Slow but stylish start-up smartphone

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Samsung’s budget Galaxy A12 smartphone is more than just an iterative update over the Galaxy A11 – with a bigger battery, a different camera, and more on board. Value hunters will also appreciate that Samsung has managed to keep its price below $ 200. How are these new upgrades doing? Let’s find out in our Samsung Galaxy A12 review.

What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A12

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

  • Samsung Galaxy A12 (3 GB, 32 GB): $ 179.99
  • Samsung Galaxy A12 (4 GB, 64 GB): $ 189.99 / £ 169.99 / € 179.99 / Rs. 13,999
  • Samsung Galaxy A12 (6 GB, 128 GB): $ 195.99 / Rs. 16,499

Samsung introduced its Galaxy A12 as a direct successor to the Galaxy A11 in November 2020 before bringing it to the United States in April 2021. The Galaxy A12 offers a total of six different configurations, starting with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. However, only three are currently available in the United States (listed above). Whichever you choose, you’ll also have access to four color options: red, blue, black, and white.

Our Samsung Galaxy A12 arrived with Android 10 on board, although Samsung’s Android 11 update with One UI 3.1 is available via OTA. It also ran the July 1, 2021 Android security patch at time of testing. It is expected to receive two years of software updates as well as four total years of security patches, which will carry the Galaxy A12 through late 2024 or early 2025.

See also: The best Samsung phones you can buy

Once you get past the software, you will find that the MediaTek Helio P35 SoC turns off on Samsung’s entry-level device. RAM and storage options reach 6GB and 128GB respectively, and you can go even further with the microSD slot. A 5,000mAh battery and 6.5in HD + panel tie it all together, and the screen comes with an Infinity-V notch. In India, there is a variant that replaces Helio P35 with Samsung’s Exynos 850 chipset.

Samsung ditched its wired headphones out of the box this time around, though it still offers a charging pad and a USB-C cable. You also get a SIM eject tool and a basic getting started guide, in case you need help getting started.

The Galaxy A12 fits comfortably in the under $ 200 price bracket, but there are plenty of other phones to consider. Motorola’s Moto G Play and Moto G Power are top names in the segment, and the OnePlus Nord N200 packs a bit more oomph if you can shell out the $ 240. Samsung’s Galaxy A32 5G is also a good option, though it’s still pricier at $ 279.

What is good?

Samsung Galaxy A12 face up showing the power button

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Budget phones seem almost determined to add mirrored backs and magnetic fingerprint finishes to make it look quality. Fortunately, Samsung’s Galaxy A12 goes against the trend, opting for a soft-touch matte finish instead. I also like the raised diagonal ridges as they add a bit of extra grip to the overall design.

The large 6.5-inch display means a good grip is a must if you’re hoping to skip a case. While this screen respects HD + resolution, it’s still big enough and clear enough to catch up on your latest shows. We’ll always praise a headphone jack, and wired headphones are the best way to enjoy sound on the Galaxy A12 as opposed to the mono downlink speaker.

Samsung also decided to leave the Galaxy A11’s rear fingerprint reader in the past. Instead, the Galaxy A12 uses a side-mounted option, which is very quick, easy to use, and cleans up the overall appearance of the device.

The side fingerprint reader and matte finish give the Galaxy A12 a clean look and premium feel.

Gracing the back panel is Samsung’s camera array capped by a 48 MP primary shooter, which performs well enough on the outside for a budget camera phone (check later in this review for examples). You can also use macro and ultra-wide cameras for more flexibility. The camera app is a breeze to navigate, although it might take a moment or two to track down the macro button as it’s hidden in the More tab.

Samsung’s One UI is one of the best Android skins on the market right now, and it’s as good as ever on the Galaxy A12. In particular, the Samsung Free app is something like Google’s Discover feed, but with a kick start. Instead of just delivering news, Samsung Free brings Samsung TV Plus, Samsung Podcasts, Taboola News, and Instant Plays together in one place. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a dime on it all.

The Galaxy A12 is also a battery assistant, at least to hold a charge. I had no problem spending a good two days of use between light gaming, answering emails, and browsing social media.

What is not so good?

