Samsung Galaxy Amp 2 Review


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Nov 12, 2012
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Samsung Galaxy Amp 2 Review

Not too long ago, my family switched carriers to Cricket from AT&T and we thought we'd use that opportunity to bring my father into the modern age of connectivity with his own line and device. This is that device.

Previously, he was using a Microsoft Lumia 640 as a Wi-Fi-only device and while he could have kept using that, I thought we could take advantage of Cricket's heavy discount of 100% on the Galaxy Amp 2 and try it out.

Is this device the one? Debatable.
But does it get the job done? Yep.
Can you beat free with a number ported? That’s hard to do.

But in replacing the heavily discounted $30 AT&T 640 of 2014/2015, the Amp 2 has its work cut out for it.

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The Galaxy Amp 2 is a Cricket-exclusive 4G/LTE-capable smartphone that fills the bargain-bin slot of Samsung's Galaxy lineup. Launched in late March/early April of 2016, the Amp 2 (J120AZ) appears to be stable-mates with the 2016 Galaxy J1 and the AT&T Galaxy Express 3 from what I could tell from my research online.

The Samsung Galaxy J1, Express 3 and Amp 2. The Daewoo Kalos, Pontiac G3 and Chevrolet Aveo of smartphones.

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The Amp 2's design is typical Samsung and would feel right at home next to a Galaxy S 4 or S 5. It's exterior is strictly matte plastic. The midframe is silver and the back cover is a darker shade of grey. It certainly does the job it's tasked with performing without feeling particularly high-quality. One can’t complain much on that since the point of this device is value first and foremost.

On the face of the device is the standard pre-Galaxy S8 layout. A 4.5-inch 480x800 “Super AMOLED” panel sits above the centered physical home key with the usual recent apps and back soft buttons on both sides just like other recent Galaxy phones prior to the S8.

I actually thought the display was an LCD at first glance and while it’s perfectly serviceable, it’s reflectivity and sharpness won’t set your world on fire, even if adjusted for price.

(If you’ve handled the “ClearBlack” LCD on the Nokia Lumia 635 which has a similar screen size and resolution at 480x854 @ 4.5”, you’ve been spoiled.)

At 480x800, the apparent non-RGB stripe subpixel arrangement (likely PenTile) isn’t doing the screen any favors although viewing angles and outdoor visibility is decent.

Minor detail, but you have the option to adjust the display saturation, color temperature, etc. if that's your style.

Like the Lumia 635 though, there is no ambient light sensor on this phone so brightness control is strictly manual. This phone does include a relatively unique “Outside” mode (a checkbox next to the brightness slider) to compensate slightly; but it doesn’t do much else than increase the brightness to a level better suited for direct sunlight viewing for 15 minutes however.

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On the inside of the Amp 2 is a quad-core processor clocked at 1.3 GHz flanked with 1 GB of RAM. Not impressive, and arguably not adequate, but when subsidized for as much as it was and standing by itself, I can let this one slide.

Specifics aren’t the most forthcoming but it appears the aforementioned badge-engineered models are equipped with Samsung’s Exynos 3 Quad 3475 chipset. GSMArena lists "Spreadtrum SC9830" on it’s page for the 2016 Galaxy J1.

Onboard is 8 GB of flash memory, with the official specifications pegging available space at just over 3 GB. You’ll want to take advantage of the phone’s microSD slot if you plan on capturing any amount of photos or installing any more than a moderate app loadout.

The Amp 2 has a 5 megapixel rear camera (with an LED flash and autofocus) which produces shots that range from mediocre to poor in decent lighting. Budget Lumia’s have led me to believe cameras in this price group have improved markedly, but it appears to not be the case here.

This is but one device in a large category with a large number of contenders however, and I suspect that the slightly larger and better equipped Amp Prime could very well be the better buy. I don’t expect to have hands on experience on it anytime soon so that will remain speculation on my part.

For reference, the Amp Prime has a 5” 720p display, 8 MP rear camera, 2600 mAh battery and appears to correspond with the 2016 Galaxy J3.

The front camera is a 2 MP unit. Eh.

Wi-Fi is 802.11 b/g/n at 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth is version 4.1.

The battery is a moderately-sized, removable 2050 mAh pack. Battery life has not been thoroughly tested as of press. There are more extensive Samsung power saving options onboard however that I find quite interesting.

An accelerometer and proximity sensor are on-board. No surprises there.

Overall, it's not a bad package, but the question is whether it makes the right compromises for potential owners.

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Running the software show is Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. That's not bad considering its both nowhere near alone in running Marshmallow today and it's budget-minded nature.

What concerned me most initially was whether it would see security updates going forward but so far my concerns have been tentatively allayed.

It was purchased in late-April/early-May of this year and was on the January 1st, 2017 security patch level which also isn't horrible.

As of press, it has since received the April and May 2017 security patches, which is reassuring.
(I believe both patch levels were dated the 1st of the month, but I cannot confirm when these builds were pushed.)

It remains to be seen how much more it'll get in updates and news coverage of this device is circumstantial at best. But I'm tentatively optimistic. It isn't going to compete with Google or BlackBerry in relative consistency and speed, but in the grand-scheme of the Android market, you could do worse. Don't hold your breath for Nougat though.

On top the adequate Marshmallow platform is Samsung's TouchWiz customizations with its own theme and unique features.

Samsung’s take on Android on the low-end is fairly light with effort put into smaller features and skinning the OS. The default launcher is the "TouchWiz Launcher" and beyond that and TouchWiz’s graphical skinning , we’re left with Samsung’s built-in apps and some small features that I have not seen elsewhere to date, but Samsung veterans are probably no stranger to the plethora of preinstalled applications and options.

Also a minor note but this phone has a Cricket boot screen, which isn’t inherently bad, but it comes with a distinctive startup sound, which I am not a fan of.

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At free with a number ported, I can easily justify the Amp 2. Beyond that, I'm not sure I can.

It’s hardware just isn’t impressing me like Nokia/Microsoft and Motorola did with their budget phones not too long ago. But to be fair, Microsoft has all but pulled out of mobile. Lenovo-owned Motorola is still cranking out phones at all price points though, so they'll be something to definitely keep an eye on. As far as software is concerned, you can do a LOT worse in this segment.

Galaxy Amp 2. If you fit into the promotion audience and are on a shoestring budget, it's competent.

Most will probably want to look a bit more upmarket though.

Galaxy Amp 2. The official phone of shopping for a new car on Craigslist. And there's nothing wrong with that.

22 June 2017
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