Sunday, May 26, 2024

I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy A55. It didn’t go as expected

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A person holding the Samsung Galaxy A55.

Samsung Galaxy A55
MSRP $547.00

Score Details

DT Recommended Product

“The Samsung Galaxy A55 returns long battery life and strong performance, which, combined with its reliable software, makes it a great everyday smartphone.”

Pros

  • Two-day battery life
  • Big screen is great for media
  • Metal and glass design looks modern
  • Long software commitment

Cons

  • Uncomfortable to hold
  • No wireless charging
  • Wired charging is slower than the competition

I feared the worst on my first day with the Samsung Galaxy A55. It just didn’t feel quite right, and it made me worry about my time with the phone. After liking its predecessor, I didn’t want it to be a disappointment.

Contents

  • Samsung Galaxy A55: design
  • Samsung Galaxy A55: software and performance
  • Samsung Galaxy A55: screen and media
  • Samsung Galaxy A55: camera
  • Samsung Galaxy A55: battery life and charging
  • Samsung Galaxy A55: price and availability
  • Samsung Galaxy A55: verdictShow 2 more items

I’m now a few weeks into living with the phone, and things have definitely changed for the better. In fact, my time with the Galaxy A55 will have a far more positive ending than I first thought it would. But just how good is the Galaxy A55, and can it take on the wealth of other great affordable phones released recently?

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Samsung Galaxy A55: design

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’m going to come back to the key aspects that have changed for the better with the Galaxy A55, but first, let’s talk about the one thing that hasn’t (because it can’t), and that’s the in-hand feel. This is different from the phone’s design, which is modern-looking and really stylish. But in what I assume to be its quest to make the Galaxy A55 look like an iPhone 15, Samsung has made a phone that’s unforgivingly sharp and irritatingly slippery.

The flat Gorilla Glass Victus+ rear panel returns almost no grip at all, and not even the three raised cameras can usually save it from slowly but surely sliding off many surfaces. It’s reason one for putting a grippy case on the Galaxy A55, and reason two is it’s quite uncomfortable to hold for more than a short time. The metal chassis meets the glass front and rear at a sharp angle, and you really feel it against your palm and fingers. It’s not a very pleasant phone to hold, unlike the curvier Galaxy A54.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s a shame, as the Galaxy A55’s overall design is an upgrade over the Galaxy A54, with a lovely textured, brushed effect along the metal chassis, and a contrasting polished section around the volume and power buttons. There is a wide choice of colors, and the Awesome Navy seen in our photos is a nice alternative to the usual, boring black. It also means you don’t have to go overboard by choosing the Awesome Lilac or Awesome Lemon alternatives for a bit of visual interest. Oh, and Samsung really does prefix its A55 color names with the word awesome.

The phone is manageable at 213 grams, thin at 8.2mm, and the IP67 water and dust resistance gives you confidence. I’ve used the phone without a case for more than a week, where it has spent time in and out of bags, and it shows no signs of wear or scratches on the metal chassis or the glass rear panel. The Galaxy A55 looks great, it’s as well-made as you’d expect, and it should prove durable, too. It’s just a shame the thing just isn’t very nice to hold, and has gained a little weight over the Galaxy A54.

Samsung Galaxy A55: software and performance

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

While Samsung can’t do anything about the Galaxy A55’s design now, what about the software and performance? These were the other areas of concern I had when I first started using the phone, and it appears the A55 needed at least a day to sort itself out because the slowness, stutters, and performance concerns I had for the first 24 hours disappeared on the second day, as the phone settled down into everyday life.

The in-display fingerprint sensor does require a beat longer to activate than on some other phones, such as the OnePlus 12, but it hasn’t failed to recognize my fingerprint and is far more reliable than on the first day. Using the phone’s menus, apps, and other standard features is now smooth and stutter-free. The early signs of frustration due to performance issues did not become an ongoing problem, but it’s clear the Samsung Exynos 1480 chip takes its time sorting things out internally after setup.


