A Samsung Galaxy A5 review, eventually

10 Mar

I’ve had fairly good luck with technology. Besides a wonky graphics card and a monitor which developed a small smattering of dead pixels, I can’t remember the last time I replaced a gadget out of necessity rather than vanity or sheer capitalistic greed.

Except I can, because it happened last week, and I was furious. After returning to London from three days of assorted business and leisure activities in Cardiff and Yeovil, I thought the only thing dying was my legs. Just as I was preparing for bed, however, my phone – merely twenty-five months old – suffered a circuit failure. A sufficiently catastrophic circuit failure, I was later told, that it would take several working days to fix.

Unacceptable. The entire reason I spent a day dragging a suitcase (actually the third broken thing) around Yeovil was that I was interviewing for a fiercely desirable new job, and going phoneless meant I might miss their callback, look like a fool in their discerning eyes*, and throw away my chance. Instead, I took the opportunity to ditch the pay-as-you-go plan I’d been using since college, and walked out of the O2 shop with a shiny new Samsung Galaxy A5 on contract.

After a week of usage, I’m far less surprised that my old phone tapped out after two years – this thing makes it look like it was released in the Eighties. The 720p screen is bright and impressively colour-rich, the camera is as megapixel-y as a decent point and shoot, and the whole thing is encased in a wafer-thin (but bend-resistant) body that’s been cut from a single piece of metal. The subtle ‘honeycomb and glitter’ finish on the screen bezel looks lovely, too.

Why hello there.

Also, when I turned it on, my hair grew back, my eyesight was fixed, my jaw became more chiseled and my plaid shirt turned into a tailored suit.

Brilliantly, the button that engaged the Settings menu on my 2013 model now brings up a sort of streamlined Task Manager; a carousel of all the currently-open apps, which I can switch between and close with pleasant swiftness. This isn’t a particularly new or exciting feature in 2015, but I’m glad I’ve caught up. Plus, the 2GB of RAM – a relatively modest amount – keeps apps and menu navigation feeling fast and buttery-smooth. Plus, I can finally look at more than two gifs in a row without running out of memory and losing the ability to look at any more animations of people falling over.

My least favourite thing to do with the A5 is, funnily enough, make phone calls with it – and not just because it’s nice to look at. Strong lines are fine, but the sharp edges around the phone’s front panel means that holding the handset to your ear is like pushing a garden hoe into the side of your head. I imagine I’ll have to get accustomed to engaging the speakerphone and holding it out in front of my chest, using the slightly jaunty telecommunications stance popularised by candidates on The Apprentice.

I could be paying a bit more for the stronger under-the-hood power of a full fat Galaxy S5/S6 or an iPhone, but the A5 does more than enough to sate my nerd lust. It also does so in a compact enough package that, just yesterday, caused me to panic because I couldn’t feel its preposterously skinny form in my pocket and thought I’d have lost it. I really am a fan; I just hope it lasts longer than its predecessor.

*I still haven’t heard back, so maybe this happened regardless.

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