Understanding Samsung’s Galaxy A and M series models is getting harder by the month, as new models are brought in with minor refreshes, but not always in a logical order. For example, the recent Galaxy M21 (Review) was basically a Galaxy M30s (Review) with a different selfie camera, but going by the model name, it’s impossible to make that connection.
While some models in the A and M series have slight overlap in pricing, there is still a relatively clear distinction between the series. Generally speaking, most models in the A series tend to have better finishes and great features like an in-display fingerprint sensor, while the M series tend to prefer lower prices.
Today, we’ll be testing Samsung’s new Galaxy A31 which, on paper, should be the successor to the Galaxy A30s. Compared to the latter, the new model offers a fourth rear camera, a bigger battery, a higher-resolution display, full support for Samsung Pay and of course a higher price tag. Available in just one configuration with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage for Rs. 21,999, does the Galaxy A31 deserve a spot in our coveted list of top phones under Rs. 25,000?. Let’s see.
Samsung Galaxy A31 Design: Been there, seen that
Even though the design of the Galaxy A31 isn’t quite refreshing for a budget Samsung device, I like the fact that it’s thin and light. The all-polycarbonate body feels sturdy but it picks up fingerprints easily. The phone has a pretty thick chin at the bottom of the screen, and there’s an Infinity-U cutout at the top for the selfie camera.
There’s a large SIM tray on the left side for two SIM cards and a microSD card. The headphone jack, USB Type-C port and speaker are on the bottom. At the back is Samsung’s prism crush pattern, of which we have the blue variant. This phone is also available in back and white trims. The quad-camera cluster at the back is a rectangular module and doesn’t bulge out much.
Overall, the Galaxy A31 was comfortable to use on a daily basis during this review. It’s a bit wide, and it’s not the easiest to reach at the top of the display, but One UI has gestures to help make up for it. After seeing many phones with similar patterns in the series on the back, the design has started looking a bit boring at this time. The contents of the box are also fairly standard: there’s a silicone case, a charger, a USB cable, and a headset.
Samsung Galaxy A31 Display: AMOLED never disappoints
Galaxy A31 has a 6.4-inch full-HD + (1080×2400 pixels) Super AMOLED display. I found it to be more than enough in terms of brightness even in the daytime. Colors were a bit too rich for my taste in the default ‘Vivid’ mode, but this can be reduced in the settings. The display is flat, with no curves at the edges, but no sharp edges, so performing gestures isn’t a problem.
There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor, which isn’t very sharp, but it works well as long as you press down on it firmly. The fingerprint animations as well as the time it takes to wake up the screen make the whole process feel a bit slow. I usually relied on facial recognition, which I found fast. The Always-On display has basic customizations such as the ability to show which song is playing, and a choice of different clock styles.
Samsung Galaxy A31 performance: Very disappointing
Despite its good build quality and good display, its performance is a big issue. Samsung has used the MediaTek Helio P65 octa-core SoC, and I wouldn’t have a problem with it on a phone that costs Rs. 10,000, but I certainly wouldn’t expect it on something that costs more than Rs. 20,000 Compared to the Galaxy M21, which uses the Exynos 9611 and costs much less, the Galaxy A31 is slower in most popular benchmarks.
Samsung’s One UI v2.1 based on Android 10 also feels a bit sluggish overall. Animations consistently indicated stutter and lag when I was switching between apps. It didn’t hinder use much, but waiting an extra second or two for things to happen isn’t an experience I’d expect at this price point. The One UI itself is quite feature-rich with lots of shortcuts, themes and gestures to play with. There’s also Dolby Atmos, but only for wired and wireless headphones.
The Galaxy A31 supports Google’s Widevine L1 certification, which means video streaming apps can play content at the display’s native resolution. The single speaker gets quite loud but the audio quality is pretty average. Simple games run well, but heavy titles like Asphalt 9: Legends or even PUBG Mobile run on low graphics settings. The gameplay was tolerable but they didn’t look as good as they should have. I also noticed a little heat while playing the game for a long time.
Samsung Galaxy A31 camera: the disappointment continues
Well, the Galaxy A31 doesn’t look very attractive so far, but maybe it can redeem itself with its camera performance. The rear four cameras include a primary 48-megapixel sensor, an 8-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel depth camera, and a 5-megapixel macro camera. Not all cameras’ apertures are particularly impressive, even the one on the main camera at f/2.0. The front camera uses a 20-megapixel sensor.
The Camera app should be familiar to most Samsung users, although I found a few missing features that should have been there. Considering the phone’s price and its position in the series, it’s a bit odd to not have 4K video recording and even Night Mode for low-light photos as an option. Pro mode is crippled, with no option to adjust shutter speed. Autofocus speed is good, but this phone seeks focus in low light.
You get Samsung’s ‘Scene Optimizer’ AI engine and the ability to save stills and videos in HEIF and HEVC formats. In good light, the main sensor takes good looking pictures. Images are captured as 12-megapixel shots by default, but you can shoot at the full 48-megapixel resolution if needed. Noise is suppressed well in low light but details are lacking, which becomes noticeable when photos are zoomed in slightly. It’s better to shoot close-ups in good light, with good details and colours, but due to shutter lag, even the slightest movement can create blurriness.
The wide-angle camera captures poor detail by comparison, and the HDR isn’t as effective as the main camera. In low light, details are very poor and there is no Night Mode to help with rescue shots.
Live focus works fine, and the amount of background blur can be adjusted for portrait shots. The macro camera does a decent job with extreme close-ups, but I didn’t find the image quality much better than on phones with 2-megapixel sensors.
Videos are limited to 1080p resolution, but quality is good when shooting with the primary camera. The Galaxy A31 also doesn’t offer electronic stabilization, so movements with the camera feel jerky. You can’t switch to the wide-angle camera while recording, but you can switch it on before you start. As expected, video quality is acceptable in good light but very poor in low light. There is no stabilization here either.
The selfie camera captures 12-megapixel stills by default (8 megapixels if you choose a tighter crop). However, you can also shoot at the native resolution. In broad daylight, selfies can usually be used when shooting outdoors. Skin tones look a little warmer and HDR can be hit or miss, but it’s not too bad. The camera struggles to reproduce fine details in low light, often giving you soft textures and weak details.
Overall, the Galaxy A31’s cameras are underwhelming and lack many features that you’ll find in many phones that cost a lot less.
Samsung Galaxy A31 Battery: Very Good
If there is one redeeming quality about the Galaxy A31, it will be the battery life. The 5,000mAh battery lasted 18 hours and 11 minutes in our HD video loop test, which is pretty good. Even with regular use, I was easily able to go beyond a day on a single charge. There’s 15W fast charging, so you can charge the battery up to 50 percent in an hour, but it takes over two hours to fully charge.
Verdict: Who is the Samsung Galaxy A31 for?
I’ve been struggling to find a good reason for the existence of the Galaxy A31, and I honestly can’t think of one. It seems like Samsung has launched it to fill the price gap between the Galaxy A50s (Review) and Galaxy A51 (Review) – either of which will be a better pick than the Galaxy A31. Battery life is the main standout feature here, along with good build quality and display.
However, moderate SoC performance and underwhelming cameras are flaws that are too obvious to ignore when paying more than Rs. 20,000 even if the price drops, there are a lot more powerful and feature-rich options in the market such as Samsung’s own Galaxy A50 and Galaxy M31, or phones from Realme and Xiaomi.
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