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The Quick Settings screen on the Samsung Galaxy A55.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Screenshots taken from the Samsung Galaxy A55.

Samsung

Screenshots taken from the Samsung Galaxy A55.

Samsung

Installed is Android 14 with Samsung’s One UI 6.1, but there are none of the Galaxy AI features you find on the Galaxy S24 series. Samsung promises the phone will receive four version updates, and security updates for the next five years. The commitment isn’t as long as the one for S series devices, but still very good for a phone at this price. I’ve been using the phone in the UK on 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi, and I have experienced no problems with connection, with calls being clear and reliable.

I’m very familiar with One UI and find it natural and logical to use, but it does need quite a lot of initial setup. This ranges from selecting gesture controls (it’s 2024, Samsung; I don’t want to use Android buttons anymore) to activating the always-on screen, changing the obnoxious default ring and notification tones, switching from the needlessly massive 4×4 home screen app layout to something more modern, and abandoning Samsung’s poor keyboard for Google’s Gboard. Get past this and it then requires little upkeep, outside of a few occasional notifications about system activity.

Samsung Galaxy A55: screen and media

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung’s Exynos processors don’t have the best reputation, and the A-series phones are notorious for having thick bezels around the screen. What’s the situation with the Galaxy A55, seeing as it has both these “afflictions?” The 6.6-inch Super AMOLED screen is 0.2-inches bigger than the Galaxy A54’s screen, but shares the same 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution. However, to my eyes, the drop in pixel density hasn’t resulted in a visible decrease in quality.

It’s bright and easily seen outdoors, the 120Hz refresh rate keeps it smooth and easy on the eyes, and it looks great playing games and watching videos. Yes, the bezels around it are thicker than on some more expensive smartphones, but never once have they detracted from what is a big, vibrant screen on an affordable phone. The stereo speakers are loud, but not all that controlled and are harsh when you crank up the volume. Keep it at a moderate level, and they’re fine for music and games.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’ve used the Galaxy A55 as my main smartphone, so it has to deal with all of my usual tasks. I haven’t found the Exynos 1480 chip with 8GB of RAM slow or unrefined at all outside of the longer-than-expected run-in period. In fact, it has been excellent. Asphalt 9: Legends is fast and smooth, with no obvious or game-ruining slowdown, and the phone doesn’t even get warm when playing for an extended period of time, suggesting Samsung has worked hard on cooling. The combination of the high refresh rate screen and fast processor means the Galaxy A55 has never become frustrating to use each day, no matter what I’ve been doing.

Samsung Galaxy A55: camera

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you’re expecting a huge camera update over the Galaxy A54, then prepare yourself for disappointment. The hardware appears to be identical, with a 50-megapixel main camera leading the stack, joined by a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 5MP macro camera. Set at the top of the screen is a 32MP selfie camera. All this matches the specs of its predecessor. The changes come in the software, such as the addition of Super HDR for video and other performance improvements around lowlight photography and portrait shots.

Provided you don’t expect a Galaxy S24 Ultra-level photographic experience, the Galaxy A55’s main camera can deliver colorful, dynamic photos in daylight and is surprisingly capable at night too, meaning it takes photos you’ll want to share on social media in most environments. The best thing to do is not expect anything more than that, as when you get critical, there are more than a few disappointments here.


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A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's wide-angle camera.

Wide-angle Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's wide-angle camera.

Wide-angle Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera at 2x zoom.

2x zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Night mode Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Portrait mode Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Portrait mode Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Night mode Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's selfie camera.

Portrait selfie mode Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy A55's main camera.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The wide-angle camera isn’t very good, with a lack of detail and quite a lot of noise and smoothing in its photos, and while the look can be consistent with the main camera, these issues really detract from the final shot. In overcast or difficult lighting conditions, both the main and wide cameras can struggle with exposure and noise, while in harsh lighting, colors can appear odd and unnatural. The selfie camera’s portrait mode is surprisingly unreliable too, cutting off ears and glasses despite claimed advances.

