Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) review

Is the Galaxy J3 a budget beast?

Samsung Galaxy J3 review

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Has Samsung made a Motorola Moto G-killer? Not quite. While it gets quite a few elements right, they don't add up to a phone that feels entirely complete.

We liked

The Samsung Galaxy J3 is genuinely affordable, and appears to be a genuine alternative to something like the Moto G when you look at it from a distance.

Samsung has had a good stab at making a cheap version of the Galaxy S7 too. It has none of that phone's high-end build, but the style and dimensions are very similar.

Samsung Galaxy J3 review

The screen is sure to please those who like powerful display color too. As it uses an OLED screen, there's not even a hint of the undersaturation you'll see in some lower-end LCD phones. It also goes extremely bright, enabling it to handle bright days better than many of its peers.

We disliked

Samsung has made some pretty questionable choices about what it has left out here. Including NFC but leaving out an ambient brightness sensor may fit in with Samsung's corporate goals, but forcing you to manually change the screen intensity is continually frustrating.

The phone also has an old version of Android and a rather low-power CPU, which results in performance that's a little slower than the best budget handsets. It's not a huge deal, but it means there are better experiences available at the price.

Samsung Galaxy J3 review

There are similar shortcuts when it comes to the camera. It's not dreadful – it's not even bad – but you can get better for your cash if you care about image quality.


The Samsung Galaxy J3 is an 'almost-there' budget phone which looks and feels right, but makes a few sacrifices in the wrong places.

And the one that crops up the most is something that sounds almost trifling: the lack of an auto brightness setting. This means you have to change the screen intensity manually every time you go out, and may set the screen too bright a lot of the time, reducing stamina.

For the money you don't get as much storage as with rival handsets, and the camera isn't quite as good as the Moto G's. The Samsung Galaxy J3 has the framework to be a great budget mobile, but a few of the features bolted onto that framework are just that bit off.

If the Samsung Galaxy J3 doesn't take your fancy, check out some of the key competition below.

Motorola Moto G4 & Moto G4 Play

Motorola's Moto G series is the benchmark all low-cost smartphones are compared to, so if you're looking for a dependable handset which won't break the bank look no further.

The Moto G4 is a little pricier than the Galaxy J3 though, so you may want to check out the similarly priced Moto G4 Play instead.

Lenovo P2

If battery life is your bag, the Lenovo P2 is the phone for you. Its whopping 5,100mAh juice pack will keep you going for over two days between charges - which is unheard of in today's smartphone world.

It's a touch more expensive than the Galaxy J3, but not by much and it's one of the best cheap smartphones around.

Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus

If you're in the UK then you also have the option of plucky upstart Wileyfox, which has a range of affordable smartphones with strong spec sheets.

The Swift 2 Plus is one of its most recent devices, boasting a 5-inch HD display, fingerprint scanner, 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM and 16MP rear snapper. Oh, and the price? £189.

Thanks to MobileFun for providing our Galaxy J3 review unit!

First reviewed: May 2016

Andrew Williams

Andrew is a freelance journalist and has been writing and editing for some of the UK's top tech and lifestyle publications including TrustedReviews, Stuff, T3, TechRadar, Lifehacker and others.