There aren’t many reasons to recommend the Galaxy A04s, other than the fact that it’s a fully functional mobile phone for under £140. Several other budget mobiles are significantly faster, more comfortable and better looking.
Samsung makes some of the best, and most expensive, mobile phones in the world. Even their semi-expensive mid-range phones are mostly high quality and very popular.
But something seems to be happening when the Korean manufacturer is forced to turn the tables on the budget class. Then Samsung doesn’t do nearly as well.
Last year I tested the mediocre Galaxy A13. This year I couldn’t get hold of the sequel Galaxy A14, but instead had to check out its little sibling Galaxy A04s. I have no idea what the S stands for, and there is no “regular” Galaxy A04 does not exist.
It is at least a small step below the Galaxy A13, and most other budget mobiles I’ve tested, with a recommended price just below £140, though you can find it for less if you shop around.
But is it a good deal, even at that price? I am sceptical. It is a heavy and wide mobile phone, built entirely in glossy black plastic, which attracts grease, dust and fingerprints. Thick screen edges around a 6.5-inch screen make it impractical to grip. But its volume buttons and power button with built-in fingerprint reader are well placed, have clear mechanics and are easy to find. A slot on the side for dual sims also houses a separate micro SD card slot.
Old and budget on the inside
The Galaxy A04S is based on Samsung’s own Exynos 850 chipset, which wasn’t very impressive when it arrived in 2020. It’s the same chip that disappointed me in the Galaxy A13, and it doesn’t fare any better here. Especially since you only get 3GB RAM in the basic model.
I can’t even run Geekbench benchmark measurements on it, as that app has 4GB RAM as a system requirement. And the measurements I can run don’t give me reliable numbers.
You also only get 32GB of storage, with both low read and write speeds. Large apps can take a long time to launch because of that, not to mention the time taken with a system boot of the entire phone.
Browsing heavy web pages is choppy and there are mini-delays everywhere in the interface, like bringing up a keyboard and starting to type text. It may be a matter of habit, but when there are mobiles in the price range that can avoid most of this, I think Samsung should definitely be able to do better.
Pluses and minuses for picture and sound
The screen is a 720p panel that is sharp enough for most things, but some fine text can be pixelated to read. The 90Hz frame rate could have made scrolling and navigation smoother, if the phone’s performance didn’t prevent it.
And yes, sometimes there is an improvement. It has a PLS-type LCD panel, which means that it has clear and unwelcome shifts in contrast at viewing angles around 45 degrees, but in return it has higher contrast from the front than most IPS LCD screens. And a little extra contrast may be needed, given that it has mediocre brightness of about 380cd/m2 at best. You’ll struggle to see anything on the screen if it’s bright outside.
Auto brightness does nothing to boost the light further, and uses the selfie camera instead of a separate light sensor, which drains the battery. The screen’s colours are close to SRGB-grade, but not much more, and although I find the colours to be neutral and natural, there are no obvious blue or red spots in the image.
You only get one mono speaker at the bottom. It sounds clear for voices, but is anything but enjoyable for music and film. On the other hand, I do not expect much more in the budget class, although Samsung is usually good at sound. If you want to connect headphones, you can do so with a traditional analogue plug, as the 3.5mm headphone jack is located next to the speaker at the bottom.
Android 13, nowadays
When the Galaxy A04s was launched, it had Android 12. Now it ships with Android 13 and Samsung’s own One UI 5.1, but that means one of its two promised Android versions is “used up”. You’ll get Android 14 soon enough, but whether you’ll get more updates after that is less clear. This is quite normal in the budget class, but since Samsung has the best update policy on its more expensive mobiles, it would have been welcome to see the same here.
One UI 5.1 is a feature-rich interface, but it’s been scaled back slightly for this low-performance phone, so you don’t have the side menu enabled for quick access to split-screen and dual apps, for example. I guess Samsung wants to avoid enticing people to utilise it given how little RAM the phone has.
Struggling in the evening
The cameras on the back are three in number, a 50Mp main camera, a 2Mp macro and a support sensor for depth perception. You’ll have to do without ultrawide-angle photography, but the camera app’s 2x zoom mode provides easy digital zooming that still delivers good image quality. In daylight, the camera performs well, with natural colour balance and good dynamics and detail in both shadows and highlights.
It can be difficult to take quick action shots, as the focus is a little sluggish, but with a steady hand and patience, images can be sharp. Portraits and self-portraits both turn out well thanks to AI-based face detection, but with anything that’s not a human, it struggles with edge detection. At best, you’re shooting in 1080p and 30fps, with shaky autofocus and not much stabilisation.
Shooting at night and in dark indoor environments is not a great experience. Here, autofocus easily loses the last five or ten per cent of fine tuning, which means that details are quickly blurred, although a landscape image still looks okay. There are also some problems keeping the white balance neutral and dark surfaces can sometimes become mottled.
With moderate performance, a power-efficient PLS screen and a 5,000 milliamp-hour battery, battery life should at least be good. And yes, I can stream films nonstop from breakfast to dinner at full brightness, or email and surf even longer if I dim the screen slightly. According to the specs, it supports 15W USB-C charging, but no charger is included. With a 20W Samsung charger I had lying around, I went from zero to 30% battery in half an hour, and you can expect well over two hours to reach a full charge. Not exactly fast, but on the other hand, you don’t have to charge it at the drop of a hat.
You get Wi-Fi 5 support and 4G connectivity, and both seem fast and stable. I don’t think I need more than that in a budget phone. Some smartphones in this price range stubbornly try to offer 5G, and then they have to compromise on other things to keep the price down. But I don’t know what Samsung could have cut back on the Galaxy A04s and still be viable, so it’s probably a good thing they’ve reined you in on that point.
This is a phone that’s just barely usable, and there are clearly better options. If you really want to save money and find it even cheaper than the standard price of £140, you might consider it, otherwise I would recommend that you check out the competition.
Product name: Samsung Galaxy A04s Tested: August 2023 System chipset: Samsung Exynos 850 Processor: 8pcs Cortex A55 2 GHz Graphics: ARM Mali-G52 MC1 Memory: 3 GB Storage: 32 GB, micro SD slot Display: 6.5 inch pls, 720×1200 pixels, 90 Hz Cameras: 50 megapixel + 2 megapixel macro + depth sensor with led, 5 megapixel front Connections: usb 2 type c, 3.5mm headset Communications: 2g, 3g, 4g, wifi 5, bluetooth 5.0, gps, galileo, nfc Operating system: Android 13 with One UI Other: Dual sim, fingerprint scanner on side Battery: 5,000 mAh, 12 hours 20 min online video (wifi, high brightness), about 17 hours mixed use (4g, low brightness), about 31 hours calls Battery charging: 15 W usb c, charger not included Size: 16.47 x 7.67 x 0.91 cm Weight: 195 grams Rec. price: 1 980 SEK Current price: 1 745 at Telefonshoppen
Antutu Benchmark: 132,091 points Geekbench 6: Not measured Geekbench 6 single core: Not measured 3dmark Wild Life: 494 points Storage, read: 225 MB/s Storage, write: 147.1 MB/s