Every once in a while a smartphone shows up that seeks not to push the boundaries of mobile innovation by introducing previously unheard of features but to just cater for the everyday phone user. The Samsung Galaxy J7 is one such smartphone.
Having used the Galaxy J7 for several days, I am reminded of my days with the Galaxy Note II back in 2012 and the Galaxy Mega a year later. While the Galaxy J7 shares almost the same display in the same size configuration as Samsung’s phablet from 3 years ago, it is about half the price. To put it metaphorically, the Galaxy Note II cost an arm and a leg while the Galaxy J7 won’t break your bank. On the other hand, the “good-enough” Galaxy Mega, like the name insinuates, was just too big for regular users to embrace it at a time when smartphones with large displays were still something that was frowned upon.
It’s 2015 and big smartphones are the in-thing, thanks to Samsung, no less. However, in the case of Samsung, such big smartphones tend to be highly priced and beyond the reach of the common man. That is why the Galaxy J7 exists. To give users a big device at a price that won’t have them bending too much. Make no mistake, Kshs 25,000-28,000, the price range at which the Galaxy J7 retails, is no small money. It is a tidy sum to spend on just a phone. However, as you are about to find out, the Galaxy J7 is not just a phone. Like I said about its smaller sibling, the Galaxy J5, a device with whom it shares a lot of features, it is a fantastic smartphone.
- Display: 5.5 inch HD (720p) display
- Processor: 64-bit octa-core Exynos 7580
- Camera: Rear: 13 megapixels with LED Flash and f/1.9 lens: 5 megapixels wide-angle with LED flash
- Memory: 16 GB internal memory + micro SD card slot (expandable upto 128 GB); 1.5 GB RAM
- Operating system: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
- Battery: 3,000 mAh
- Network: 3G, LTE*
- Connectivity: USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, WLAN 802.11 b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz
- Others: Dual-SIM (nano and micro), FM radio
*read on to find out
The Galaxy J7, like other devices in the Galaxy J series, has a plastic removable back, a glass front (obvious) and a faux-metal frame to support them. That is the main distinguishing feature of the Galaxy J series smartphones from their upper mid-range counterparts in the Galaxy A series and the not-so-well-defined Galaxy E devices. In short, it is just a blown up Galaxy J5.
Having used the Galaxy Note II a few years back, the Galaxy J7 feels much the same and it’s not hard to see why, it has a 5.5 inch HD display just like the Note II. The back, while still removable, is less glossy though and the 3.5mm headset jack is not at the top but at the bottom and the speaker grille sits on the left of the camera while the LED flash is on the right. Likewise, the volume rocker is on the right and the power button conveniently placed on the left.
Like on the Galaxy J5, there are two capacitive buttons that don’t have a backlight below the display to help you with navigations and since Samsung still doesn’t do on-screen buttons (which I find to be a good thing by the way), the home button is where it is usually located on all Samsung Android smartphones.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 features a 5.5 inch Super AMOLED display that is just good for what it is meant to do. It is not the most pixel-dense of displays out there but unless you explicitly go out looking for pixels (and why would you do that anyway instead of enjoying the phone as it is?), you’ll hardly notice that.
The beauty of the display on the Galaxy J7, like on any other big phone, is that it is big. I know that sounds boring but as you use it you get to appreciate what you can get done with it. Catching up on where you left on that eBook you’re reading is easy on the Galaxy J7. Research firm Nielsen, in a recent survey, found out that the number of people buying eBooks and reading them from their smartphones had risen by 30% from 24% 3 years ago to 54% as of last December. Such numbers are because of large displays like the one on the Galaxy J7 and it is not hard to see why. Add the casual web browsing and throw in the daily cat video and you have a good case for getting the 5.5-inch Galaxy J7 over other devices with smaller displays.
Samsung has marketed the Galaxy J7 and its smaller sibling, the Galaxy J5, heavily with the 13-megapixel shooter at the back and the 5-megapixel front-facing camera as the main selling points. Like I noted in the Galaxy J5 review, the two cameras just perform as expected. You won’t get out-of-this-world macros or sunset photos without putting in half the effort professional photographers put in but at the end of it all, you’ll have something that can get you 100 likes on Instagram in an instant. Yes, the cameras are not as outstanding as I’d want them to and heck, they won’t win any awards, but they are just there and they do their work though we have to agree that they could do so much better than they do at the moment.
The front-facing camera has something that is now going to be a thing on all smartphones but is yet to become mainstream: front-facing LED flash. It is not my cup of tea thanks to the blinding effect when you are made to stare at it while taking a selfie in the middle of the night or in dark-lit surroundings but it is nice to have as it may come in handy to some.
Here is a sample:
The high-resolution version of the above sample can be found here.
The Galaxy J7 camera application has HDR mode which can be turned on in the settings which are straight forward. The Galaxy J5 has all the other shooting modes found on the Galaxy J7 like Pro mode, Continous shot, Beauty face, Sound & shot and Sports but lacks HDR which is a reserve of its larger sibling and of course there’s more detail on images captured in HDR mode.
