Samsung's budget phones are finally worth your attention. While the company's previous low-cost handsets provided an example of "you get what you pay for," recent models, like the Galaxy A50 and now the Galaxy A20, adopt some of the features found in Samsung's pricier devices. But these features now appear in a more affordable package.
As the Galaxy A20 shows, you still make some trade-offs in performance, design and screen quality. But Samsung's latest budget phone also takes good photos and packs a long-lasting battery, making this device an intriguing option for budget-minded shoppers.
Price and availability
We reviewed a version of the Galaxy A20 tied to Metro by T-Mobile, which sells the phone for $239. Under a current promotion, you can get the phone for free when you switch your wireless service to the T-Mobile-owned discount carrier and bring over your phone number. T-Mobile also sells the Galaxy A20 for $250, or you can buy the phone in monthly installments of $10 paid out over 24 months. Boost Mobile sells Samsung's budget phone as well; normally $229, the phone is on sale for $199 as of this writing. Verizon ($249) and Sprint ($312) offer the phone, too.
The black-finish A20 comes in one configuration: 32GB of onboard storage and 3GB of RAM. You can boost storage to up to 512GB with a microSD.
Galaxy A20 specs
|Display (resolution)||6.4-inch AMOLED (1560 x 720)|
|Rear cameras||Dual: 13-MP (f/1.9); 5-MP wide angle (f/2.2)|
|Front camera||8-MP (f/2.0)|
|CPU||Samsung Exynos 7904|
|microSD||Yes, up to 512 GB|
|Size||6.24 x 2.94 x .03 inches|
Design: Decently deceptive
With its recent A-series releases, Samsung set out to design cheap phones that look just like the company's more expensive flagships.
With a 6.4-inch display, superslim bezels and a top U-shaped notch casing a front-facing camera, the Galaxy A20 could be mistaken for a fancier phone. Like with the Galaxy A50, it's only after extensively handling the phone that Samsung's money-saving measures become obvious.
While it doesn't feel cheap, the A20's plastic casing poses some potential problems. The back gathers more fingerprints than Gorilla Glass does. Plastic is also less durable than alternative materials.
I tossed the phone in my bag on the commute home, and the device resurfaced with two unsightly scratches on the back. Considering I had no keys or miscellaneous sharp-edged objects in my purse, I was disappointed to learn the A20 can't protect itself from simple elements. If you're going to get the A20, buy a case.
Display: Sufficient but not the sharpest
The Galaxy A20 is the same size as A50, right down to its 6.4-inch AMOLED display. At 1560 x 720, the resolution isn't as sharp as the FHD+ panel on the A50, and those missing pixels tend to make their presence known rather quickly. Text, app icons and gestures look slightly jagged on the A20's display. When I watched the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick on a stable Wi-Fi network, Tom Cruise's chiseled features looked decidedly less chiseled. The display's low resolution isn't ideal for streaming video, whereas the $299 Moto G7's 2270 x 1080 picture is near perfect.
Fortunately, the A20's color reproduction and brightness are solid for a budget phone. The handset covered 100% of the sRGB color space and earned a Delta-E accuracy score of 0.35 in our testing. (Delta-E scores closer to 0 are better.) Those numbers are pretty even with the Moto G7 Power's results and respectable for a budget-priced smartphone with an AMOLED display.
You also get a very bright screen with the Galaxy A20, which hit 465 nits on a light meter. That falls just below the smartphone average of 488 nits, but the display is bright enough that you can see it on a sunny day. The A20 also features a convenient dark mode to ease strain when you're using the phone at night.
I ran into one annoyance with the A20's Infinity-V display, which uses a V-shaped cutout to house the phone's front camera. Samsung's display all but eliminates bezels, and I often found that I was inadvertently brushing up against parts of the display when I tried using the phone with one hand. Perhaps that's something I'd get used to as I got more comfortable with a bezel-free phone, however.
Camera: Impressive depth
The back of the Galaxy A20 features a slightly protruding dual-camera module that holds a 13-megapixel lens with an f/1.9 aperture and a 5-megapixel wide-angle shooter with an f/2.2 aperture.
With the second camera, the A20 can capture depth-of-field photographs, giving it a great edge over the identically priced Moto G7 Power and its single rear camera.
I'm pleased with how the A20's cameras handled this windowsill scene within our New York office. The A20 balanced the natural light automatically for a good final product. Zooming in on the details of the plant's leaves, the texture blurred a bit, but that's expected.
