Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: The Pixel 7a has a lot to be worried about

$399 on paper looks mighty tempting

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

For the price, the Galaxy A35 5G looks like an excellent contender in the budget space. However, the software leaves more to be desired.

Pros

  • +

    Affordable cost

  • +

    Brilliant looking display

  • +

    Plenty of camera features

Cons

  • -

    Bland overall design

  • -

    No Galaxy AI features

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I have an affinity for budget phones. One of the best cheap phones I’ve used in the last year has been the Google Pixel 7a, thanks in part to its excellent value and strong camera performance. Rightfully so, it’s one of the few sub-$500 to make our best camera phones guide, but its days as the go-to phone for bargain hunters could be over with the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy A35 5G in the U.S.

Even though the Galaxy A54 was the top mid-range phone to beat last year, its successor in the Galaxy A55 won’t actually make it stateside. With this unexpected shift, it means that the Galaxy A35 5G will be the one going toe-to-toe against the Pixel 7a — along with other recent midrange devices like the Nothing Phone 2a and Moto G Power (2024).

I got to spend a little hands-on time with the upcoming Samsung Galaxy A35 5G, so there’s a lot to unpack to see if this phone has what it takes to set the bar really high for all other lower-cost handsets this year.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Galaxy A35
Starting price$399
Display6.6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED
Refresh rate120Hz
ProcessorExynos 1380
RAM6GB, 8GB
Storage128GB, 256GB
Rear cameras50MP f/1.8 main, 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide, 5MP f/2.4 macro
Front camera13MP f/2.2 selfie
Battery5,000 mAh
Charging25W wired
SoftwareAndroid 14 with One UI 6.1
ColorsAwesome Navy, Awesome Lilac

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Price and release date

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

What’s easily the most attractive part about the Galaxy A35 5G is its $399 starting cost. For that price, you'll get128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. This easily undercuts rivals like the $499 priced Pixel 7a, including the iPhone SE (2022) at $429 — albeit, Apple’s cheapest iPhone desperately needs a refresh at this point.

Two color options are available with the Galaxy A35 5G, Awesome Navy and Awesome Lilac, with the latter being my favorite due to how the glass shimmers in this rainbow effect when the light hits it at just the right angle. You can actually buy it directly through Samsung right now, along with other major carriers and retailers. In sweetening the package, Samsung’s also offering 30% off the Galaxy Buds FE with the purchase of the A35.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Design

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

At a quick glance, the Galaxy A35 5G is as ordinary looking as any other phone from Samsung’s stable. I’m usually leery of phones in this price range, mainly because their build quality tends to be less than solid. However, I have to say that the Galaxy A35 feels solidly constructed with how the metal front and back are held together by its flat metal trim bezel.

It’s certainly lacking style points, especially compared to the glitzy charm of the Nothing Phone 2a’s transparent design, but I love how the Awesome Lilac version of the Galaxy A35 5G shimmers in a rainbow pattern. 

Apart from this quality, I’d say the A35 design is on the conventional side. But at least Samsung's phone features an IP67 rating to protect it from splashes and submersion.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Display

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

Phones in this price range also tend to have compromises around their displays. Take for instance my review of the Moto G Power (2024), which unfortunately makes cuts around the display, resulting in weak viewing angles and a laughably dim display. Luckily the Galaxy A35 5G doesn’t fall victim to this.

In fact, I was surprised by the A35's 6.6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display in my time with the phone. I quickly loaded up a 4K HDR 60fps clip on YouTube and noticed the vibrant colors it produces. Distortion was also barely noticeable at wider viewing angles, while navigating through the software felt ultra responsive thanks to the phone's 120Hz display refresh rate.

From what I’m able to discern, the brightness of the display meets my satisfaction, but I’m curious to see what its peak brightness could be after running it through proper display benchmarking. But so far, I have to admit there’s plenty of charming stuff here.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Cameras

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

If there’s one single area that all budget phones tend to skimp on, it’s without question the cameras. So I’m crossing my fingers that the Samsung Galaxy A35 5G can prove me wrong. That said, it’s swell to see a budget phone with triple cameras because most of them come with dual-camera systems at most. 

