chip. That said, the Galaxy A70 is a better looking phone even objectively. And, it has a far more refined software experience as well. Obviously, the Poco F1 continues to be a steal deal but the Galaxy A70 is a phone that is bound to be an attractive proposition for everyone apart from the spec-nerds out there. 

Poco F1

Vivo V15 Pro (Review

The Vivo V15 Pro is an excellent substitute for the A70. In more ways than one, the V15 Pro is identical to the A70 with the SD675 SoC and 32MP front camera. But objectively, the V15 Pro offers crisper shots from the rear camera but the front camera pictures are almost on par. And, the V15 Pro has a faster in-display scanner. But the Galaxy A70 has, undoubtedly, better ergonomics and a far more refined software experience. I’d go for the Galaxy A70 over the V15 Pro if you’d ask me. 

Nokia 8.1 (Review

It is easy to forget the Nokia 8.1 but trust me, this is an excellent phone too. The stock Android experience on the phone gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. The design is great too, especially with its glass body. I am actually finding it tough to pick between the two because the Galaxy A70 is equally good in most aspects, if not better. Maybe, you can pick the Nokia if you are a fan of stock Android and the Galaxy A70 if you like Samsung’s user experience? A toss up between the two only confuses me more.

 

To sum it up, I am convinced that the Galaxy A70 will capture your attention. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?