Samsung Galaxy A70 is no-nonsense big screen Android phone for the layman

Embattled South Korean smartphone giant Samsung has overhauled its mass market Galaxy A line of smartphones recently.Apparently, this series is such a cash cow for Samsung that the A-series phones have made $1 billion in 70 days in India. But as it faces competition from the trifecta of Xiaomi and Realme at the bottom end of the market while OnePlus looms at the high-end of the market it has overhauled the A-series which was starting to get outflanked. Its overhauled portfolio of devices includes the ultra-fine but powerful Galaxy A70.

It is basically an A80 but without a slider, offering a huge 6.7" Super AMOLED screen with a notch containing a 32MP selfie camera and a triple non-rotating camera on the back & huge battery, and some colorful finish options. You know, the meat and potatoes, most people care about.

For all you know, A70 might be the perfect device for users on a budget looking for a big-screened, long-lasting Android phone, and some nice extras like super-fast charging, in-display fingerprint tech, and the Snapdragon 675 SoC. All in all, this is a very strong package for people looking for a phone that’s coming from a big brand like Samsung, has a great screen and solid internals while looking good too.

Let’s talk about it at length.

  • Body: 164.3 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm, glass front and back, metal frame.
  • Screen: 6.7" Super AMOLED, 1080x2400px resolution, 393 ppi.
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 675 chipset: octa-core (2x2.0 GHz Kryo 460 Gold & 6x1.7 GHz Kryo 460 Silver); Adreno 612 GPU.
  • Memory: 6/8GB RAM, 128GB built-in storage; microSD slot
  • OS: Android 9 Pie; Samsung One UI
  • Main camera: Primary: 32MP, f/1.7, PDAF; Secondary: 8MP, f/2.2, 12mm ultra-wide, fixed focus; Depth camera: 5Mp f/2.2; LED flash; 1080p@30 video recording.
  • Selfie camera: 32MP f/2.0, 1080p video
  • Battery: 4,500mAh; 25W fast charging
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM; LTE Cat.12 (600Mbps) download / Cat.6 upload (50Mbps), Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, GPS; Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, USB-C 2.0.
  • Miscellaneous: Under-display fingerprint reader, down-firing loudspeaker, 3.5mm audio port
  • 6.7-inch, Full HD+
  • Super AMOLED
  • Infinity-U Display

The Samsung Galaxy A70 has a large 6.7-inch OLED display, which is the same size as the more premium Galaxy A80 and generally this is a fantastic panel to consume content on. It has a small tear-drop notch in the centre of the display for the front camera, the company calls it an Infinity U Display. Similar to the Galaxy A80, the Galaxy A70 has a sleek flat display, with a full HD+ resolution. This means that the A70 packs in a fewer pixels per inch compared to the Galaxy S10 range but it might not be something that should worry you unless you enjoy watching 2K+ material on your phone. While it contains some S10 DNA here, the phone that instantly comes to my mind after holding the A70 was the Huawei P30 — just a lot bigger. Similar to the P30, the A70 opts for a dewdrop notch (Infinity-U Samsung calls this) which recedes out slightly into the phone’s 6.7-inch display.

What I don’t prefer is the optical in-display fingerprint sensor. I’ll be blunt: it sucks. It takes at least two seconds to detect my fingerprint and worse yet is that it isn’t very accurate unless you put the finger on the sensor just right. It’s a major regression from physical fingerprint readers, at least that’s how the Samsung implementation feels like. I understand in-display fingerprint sensors are a major selling point but unless they work as well as standard scanners, they shouldn’t be rushed into products.

  • 164.3 x 76.7 x 7.9mm
  • Metal frame and plastic back
  • Coral, Blue, White, Black

The Samsung Galaxy A70 features a metal frame and a plastic back — a regular design choice from Samsung in recent times. Sturdy in the hand, the device features curved edges on the back and a flat display on the front but irrespective of its mid-range image, it feels like a premium phone. There is a triple camera on the rear, situated in the top left corner with a flash below and on the front, there is a tear-drop notch display, featuring a full-screen flavour with only a small spot in the centre at the top which is barely noticeable. It also comes in four colours including Blue and Coral, which are more appealing than the Black and White options.

  • Triple rear (32MP+8MP+5MP)
  • Single front (32MP)

The Samsung Galaxy A70 comes with a triple rear cameras, which is made up of a 32-megapixel main camera with an f/1.7 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera with an f/2.2 aperture and a 5-megapixel depth camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The front camera is a 32-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. By default, the phone doesn’t shoot photos at full resolution either for the back or front camera. Not to mention, the Auto HDR feature doesn’t work at the highest resolution, but that’s more because of the pixel fusion technology Samsung uses to capture richer photos at lower resolutions using a technique called pixel binning.

As far as image quality is concerned, the A70 does a great job outdoors during the day, preserving details and keeping noise to a minimum. In good lighting indoors also doesn’t make the phone struggle but the moment you take photos in low-light conditions are not so great. The phone controls noise well in low-light conditions but distorts out all details in the process. It also tends to blur things if you don’t hold it steady.

The 32MP selfie camera shoots 8MP photos by default, and there is no use to switch to 32MP as it doesn’t offer any improvement in terms of sharpness. Selfies come out well in bright outdoor conditions but turn soft/grainy as you move indoors to artificial lighting. You can also switch between the full field (wide effect) of view and a narrower (regular) view. There is the Selfie focus mode for taking bokeh/blur effect selfies, with new effects such as Color Point, which turns the background to grayscale.

In terms of features, the depth lens allows you to adjust the depth of field to focus before and after a shot, and the Scene Optimiser and Flaw Detection modes found on Samsung’s flagship models are on board too.

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 octa-core processor
  • 6GB/8GB RAM
  • 128GB internal storage + microSD
  • 4500mAh battery

The Snapdragon 675 chipset inside the Galaxy A70 isn’t a flagship class processor but it is a very able processor which we’ve seen before on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro — it gets the job done. It’s certainly better than anything company’s in-house mid-range Exynos chips are capable of, so its presence is a breath of fresh air. Apps open quickly and there’s no lag in regular use, although I did run into some hiccups when switching between apps. The A70 was also able to hold quite a few apps in memory thanks to the 6GB of RAM. This also converts to decent gaming performance.

Long story short, the performance is very good on the A70 and unless you’re a hyper power user, this will not disappoint.

The battery capacity sits at a huge 4500mAh, the phone can take plenty of abuse, including a few hours of gaming, video playback, and web browsing, before the low battery warning shows up. I constantly went to bed with at least 20 percent battery left despite putting it through its paces and with a few hours of mobile data usage via hotspot. With moderate usage, it easily lasts until afternoon the next day.

There is also Super Fast Charging on board. The A70 charges very fast even with a 15W charger, so it’s backward-compatible with your old chargers. However, your existing USB cables won’t work with the Galaxy A70’s default charger. That’s because the 25W charger needs a USB Type-C connector on both ends and the cable needs to be optimised for the higher voltage transfer.

The Galaxy A70 runs Android Pie out of the box with version 1.1 of Samsung’s One UI. Happy to say all the major new Android Pie/One UI features are available on the A70 including Digital Wellbeing, Samsung Pay, Bixby Routines, Bixby Voice (using the power button), and Night mode.

Traditional Samsung features like Always On Display, One-handed mode, themes support, and Multi Window are on-board as well. The software too is pleasant to use which is not the usual with Samsung. The one thing we still can’t get used to is Samsung’s Bixby assistant.

Software wise, it is certainly one of the nicest Samsung phones we’ve used, if not one of the best ones around, save for some duplicate applications. It also comes with Samsung Pay which is Samsung’s superb payment protocol which is usually exclusive to Samsung’s Galaxy S line of devices. It is very handy as it even works with standard credit and debit cards.

A70 has a pretty weak loudspeaker housed at the bottom right, next to the USB Type-C port. It is also a monospeaker so the sonic separation isn’t great. That’s a minor quibble for a phone of its class as most phones in the segment don’t have good speakers.

The earphones in the box are the same old mid-range accessory that Samsung has been using on its A-series phones for a couple of years. It leans towards the higher frequencies (treble) at full volume, which can be uncomfortable but you have the option of enabling Dolby Atmos to add some depth to the low frequencies (bass). Dolby Atmos is also available for Bluetooth audio, and I found it made a considerable difference which is a neat addition.

A70’s pièce de résistance is no doubt it’s big Super AMOLED display, but it has a lot more to offer. Battery life is excellent, thanks to the mix of a big battery and an efficient processor, and it gets 25W super fast charging for quicker juice-up of the battery. The Snapdragon 675 offers excellent performance in most tasks, the software is packed with most of the same features as the Galaxy S10, and there’s a tempting ultra-wide camera that makes Samsung phones stand apart from the competition in every segment.

The only major issue on the A70 is the in-display fingerprint sensor, which I feel isn’t usable and got me to remove it completely. On the other hand, by just slapping high-resolution sensors and calling it a day isn’t going to cut it, not at a time when the competition is focusing on cameras even on mid-range phones and the low-light photography skills of the cameras are underwhelming especially up against phones like the Nokia 8.1 and OnePlus 6T.

If you are looking for a phone that lasts all day long on a single charge with plenty of Netflix and gaming, then it’s an easy choice. The A70 is a media powerhouse that packs a punch in all spheres. In that case, it is a match made in heaven.

Words by Khalid Wani

Serving communities on the intersection of technology, indie music and culture, the warp core is a think tank founded by technology journalist Sahil Mohan Gupta