Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Samsung’s best mid-range handset?
Samsung’s far-reaching tendrils have well and truly found their way into every nook and cranny of the smartphone space. No matter how plump your wallet is, there’s a Samsung phone that fits the bill.
You could be forgiven, though, for failing to keep track of new releases. From budget-tier handsets to pricey flagships, a total of ten new Galaxy phones have already launched this year alone, with that list expected to grow as 2019 trudges along.
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The freshly squeezed Galaxy A70 is yet another Samsung phone that intends to plug the ever-widening gap between the top and bottom ends of the phone spectrum. Overflowing with features at a pleasing price, the Galaxy A70 should already be achieving widespread praise, but has Samsung got a problem? When you saturate a market this heavily and aggressively, can any one phone stand out from the crowd?
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: What you need to know
Mercifully, the Galaxy A70 manages to employ everything you’d ever want from a flagship-beating smartphone. It doesn’t come close to the sort of eye-watering prices of the Galaxy S-branded bellwethers, yet it offers a long list of enticing goodies without having to dig too far into your rainy-day fund.
The company’s latest mid-range handset runs Android 9 Pie with Samsung’s own launcher software firmly overlaid on top. It also has a gigantic 6.7in edge-to-edge screen with a circular drop notch and a barrage of cameras – three at the back and one at the front. Other special features include an on-screen fingerprint reader and a massive 4,500mAh battery which promises up to a day-and-a-half’s stamina on a single charge.
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Price and competition
Even at this early stage, it’s clear that the Galaxy A70 offers a very tempting proposition, but its crowning achievement is how much (or rather how little) it costs. You can head into your local shop right now and pick one up for just £369 SIM-free, with contract prices starting from around £23 a month.
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To cast that price in an even more positive light, you can buy two Galaxy A70’s for the price of just one Galaxy S10 and still have a bit of change left over for a weekend away at Butlins.
Where Samsung gets into trouble, however, is when you start looking at the opposition from the other smartphone makers. The Vivo V15 Pro costs £60 more but comes equipped with an identical chipset. Huawei’s Mate 20 Lite and P30 Lite can be had for roughly the same price too. Likewise, the Google Pixel 3a costs £30 more, though it offers the best mid-range camera on the market.
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Design and key features
The Galaxy A70 is a fairly unassuming smartphone by 2019 standards. It may not represent a masterpiece in smartphone engineering, but it certainly doesn’t feel cheap compared to the Galaxy A80 or Samsung’s S-tier flagships, either. Constructed from a “3D glasstic” fusion of metal and glass, the Galaxy A70’s subtly curved sides fit well in the hand despite its large size. It’s also quite slender, measuring just 7.9mm.
Mimicking the Galaxy S10’s lavish pearlescent paint jobs, the A70’s four distinct colours – black, white, coral and blue – shimmer nicely whenever light catches the rear. The blue model I was sent for review, for instance, creates a soft orange ombre tint, which is a rather lovely touch for a phone that costs less than half the price of Samsung’s flagship.
Elsewhere, the Galaxy A70 benefits from a massive 6.7in notched display and a stacked triple camera array on the back of the phone. Mercifully, Samsung has decided to include the 3.5mm audio jack – a connector that’s missing on the more expensive Galaxy A80 – which sits next to the Galaxy A70’s USB Type-C charging port and solitary speaker grille. Other practicalities include the right-mounted volume rocker and power buttons, with the dual-SIM tray making an appearance in the upper-left edge.
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Display
Samsung’s homebrew “Infinity U” display makes its first-ever appearance with the Galaxy A70, which employs a semi-circular drop notch eating its way into the top of the 6.7in Super AMOLED panel. It doesn’t look quite as clean as the entirely borderless Galaxy S10, but you can’t grumble too much considering how little it costs.
By some feat of technical wizardry, the Galaxy A70 still benefits from Samsung’s excellent ultrasonic on-display fingerprint reading tech for secure unlocking. This analyses the ridges of your thumb or finger when placed on the bottom portion of the display – unlocking the phone quite quickly in our tests – and can even be used to wake the phone when the screen is off.
As for the technical achievements of the Galaxy A70’s FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080) screen, I found that it was capable of producing 100% of the sRGB colour gamut in the phone’s ‘Natural’ display setting, according to our in-house display colorimeter. An average Delta E of 2.25 is very impressive for a phone this cheap, although I did notice some slight oversaturation in light and dark green tones. Rest assured all other colours looked as good as can be, with particularly vibrant red tones and a deep, inky-looking black.
