Samsung Galaxy J3 first impressions: a capable budget option for those on the move

“The Galaxy J3 features decent hardware and comes with an interesting and highly-practical S Bike Mode”

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The Korean behemoth Samsung is among the rare smartphone manufacturers which caters to the whole spectrum of users – be it the budget consumer or someone looking to buy a high-end device. After launching the Galaxy S7 duo in the premium category, the company is now setting its eyes on the voluminous sub-Rs 10,000 price band with the Galaxy J3. The smartphone was launched in India today at the attractive price point of Rs 8,999. We were able to get our hands on it, and here’s what we think about it, based on our brief time.

The Samsung Galaxy J3 is made for one-handed use thanks to its compact 5-inch display. It’s size is just the right mix of ergonomic comfort and a decent screen size for a multimedia experience. With a thickness of 7.9mm and weight of 138g, the phone feels good in the hand as well.

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In terms of design language, the Galaxy J3 isn’t very different from recent offerings from Samsung’s stable. The screen is the centerpiece at the fascia, flanked by an earpiece, a couple of sensors and the secondary snapper above along with Samsung’s branding, and three navigation buttons below.

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The Samsung Galaxy J3 is built of plastic, but the metal-finished edges adds to its appeal. The power button is available towards the right, while the left spine holds the volume controls. The audio socket is present on the top, whereas the micro-USB port can be found at the base.

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The removable rear panel features a matte finish and sports the primary camera unit, sandwiched between an LED flash and a speaker grille. The phone is available in gold, black or white hues. Prying open the cover reveals the user replaceable battery, a pair of SIM slots and an expansion slot.

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With a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, the 5-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy J3 is able to offer good sharpness and nice colours. Sadly, the brightness levels didn’t seem up to the mark. In fact, even with the outdoor mode, which amps up the brightness, we struggled reading the display outdoors.

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At the core of the Samsung Galaxy J3 runs a quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz. Even though it’s a budget handset, the brand is trying to ensure that the device can handle multiple apps with ease, thanks to 1.5GB RAM. During our brief usage, the phone offered a speedy response, though it’s actual test would be graphic intensive titles such as Asphalt 8: Airborne.

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Handling your storage needs is 8GB of onboard memory, which seems on the lower side, since it’s sure to fill up soon with basic apps and high-end games. Thankfully, it’s further expandable with the use of a microSD card.

For software, the Samsung Galaxy J3 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, with Samsung’s custom skin called TouchWiz. It’s odd however that the Korean company didn’t offer the latest iteration of Android, considering its current flagships come with 6.0 Marshmallow.

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The stand out feature of the Samsung Galaxy J3 is the S Bike mode, which is a combination of hardware tweaks and some software optimisations. Interestingly enough, for harnessing this capability, the phone supports NFC, making it the most affordable device in India to offer this connectivity option. The retail pack of the J3 comes bundled with an NFC tag, which can be pasted on the fuel tank of your two-wheeler or the helmet, allowing you to enable the S Bike mode with a single tap. Once enabled, this mode will block all messages and calls, with the calls receiving a pre-recorded message. But don’t worry, in case it’s an important call, the caller would be able to press 1, so that the call is routed to you.

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Another safety feature offered by this mode is motion sensing, which means you won’t be able to pick the call if the phone detects you’re currently riding. Unless and until you stop your motorcycle, you won’t be able to pick up the phone call. Another interesting option is Smart reply where pre-selected contacts would receive a text message with an estimated time until you reach your destination.

In the camera department, the Galaxy J3 sports an 8-megapixel shooter at the back, and a 5MP secondary camera. The primary snapper also gets help from an LED flash to shoot in poorly-lit conditions. The camera app is the traditional Samsung-esque, though the good part is that you get the Pro mode that lets you control ISO levels and exposure.

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Connectivity-wise, the phone is well rounded with options like dual-SIM, 4G support (in the primary SIM slot), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC. The Samsung Galaxy J3 sips juice from a 2,600mAh battery, which should last a day of use.

Samsung has tasted immense success with the Galaxy J5 (review) and J7 (first impressions), and its latest offering in the J series also seems to be on the same path. At a price point of Rs 8,999, the phone will be up against the likes of the Lenovo VIBE K5 Plus (first impressions) and Coolpad Note 3 (review | FAQs). While the competition seems to be better purely in terms of specs, the Samsung Galaxy J3 one ups them with its decent hardware, brand pull and the highly-practical S Bike mode.

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