Samsung Galaxy A12 face down showing the ports

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Samsung Free app can be a nice addition to the package, but Samsung hasn’t stopped there when deciding how much to add to its take on Android. Unfortunately, there are loads of additional apps on the Galaxy A12 that mostly take up space. It comes with a full suite of Google apps as well as Samsung apps which results in a lot of redundancy. There are even Microsoft options like Office, OneDrive, and Outlook. You’ll also come across Shop Samsung, Galaxy Shop, and Galaxy Store – how many people actually need two Samsung stores and one Play Store alternative?

The good news is that you can at least uninstall Microsoft-based bloat, but that doesn’t do much to help the Galaxy A12’s tendency to fall behind. MediaTek’s Helio P35 doesn’t always seem up to the task of feeding the 6.5-inch screen power, and jumping between apps only slows things down further. Limited RAM and storage don’t help, you might want to look at the 4GB RAM / 64GB storage version if you can find it.

Three different app suites, two different app stores, and a pair of Samsung stores are just too many.

While Samsung has built in a solid primary lens on the Galaxy A12, the fun peripheral options aren’t always in good shape. The macro lens only offers 2 MP, and it took several attempts to get the pretty clear sample image below. You also won’t find a dedicated night mode on the Galaxy A12, so you’ll likely have to endure some trial and error beyond the daylight hours.

While all phones add a bit of magic after pressing the shutter button, the end result of photos taken on the Galaxy A12 was often noticeably better than what the camera app was showing. For example, the low-light image below looked noticeably darker when I pressed the shutter button, and none of the images in the comparison looked as sharp as what you see. Most of the time this turned out to be a nice surprise at the end, but it does make judging your shot a bit tricky. The portrait mode was also not great for edge detection, as you can see in the sample around my hair.

Samsung may have fitted a solid battery into its Galaxy A12, but the 15W charging speeds are woefully underpowered, even for a cheap phone like this. I was only able to go from 3% to 23% charge after 30 minutes, with a full charge taking over two hours.

Examples of Samsung Galaxy A12 cameras

Samsung Galaxy A12 Specifications

Samsung galaxy a12
Display 6.5 inch
PLS IPS
1600 x 720 (20: 9)
Processor MediaTek Helio P35
RAM 2 GB up to 6 GB
Storage room 32 GB up to 128 GB
Cameras Rear quad camera:
48MP wide (f / 2.0)
Ultra-wide 5MP (f / 2.2)
Macro 2MP (f / 2.4)
Depth 2MP (f / 2.4)

Before:
8MP (f / 2.2)

Drums 5,000 mAh
15W wired charging
IP Rating Nothing
Software Comes with Android 10
Update to Android 11 available
Samsung One UI 3.1
Dimensions 6.46 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches
(164 x 75.8 x 8.9 mm)
7.23oz (205g)
Colors Black
White
Blue
Red
Security Side fingerprint scanner
Face recognition

Samsung Galaxy A12 review: should I buy it?

Samsung Galaxy A12 in hand open to Samsung applications

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A12 is a solid upgrade from the Galaxy A11 in almost every way. What this budget phone brings to the table is a good 48 MP main camera, excellent battery life, and Samsung’s crisp and attractive One UI software. Unfortunately, peripheral cameras lack oomph and slow performance can be frustrating, but those are expected tradeoffs at this price point.

The Samsung Galaxy A12 is an upgrade from the Galaxy A11 in almost every way and is perfect for someone buying their first smartphone.

We mentioned that the Galaxy A12 lands right around Motorola’s Moto G Power ($ 249) and Moto G Play ($ 169), and it is well suited for someone buying their first smartphone. The lack of 5G limits its future prospects, but you can try the OnePlus Nord N200 ($ 239) or splurge on the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G ($ 279) if you want to take advantage of the maximum speeds. Samsung’s Galaxy A12 is also available on Verizon, US Cellular, and AT&T.

Samsung Galaxy A12 screen open to the application drawer

Samsung galaxy a12

The Galaxy A12 picked up where the Galaxy A11 left off, with an additional camera, a bigger battery, and a new textured back panel. Take yours with its Infinity-V display and see what Samsung can do.


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