For the Galaxy A35 5G, the rear camera setup features a 50MP main camera, 8MP ultrawide, and a 5MP macro shooter. Most people would agree that a dedicated macro camera is sort of pointless, mainly because phones oftentimes switch over to the ultrawide for this purpose, but there’s always a chance that the A35's macro lens can surprise me.

After launching the camera app, I’m happy to report that it’s running pretty much the same interface as other top-of-the-line Galaxy phones I’ve been using like the Galaxy S24 Plus and S24 Ultra. Enthusiasts will love all the different modes at their disposal with the Galaxy A35, including modes that bring full manual controls for both photos and videos.

I did take a few snapshots that looked nice on preview, but I’d need to see the same images side-by-side against shots from the Pixel 7a to definitely say if Samsung's new phone can top what Google has to offer.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Performance

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the A35 5G responds pretty well navigating around the interface, running apps, and watching videos — you know — the stuff that people do on a daily basis. However, every phone I test always gets these basic processes right.

Samsung arms the Galaxy A35 5G with an octa-core processor, presumably an Exynos 1380, though I won’t know for sure until I get my hands on it again to properly run benchmark tests. I’m confident about the processor’s performance, but I’m eager to see how the A35 stacks up in various GPU-intensive tests.

I mention this because the Moto G Power (2024) severely underperforms in many GPU tests, resulting in choppy frame rates in many games I play. Lag is inevitable with every budget phone, but constant lagging crosses the line.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Battery

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

It’s hard for me to believe that there’s a 5,000 mAh battery inside of the Galaxy A35 5G, especially when the phone feels on the lighter side. But that’s exactly what’s in there, which is one of the big selling points about the phone.
Samsung claims the Galaxy A35 offers long-lasting battery life, but it’s going to need to overachieve in this area because of how phones have gotten incrementally better with battery life.

Not only does the Galaxy A35 need to convince me (and everyone) that its has the stamina to outlast similarly priced phones like the Nothing Phone 2a in Tom’s Guide’s battery benchmark test, but it still has to outlast the king in the budget department with the OnePlus 12R’s unbelievable longevity. There’s a good chance that the Galaxy A35 5G could keep pace, thanks to the combination of its beefy 5,000 mAh battery and adaptive 120Hz display refresh rate.

Over on the recharge side, the Galaxy A35's 25W wired charging speed seems sufficient, but hardly out of this world compared to other similar phones.

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Software

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

Even though the Galaxy 35 is running One UI 6.1 on top of Android 14, it doesn’t have any of the Galaxy AI features that recently became accessible to older Galaxy phones through that software update. This sort of makes sense because Samsung could be defining that line on which phones get them and which don’t. Or it could simply be due to the processor the A35 is using, which may not be optimized enough to run Galaxy AI features. Without these AI-assisted features, though, the Galaxy A35 5G doesn’t feel or look any different from other Samsung phones I’ve tested. 

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G hands-on review: Outlook

Samsung Galaxy A35 hands on

(Image credit: Future)

Like I said from the start, the Pixel 7a should be afraid because the Samsung Galaxy A35 5G offer a compelling package for less than $400. Apart from its rainbow shimmer, Samsung's phone doesn’t win any style points from me, but I’m hopeful that it over delivers in key areas where the Galaxy A54 underperformed.

Going back to its pricing, it helps to diversify Samsung’s lineup when its S24 flagship series covers the $800-and-up range. Not everyone needs the latest or greatest, nor do they want to shell out a whole lot either. That’s why budget phones like the Galaxy A35 5G exist to fill that gap.

I just hope the Galaxy A35 can live up to the reputation established by the Galaxy A54 last year, seeing that Samsung has targeted this phone as the A54's replacement, at least for U.S. shoppers.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.