In further technical testing, I measured a maximum screen luminance peaking at 565cd/m2 in automatic brightness mode which, when paired with the perfect Infinity:1 contrast ratio, promises readability in all environments. You won’t be squinting at your phone screen this summer, that’s for certain, even if you’ve found the extra cash to ditch Butlins and spend a week sunbathing in the Maldives.
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Performance and battery life
Inside the Galaxy A70, you’ll find an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 chipset, with a maximum clock speed of 2GHz, backed by 6GB of RAM. We first saw this mid-range chipset powering the Vivo V15 Pro earlier this year, although bizarrely, the cheaper Galaxy A50 uses the Samsung-made Exynos 9610 processor, which is clocked slightly higher. Regardless, there’s also a healthy 128GB of internal storage, which can be supplemented by a further 256GB via microSD.
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Put the Galaxy A70 to the test and it’s clear that the internals hold up well under scrutiny, although you can’t expect the same barnstorming speeds as the Galaxy S10. The cheaper Galaxy A50 is faster, which is very confusing, but generally speaking, the Galaxy A70 stacks up quite well against the competition.
Dipping in and out of the Galaxy A70’s user interface feels nippy and responsive, even when juggling multiple applications. Unlocking the phone, either with your fingerprint or face recognition, takes barely a second. The A70’s gaming possibilities are solid too, achieving a GFXBench Manhattan 3 onscreen result of 19fps.
We’re yet to discuss the Galaxy A70’s biggest selling point, though. Equipped with a massive 4,500mAh capacity battery, the A70 managed to reach a total of 25hrs 22mins of continuous video playback on a single charge, with all data connections switched off and flight mode engaged.
This result is so impressive that the Galaxy A70 is propelled to fourth place in our smartphone battery life hierarchy, making it the first phone to reach this close to the podium since last year’s Moto E5 Plus. A day-and-a-half’s worth of use isn’t out of the question here, and you might even be able to squeeze out two days of charge if you’re slightly more conservative with your apps and picture-taking.
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Camera
Speaking of which, let’s move on to the Galaxy A70’s photographic capabilities. Flip the phone over and you’ll spot a vertically aligned triple camera array. The main 32-megapixel (f/1.7) sensor is accompanied by an 8-megapixel (f/2.2) ultra-wide 123-degree lens and a 5-megapixel (f/2.2) depth-sensing unit for more effective blurred background portraits.
This triple camera arrangement isn’t anything new by 2019 standards, but the quality of images that the Galaxy A70 is capable of producing is nothing short of exceptional. The A70 manages to give the Pixel 3a its first proper run for its money, capturing outdoor environments with extraordinary clarity and detail. Sunlight reflections on neighbouring windows look dazzling and the brickwork is well-defined with accurately judged exposures and colour rendition.
An area where the A70 doesn’t come off quite as good is in low-light photography. The Pixel 3a manages to capture a sharper-looking image with more detail, while the Galaxy A70’s low-light shots appear to suffer from dim, washed-out colours. Neither images are free from visual noise, though, and the Galaxy A70 still does a better job than most of its rivals.
The camera software is easy to use, relying on simple swipes to the left and right to access shooting modes such as panorama, hyper-lapse and 960fps slow-motion recording. The Galaxy A70’s “live focus” portrait shooting mode is as wonderful as ever, allowing you to adjust the level of background blur before you capture the image.
Finally, the Galaxy A70 benefits from 4K resolution video recording at 30fps and Full HD capture at up to 60fps. The ultra-wide lens can also be enabled when recording video, although footage can only be captured at Full HD resolution at 30fps in this mode. Generally speaking, the video looks superb, although the lack of any form of image stabilisation at higher resolutions and increased frame rates isn’t ideal.
Samsung Galaxy A70 review: Verdict
Having navigated that dangerously fine line between affordability and high-end features, Samsung appears to have stumbled on the right ingredients with the Galaxy A70. It might lack the fancy rotating selfie camera of its pricier A80 counterpart, but in the areas that matter the Galaxy A70 is just the ticket if you’re not fond of handing over flagship-sized sums.
However, Samsung’s contentious market saturation presents a potential stumbling block. The A70 is already having to compete with five other Galaxy A-branded phones at the moment, while also facing stiff competition from other smartphone makers. Worryingly, Samsung’s best mid-range handset is in danger of blending in with the crowd.