The A20's camera excels outdoors. An image taken in Bryant Park on a sunny morning offers vibrant contrast that really makes the little red flowers pop. The neutral colors don't sway to warm or cool, unlike in the G7 Power's attempt, which has a blue hue.
If you're a fan of the portrait mode featured in many flagship phones, you'll enjoy the A20's Live Focus option, which Samsung has brought over from its pricier handsets. The camera automatically focuses on the subject — in this case, my co-worker Hunter — giving me control over how blurry the background appears. The edges of Hunter's clothes and hair aren't as defined as they might be on an iPhone, which costs $500 to $750 more than the Galaxy A20, but the result is still pretty neat.
The A20's 8-MP selfie cam impressed me the most. The color output was bold and realistic, without oversaturating my face. Plus, the depth option blurred my boring office background. I prefer my A20 selfie to my G7 Power selfie, but you can take a look for yourself.
Performance: Very average
The Exynos 7904 chipset that powers the Galaxy A20 is a mid- to budget-range system-on-a-chip from Samsung. The use of a less powerful chip helps keep the A20's cost lower than that of the Exynos 9610-powered A50, but you also make a trade-off with performance.
The A20 scored a 4,174 in Geekbench 4, which measures overall system performance, compared to the A50's result of 5,200. The A20 also trailed the Moto G7 Power and its Snapdragon 632 processor, which scored 4,814 on Geekbench.
Operating one app at a time is the only way to prevent lag on the A20. Once you try simultaneously firing up Instagram, Google Maps, WhatsApp or whichever lineup of apps you use daily, the A20 gets stressed. It'll hesitate between apps and slow down each individually.
The A20 is not made for gaming, though neither are most budget smartphones. Asphalt 9: Legends, for example, had a choppy frame rate and frustrating lag, and the back of the phone got hot.
Demanding apps aren't the only things that perform sluggishly on the A20. The phone's rear fingerprint sensor is also oddly slow. Registering my print took several seconds, so I opted for the face-reader biometric or manual pattern more often than not.
Battery life and charging: Good as it gets
The Galaxy A20 redeems itself in how well the phone's 4,000-mAh battery holds up. In the Tom's Guide battery test, in which we have the phone surf the web continuously over T-Mobile's LTE network until the device runs out of juice, the A20 lasted an impressive 13 hours and 46 minutes. For comparison, the average smartphone dies just after 10 hours. The Nokia 7.1, which costs $100 more than the A20, ran out of power after just 7:42. The Moto G7 Power still holds the budget crown, with a 15:35 result, but that phone's larger, 5,000-mAh battery makes it bulkier than the A20.
The Galaxy A20 supports 15-watt charging, which means you can top off the battery in a respectable amount of time. After 30 minutes of charging post-battery test, the A20 was about 30% charged; it took less than 2 hours to reach 100% power.
Software: Familiar One UI
As with most Samsung phones released in 2019, the Galaxy A20 ships with Android 9 Pie installed. Samsung tweaks that version of Android with the company's One UI interface, which means large app icons and text on the bottom of the screen. This works well for the A20's big display.
The gesture-based navigation is ridiculously simple to figure out, and that's coming from the perspective of an iOS user. Plus, this kind of navigation keeps the screen clean of extra buttons.
We expect the A20 to receive an Android Q update at some point next year, well after the software's launch. Samsung has never released Android upgrades with any urgency, and the midrange A20 will probably lag behind S- and Note-series devices in update priority.
Though the the Galaxy A20 holds 32GB of storage, only 15GB to 20GB of it can be used for your photos and apps. That's because of the programs Metro preloads on the device. You can delete a few of them, but you'll have to disable others in settings if you want some more of that storage back.
Any budget smartphone comes with trade-offs. And while there are some frustrations with the Galaxy A20 — namely, a humble display and considerable performance lag — the phone's long battery life and better-than-average cameras impress. The ease with which it scratched was the biggest bother, but a case serves as an easy fix for that issue.
Samsung doesn't sell the Galaxy A20 unlocked, so you'll have to buy it through a wireless carrier. Fortunately, you can find this device from several different wireless providers — AT&T looks like the glaring exception — so you'll likely be able to buy the phone from your preferred carrier.
Should you, though? The Galaxy A20 fails to outshine a more polished budget phone like the Moto G7 Power, but it's a viable competitor. If you're looking to save on your next smartphone purchase and don't mind performance lags, the battery life and camera on the A20 make this Samsung a decent budget buy.