Calling a camera great for social media is damning with faint praise, but unfortunately, that’s how I feel about the Galaxy A55. It can take fun photos, and they’ll attract the right attention when you share them, but it can also mess things up quite badly. It’s not a step forward over the Galaxy A54, and is far from meeting the challenge from the OnePlus 12R, the Google Pixel 8, and even the Nothing Phone 2.

Samsung Galaxy A55: battery life and charging

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung claims the Galaxy A55’s 5,000mAh battery will last for two days on a single charge, and although this is true, it does depend on how you use the phone. The A55’s battery impressively powers about six hours of screen time per charge, and I have indeed squeezed two days life from the phone when my screen time is below three hours per day.

Efficiency seems to be up compared to the Galaxy A54, with a 30-minute session of Asphalt 9: Legends draining around 7% of the battery, while the same amount of time watching a 1440p YouTube video consumes only about 3%. The Galaxy A55 has strong battery life, but when it’s time to put some more juice in the battery, you’ll have to reach for a cable. Disappointingly, the Galaxy A55 does not have wireless charging. While it’s not an essential feature, it does feel quite tight on Samsung’s part to not include it here.

The A55’s battery impressively powers about six hours of screen time per charge.

There’s no such thing as fast charging either, as the wired option tops out at 25 watts, which is rather poor next to the OnePlus 12R’s 80W (or 100W if you live outside the U.S.) charging. It can’t match that phone’s 30-minute total recharge time, and using a compatible Anker charger, it took 30 minutes to reach 50% and 1 hour and 25 minutes to reach 100%. You do not get a charger in the box, so you will have to purchase a compatible one to get the fastest possible charge times. There’s nothing wrong with the Galaxy A55’s battery life at all, but the charging speed and lack of wireless charging are a disappointment.

Samsung Galaxy A55: price and availability

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung has decided not to release the Galaxy A55 in the U.S. at this time and will instead launch its cheaper sibling, the Galaxy A35. The Galaxy A55 is available in the U.K. and other regions now, where it costs 439 British pounds, or about $547. This is slightly cheaper than the Galaxy A54’s launch price.

What else can you get for around $500? The Google Pixel 7a and the upcoming Pixel 8a are better choices if you value the camera, while the OnePlus 12R has very fast charging and a good camera too. The Nothing Phone 2, or the Nothing Phone 2a if you want to save some money, are uniquely styled and very capable.

But if you really want a Samsung phone and don’t want to pay $800 for the Galaxy S24, the $600 Galaxy S23 FE is well worth investigating, as it has a considerably more high-end feel than the Galaxy A55, along with desirable features like wireless charging and a more versatile camera. If you own a Galaxy A54 and are wondering if you should upgrade to an A55, it’s probably not worth doing so, although the battery life has improved.

Samsung Galaxy A55: verdict

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Thankfully, my rocky start with the Samsung Galaxy A55 didn’t continue, but does that mean it has transformed into a highly desirable, must-buy phone? Not quite, but it’s certainly not one to be dismissed. While it has been a very good phone to live with, it’s not a big update over the Galaxy A54 at all, and there’s a lot of strong competition around it. It is let down by the sharp, angled design, which is aesthetically pleasing, but horrid to hold for long periods.

This aside, the Galaxy A55 has long battery life, a great screen, and enough performance to crush all everyday tasks. The camera isn’t the best you can get for this price, though, and the lack of wireless charging is frustrating. It’s a good phone, just not an outstanding one, but I’ve happily lived with it and haven’t been desperate to swap my SIM out of it. That’s always a good sign, by the way.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Galaxy A55 is a safe and sensible purchase, helped by the device’s solid software, durability, and multiyear update commitment. However, it’s not very exciting or the best value in Samsung’s range. That honor goes to the Galaxy S23 FE, which is a lot more phone for not a lot more money. The Samsung Galaxy A55 is a recommended phone to buy, but not emphatically so.

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