Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review: Alphabet soup

Alphabet soup

GSMArena team, 20 January 2017.

Software

Remember the Note7? The Galaxy flagship phablet (that wasn't meant to be) introduced a redesigned Samsung user interface called Grace UX. The Note7 being absent, the 2017 A-series are the only phones to come with the updated Android overlay out of the box, but it is also being seeded as we speak with the Nougat update for the S7 and S7 edge. Mind you, in the A5 (2017)'s case it's on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, though a bump to Android 7 is in the works.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review

This generation of A-series is the first to feature Always On Display (AOD). Three main views are available - Clock, Calendar and Image, with some customization available. Notifications from third-party apps show up (something that didn't work when the S7 launched, but was added later).

The Always On Display dims when ambient light is low and will shut off when the Galaxy A5 is in your pocket. This saves energy, but you can be more explicit about it and put AOD on a schedule (or it may just be that you don't like the extra light while you sleep).

Always On Display: Settings overview - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Always On Display: Clock - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Always On Display: Calendar - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Always On Display: Image - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
Always On Display: Settings overview Clock Calendar Image

The lockscreen can be secured with the fingerprint reader. It's not the fastest we've seen, but it's no slower than the readers that flagship Samsungs use.

The fingerprint reader can do more than that. Web sign-in remembers the passwords you use for sites and can automatically fill them in when you touch the fingerprint reader. You can also secure your Samsung account (more on that in a bit).

Lockscreen: plain - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Lockscreen: with notifications - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Lockscreen: Setting up a fingerprint - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Lockscreen: Reader options - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
Lockscreen: plain with notifications Setting up a fingerprint Reader options

The Homescreen has the Briefing pane on the left (which you can disable) and supports themes and icon packs. More interestingly, it supports sort of a 3D Touch feature, not unlike the one found on the Google Pixel phones - you tap and hold on an app and a contextual menu appears. However, it offers just basic app handling actions and is not tied to the actual functionality of app.

Homescreen - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Homescreen settings - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Folder view - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Contextual menu - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
Homescreen Homescreen settings Folder view Contextual menu

The notification area should be quite familiar as well. A line of quick toggles is available above the notifications. Pulling the shade further down reveals all toggles, a brightness slider and a handy search field (Google prefers to put the search field on the homescreen instead).

We like the idea of the Block notifications button, it allows you to quickly mute notifications from pushy apps (games are often guilty of crying for attention when you haven't played them in a while). Still, we don't like the aesthetics of it.

Notification area - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Expanded view - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Editing toggles - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
Notification area Expanded view Editing toggles

The app switcher is the usual rolodex, but unlike the A3 here it offers split-screen multitasking (standard on Nougat, but this is Samsung's implementation in Marshmallow). The apps that can go in multi-window have an icon next to the X, and that's one way of doing it - the other is to hold the task switcher capacitive key.

App switcher - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Multi-window multi-tasking - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Multi-window multi-tasking - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Multi-window multi-tasking - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
App switcher Multi-window multi-tasking

The App drawer has a search field that looks through the apps you have installed, but also suggests apps from Galaxy Apps (you can search the Play Store if you prefer).

App drawer - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Organizing apps - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Searching - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Sorting - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
App drawer Organizing apps Searching Sorting

Being a somewhat larger phone than the A3, the A5 also gets a one-handed operation mode. It's part of the Advanced features menu where you can also enable other actions like double press on the Home button to launch the camera and screenshot capture with a palm swipe.

App switcher - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review One-handed operation - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review One-handed operation - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review One-handed operation - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
App switcher One-handed operation

Secure folder creates a separate zone so sensitive files (photos, documents, etc.) and apps can be locked away from prying eyes. Once you enter the Secure folder, taking a photo with the camera or snapping a screenshot places the file in the Secure folder. To access those from the regular gallery, you'll first have to move them.

Secure folder - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Fingerprint authentication - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review 2 apps, 1 phone - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
Secure folder Fingerprint authentication 2 apps, 1 phone

The reason you want to secure your Samsung account with your fingerprint is that you get 15GB of cloud storage for free. Everything from contacts to photos can be synced and you get to choose which files are synced over LTE and which are left for when Wi-Fi is available (contacts, calendar and notes don't use much data, but photos do).

Selecting what to sync to Samsung Cloud - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review Network settings - Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review
Selecting what to sync to Samsung Cloud Network settings

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

lov it

  • Bennie

After using this phone for 2 years ... I can definitely say this is a great phone and you'll struggle to find these specs today in another phone for this price. It's sad to see so many phones switch over to rear fingerprint sensor when it is so...

Awesome Phone