Running underneath all the customizations that Samsung has implemented is Android 5.1.1 which was until recently the most up to date version of Google’s mobile operating system. The customizations are however most welcome since the stock Android a small subset of users usually demands is not meant for everyone. As long as smartphone makers and their partners are able to keep things lightweight, you’re better off with customized software than unadulterated Android. You may need to read our review of one of the cheapest smartphones in the market to understand why.
Double-clicking the physical home button launches the camera application while other novelties we loved on the Galaxy J5 like the ability to pick a theme of your liking from the Samsung theme store and applying it also exist. It is worth noting that with the Galaxy J7 users have access to even a wider variety of themes like the gold theme that blends nicely with gold-coloured devices like the Galaxy S6 Edge.
There’s very little in the form of bundled applications by Samsung which is a good thing as users get to have more storage space to install apps and games and fewer resources being allocated to some otherwise useless software they’d probably never use.
The Samsung Galaxy J7 has a better processor than the Galaxy J5 and it shows in the overall performance of the device. Everything is smooth and games are just okay. You’ll hardly encounter any lag and stutter and with Samsung going slow with over-customization of the software, things are lightweight and neat.
Remember that feeling of familiarity with the Galaxy Note II I expressed earlier on? Or the Galaxy Mega? It is more visible when it comes to the battery. Probably we should stop getting carried away by the need for more and more pixels per square inch and instead appreciate things like HD displays.
The battery life on the Galaxy J7 is the most fantastic I’ve ever had on a phone since, you guessed that right, the Galaxy Note II. Please let us know in the comments if you’ve ever managed to achieve 8 hours of screen on time. It is what I got when pushing the Galaxy J7 to its limit. I struggled to drain the battery on the Galaxy J7. What a nice problem to have! Even then, I could only manage to do that after spending over 2 hours playing high-intensity games that pushed the device to the edge and it eventually had to give in.
Next I spent 12 hours on the road and guess what, I still had enough juice to play Madfinger’s Unkilled for over an hour and a half after a trip that lasted 24 hours.
For ordinary users, the Galaxy J7, which I’ve now christened “the road warrior” after its impressive performance, they should easily go for 2 days without having to recharge. With the 3,000 mAh battery being removable, I guess you can go on an adventure with this phone and a spare battery and not have to worry about it “dying” on you when you need to refer to an offline map most.
I always have a disclaimer on the kind of battery life you get based on your usage and network connection but that is thrown out of the window when it comes to the Galaxy J7. Just use it, you’ll still have some juice left when you’re done.
With the many ways we use our phones today, we tend to forget one very important aspect: they are phones first and foremost. No matter how “smart” they are, they are pretty useless if they can’t fulfill their primary role of enabling you to communicate effectively. By communicating effectively, I don’t mean emojis and stickers that convey just half the feelings and emotions but calls. Voice calls are clear and more customizations to the software over the years mean that you don’t always have to fret having calls interrupting your workflow on the phone as a small dialog shows up on the top of the device and nothing gets in your way.
The sound from the speaker at the back is also okay but could be miles better. It’s not as loud as you may want it to be.
It’s disappointing that there is no LED on the front for letting you know when you have a missed call, unread messages or other notifications.
- One of my misgivings about the Galaxy J5 was the little storage on the version on sale in the Kenyan market. 8 GB is simply not enough and while Samsung partnered with Microsoft to throw in a juicy 100 GB free OneDrive storage for 2 years (the Galaxy J7 has that offer too by the way), nothing can ever substitute what you get with more internal storage. Thankfully, the Galaxy J7 models on sale in Kenya pack 16 GB internal storage with an option to get even more (up to 128 GB) when you slot in a microSD.
- Superior battery life. The Samsung Galaxy J7 is the smartphone with the best battery life we’ve reviewed this year here at Techweez. Yes, I know about that Infinix we reviewed that cost almost half the price of the Galaxy J7 but the little I say about it the better.
The Galaxy J5 and J7 have been positioned as 4G LTE smartphones in the Kenyan market and rightfully so. Both devices are supposed to have support for LTE but as I sadly found out, the review unit I had was not LTE-capable. At least from my end.
I was stuck on 3G all the time. Either the device is not compatible with local LTE bands or the Galaxy J7 variant with the Exynos 7580 processor (SM-J700H) isn’t meant to be LTE-capable (FYI there is another variant with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 that connects to LTE networks right out of the box). You’ll be wise to enquire first before getting the device and if possible testing for LTE connectivity first before making a purchase.
With a price tag that ranges between Kshs 25,000 and Kshs 28,000 depending on where you shop the Galaxy J7 doesn’t come that cheap but the thing is you can’t go wrong with it. It has some of the best battery life you can get in a smartphone today, a big enough display for consuming media, reading, browsing and social networking and double the storage you get on the Galaxy J5. Getting it, if you can, is a no-brainer. At a time when features like removable batteries and expandable storage are being shoved aside in favour of elegant all-metal designs, the Galaxy J7 is probably one of the very few decent Samsung smartphones that you’ll find in the market that sets out to please everyone and manages to do just that.