There is no denying that Samsung is the market leader when it comes to smartphones in India. One of the major reason for its success is their entry range of smartphones. While the top end Galaxy and Note series get all the press it is the lower end that gets Samsung the top spot. And Samsung has paid attention by doing away with the older Ace and S Duos for the J series to handle the segment. The Samsung J2 Pro we have here is one among the many smartphones in this series and a contender to the best 10k smartphone throne.
Design and Feel
The Samsung J2 Pro comes in a small bright yellow box with just the essentials, the J2 Pro,a 5V 1 A charger and headphones. At first glance, the J2 Pro looks very much like the Samsung Galaxy S4 from the front. It is nice to see the design of a flagship smartphone from a few years ago trickling down to the one made for the masses. The back of the phone sports a fresh new design. The camera bump is less prominent as it is surrounded by a square LED ring dubbed ‘Smart Glow’ by Samsung. The camera is flanked by a LED flash and the loud speaker on either sides. Samsung has used horizontal slats in the design precisely where the index finger rests which improves the in hand grip of the phone.
The power button and the volume rockers are positioned on either side and have a reassuring click feel to it. It has chrome surrounds that we have come to expect from Samsung phones. While the chrome finishing looks good, they are known to erode on their other phones, only time will tell how these stack up. The phone has a tiny microphone at the bottom alongside the MicroUSB port. The build quality of the smartphone deserves a special mention, it does not feel like a sub 10,000 rupee phone. The plastics don’t creak and don’t feel cheap by any means. The rounded edges along with the smooth quality plastic give the phone a nice feel in the hand.
The screen measures 5 inches and is the reason behind the small dimensions of the phone. Samsung has put in an AMOLED panel with HD resolution (1280×720 pixels). The display is one of the strong points of this smartphone, the colour is accurate and the AMOLED panel is kinder to the battery. The phone has the proximity sensor and the secondary camera on the top but the ambient light sensor is missing. It is surprising that a basic sensor is missing on a 10K smartphone. Because of this omission users have to adjust the screen brightness manually to suit the surrounding light. Samsung has provided outdoor mode which turns the brightness all the way up to 11 and keeps it that way for 15 minutes. All this hassle would’ve been avoided if they would have just put the sensor in place. The navigation keys at the bottom are non-illuminated capacitive touch buttons making them harder to hit in the dark. The home button is a physical key and it may discolour or get scratched with time.
Samsung is known to be a little conservative in terms of specs for its low end phone and it’s the same case with this phone as well. The J2 Pro is powered by a 1.5GHz Quad Core Spreadtrum Processor (SC8830). There is 2GB of RAM onboard, more when compared to 1.5GB on the Samsung Galaxy J2 (2016). And that is the only distinguishing factor between the two phones. The processor is strictly ok for regular usage like calls, WhatsApp and a bit of social media. Throw in a game and the processor struggles to keep up with the demand. Games like Asphalt 8 Airborne switch graphics to the lowest settings and run it, while Real Racing 3 exhibits frame drops. If you are a gamer or if you intend to play heavy games, then the J2 Pro isn’t the best out there.
Benchmark scores paint a similar picture for performance, Antutu returns a score of 24,835 which is lower than we expected for a phone at this price. The Redmi 3s Prime for example posts a score in the 40,000 range and is cheaper than the J2 Pro. Samsung could have chosen a better, powerful chipset for the J2. The upside to this is that the chip isn’t a battery hog and the phone manages to deliver good battery backup, despite a smallish battery (more on that later). This seems to be a combination of the hardware and software optimisations.
Samsung smartphones run a layer of TouchWiz UI on top of Android and the J2 Pro is no different. The phone runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow underneath. There are a handful apps that come preloaded on the phone from Samsung. There are apps like the Galaxy App store, S Planner, My Galaxy, Microsoft Office apps and Skype which, if not used can be disabled but not uninstalled. The UI is good to use and an existing Samsung user will feel at home using it. Samsung’s decision to tone down their highly customized UI over the years helps them deliver a good experience. There are a few customizations by Samsung like the lockscreen access to apps like Radio, Calculator, Flashlight and Mirror which triggers the selfie cam are worth mentioning.
Samsung has introduced Smart Glow with this model which is a Squarish LED ring at the back around the camera sensor. This lights up for notifications once configured properly. Users can customise colors and assign it to apps. Samsung has also pre-configured the light to glow when the battery is low or when the storage is near full capacity. Users have the freedom to enable/disable these and tweak it. The light only pulses a few times and then the phone has a notification stating the reason. Smart Glow is also used for something Samsung calls Rear-Cam Selfie where these lights glow to help you position the camera. Once you are in frame, the image is clicked. In our experience, the smart glow had us guessing what the notification could be for. Also, we are used to keeping our phones screen up and we often missed the glow notification. While Samsung has been pushing the Smart Glow feature, we didn’t really find it all that useful.
The J2 Pro sports a modest 8-megapixel camera at the back along with a single LED flash. Quickly double pressing the home button triggers the camera. The picture quality is decent enough to go on social media and messaging apps. The camera needs a steady hand once you push the shutter button. The processor takes its time to capture the image and if you’re not patient enough you’ll walk away with a blurred image. Like every other Samsung smartphone, there are tons of camera modes to choose from. The phone also has a Pro mode that lets you take some more control of the sensor. If you know what you are doing, you’ll end up with a good image but if you don’t, it’s good to stick to Auto. There is no HDR mode which is a little disappointing. We believe HDR mode would have resulted in a better image output. The video recording although limited to 720p is sufficiently clear and good in terms of output. While there is no continuous autofocus, the camera lets you tap to focus while recording.
The camera on the front is a 5-megapixel sensor and clicks some good selfies. There are a few modes and effects to help you get that selfie. Beauty mode is just a click away and there is a screen flash option as well. There is 720p video recording capability and that’s about it. Overall the cameras aren’t the best in the segment but get the work done. We would have expected at least 1080p video and HDR from a phone at this price.
Battery & Connectivity
The phone packs in a removable 2600mAh battery. The processor isn’t really powerful and thereby battery life gets a huge benefit. The phone could go on for one day without any hassles with phone calls, some WhatsApp usage and some internet browsing. Gaming on the phone does drop the battery a bit but nothing unexpected. Samsung has packed a 5V 1A charger in the box that gets the phone from 0-100 in a little under 2 hours.
There is support for 4G as well as VoLTE and the phone works on every network right from Vodafone to Reliance Jio. The J2 Pro scores some more points for supporting 4G and VoLTE on both the SIM slots unlike other smartphones that only offer 2G/3G connectivity on the second slot. The phone we got had data offers from Airtel that users could benefit from and is also eligible for the Jio Welcome Offer.
Samsung’s J series of smartphones are aimed at the lower end market and the J2 Pro is built with that in mind. Samsung has not cut corners when it comes to build quality and is among the best in this price range. The compact size makes it comfortable to use and live with. Where the J2 lacks is in terms of sheer processing power. The Spreadtrum processor cannot keep up with heavy gaming, let alone stand against other powerful chipsets. The 2GB of RAM for the Pro is sufficient but the competition has already moved on to more RAM. It seems that the J2 Pro is aimed straight at a Samsung user who wants to upgrade from their older phone or for someone who wants their first Samsung experience. If your usage is line with what we’ve mentioned, then the J2 Pro fits just right. While you won’t go wrong picking up this phone, be well aware that there are better value for money phones like the Redmi 3s Prime and the Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus.