A curious man approached me the other day, while I was sitting at a coffee shop in south Delhi. He told me he liked the Awesome Lime colour of my Galaxy S23 device that was lying flat on the table. I was puzzled for a second, but then told him that this was the Galaxy A34, the latest mid-range smartphone from Samsung, and not one of their glitzy flagship devices that launched early in February.
That, in my mind, was one of the biggest endorsements for these two – the Galaxy A34 and Galaxy A54 – mid-range smartphones from Samsung that launched in India on 16 March.
The A34 and A54 can, at best, be characterised as less expensive siblings (complete with the individual camera rings and their silver edges) of the Galaxy S23. That they don’t try to look different is something I can get on board with. With a design that we all like and are familiar with, the strengths of these phones can be determined by their internal specifications. With smartphones that wobble on any flat service, let’s find out if they’re worth a purchase.
Budget-friendly yet premium
The phones borrow a lot from the high-end siblings but also remain rooted in their cause of being budget-friendly. For example, Vision Booster has trickled down from the Galaxy S series. Nightography – sharper photos and videos in low light – has also come to the Galaxy A series. These two A series smartphones also get four OS updates and 5 years of security updates. That is a big plus. The A34 starts at ₹30,999 (8GB+128GB variant), while the A54’s base model (8GB+128GB) comes in at ₹38,999.
Similar but different
The main differences between the A34 and A54 are the display size, chipset, and camera sensors. The A34 gets a 48MP f/1.8 main snapper with OIS, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, and a 5MP f/2.4 macro. The A54, on the other hand, features a 50MP f/1.8 main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, and a 5MP f/2.4 macro snapper. The A54 has a 32MP selfie camera, while the A34 only gets a 13MP sensor on the front.
The Galaxy A34 packs the MediaTek Dimensity 1080 chipset, while the Galaxy A54 comes with the in-house Exynos 1380 chipset.
Both smartphones have an FHD+ Super AMOLED display (120Hz refresh rate and 1,000 nits peak brightness). The Galaxy A54 is the smaller of the lot, coming in at 6.4 inches, while the Galaxy A34’s display size is 6.6 inches. Despite their bezels, it’s these gorgeous screens that are shrinking the gap between the flagships and the mid-rangers.
One other difference is noticeable on the front of these smartphones. The Galaxy A34 features a notch (the ‘Infinity-U display’, as Samsung calls it), while the Galaxy A54 has a punch-hole camera.
Beyond that, both smartphones are nearly identical. They both have 5,000mAh batteries (with 25W charging), an in-screen fingerprint sensor, an IP67 rating, support for 5G, stereo speakers, a microSD slot and either 128GB or 256GB of storage.
Galaxy A54 over the A34
With the Galaxy A34 starting at ₹30,999, one can’t help but feel that it is slightly overpriced. More aggressive pricing would have gone a long way for the company. The competition is stiff, with the Pixel 6a stealing the camera crown, the Nothing Phone (1) being the most innovative, the Redmi Note 12 series having faster-charging capabilities, and many Motorola smartphones offering stock Android. If that’s not all, the biggest competitor to the Galaxy A34 is within Samsung’s lineup itself.
The Galaxy A54 is almost always going to be the better buy of the two. With a price difference of just a couple of thousand rupees, the gap isn’t wide enough to justify the Galaxy A34.
The Galaxy A54 is unlike the Galaxy A53 or Galaxy A52s of before. The Galaxy A54 adopts a glass sandwich design (gone are the days of the plastic or even “Glastic” finish) and has Gorilla Glass 5 protection at the front and back. The Galaxy A34, unfortunately, settles for a bulky, plastic rear body. One would think that having a glass panel on the back would make for a slippery phone, but that isn’t the case here.
There’s the IP67 rating (thankfully) that a lot of the mid-range competition has forgotten.
With a 5,000mAh battery (unchanged from the predecessors), Samsung has kept its promise of offering two days of battery life with these phones. My usage was a mix of photos, YouTube videos, work calls, and a whole lot of note-taking and texting, and both the Galaxy A54 and Galaxy A34 lasted till the next morning before they had to be plugged in for charging again.
While both smartphones easily last into the second day of usage, the Galaxy A54’s compact design makes it the better phone to use for longer durations. The Galaxy A54 also has slightly better stereo speakers that don’t crackle at higher volumes, unlike the Galaxy A34.
Performance-wise, you’re going to have no issues with respect to multitasking. Yes, these aren’t meant for high-end games, but for daily tasks, these smartphones run with no lag and also don’t heat up as opposed to some of the competition out there. There were a few noticeable times when the Galaxy A34 slowed down, but nothing to fret about. Both phones are more than capable of being pushed. One UI is one of the best in the business in 2023, and with four years of major OS updates promised, you’re being well treated.
In almost all circumstances – barring good daylight photos and portrait shots – the Galaxy A54 outdoes the A34 when it comes to the quality of the images snapped from the cameras. There’s good dynamic range, truer colours, and a lot more detail from the sensors on the Galaxy A54 as opposed to the Galaxy A34.
Photos captured in good daylight, from the main sensors, are almost hard to tell apart. The Galaxy A54 has the advantage when it comes to the ultra-wide snapper thanks to punchier colours and a more true-to-life image. It doesn’t look overprocessed, like on the Galaxy A34.
One area where Samsung excels is portrait mode. It may be too much of an aggressive blur for some, but edge detection has been refined and is excellent in almost all shots.
With Samsung promoting its Nightography feature, I took the smartphones out for a spin at night. The A series has far improved night-time photography, and the photos retain a lot more detail than their predecessors and with a lot less noise.
While not class-leading, I was mighty impressed with the improvement in the camera department.
While setting up the smartphones, I found out that I wasn’t able to disable the ‘Glance on Samsung’ feature. Glance uses AI to deliver personalised content to the lock screens of smartphones. Let me just say it straight up. Most of the content that comes from Glance is useless and is also filled with plenty of advertisements. Disabling Glance, after the phone was set up wasn’t an easy process either. Finding the relevant setting, for most, would be quite an arduous task. Having any type of bloatware is unacceptable, but having Glance enabled by default, is even more so.
While the in-display fingerprint sensor was quick and reliable, facial recognition was the complete opposite. Registering your face in the biometrics section was quick and painless, but unlocking the phone rarely worked as intended. No matter how many times I re-registered my face, 8 out of 10 times it failed to unlock, especially in low-light scenarios.
Stiff competition, value-for-money or an outright recommendation?
As I mentioned above, the competition in the Android market is very stiff. With the Google Pixel 6a (and the upcoming Pixel 7a), the Nothing Phone (1) (and the upcoming Nothing Phone (2), the Redmi Note 12 series, the likes of iQOO, Realme and more, there’s a lot to consider here.
The Samsung A series smartphones are well-rounded smartphones, but they aren’t best-in-class in many categories except for the multimedia experience as their displays are the best out there.
As mentioned above, the price of the Galaxy A34 needed to be more aggressive (preferably under ₹30,000) to make it an easy recommendation. It’s stepping into the shadows of the Pixel 6a (with its fantastic cameras) and the OnePlus 11R (which is one of the fastest Android smartphones in this price segment).
The design is no longer a barrier for a Galaxy A series device. They’re premium through and through.
The Galaxy A54 is the one I can more easily recommend to consumers out there. It’s got a fantastic display, a good set of cameras (outdoing all, barring the Pixel 6a), a smooth, lag-free, performance, and one of the best Android skins out there. Even the battery life is quite good, as it’s hard to kill the phone unless you’re gaming for hours on end.
Furthermore, the Galaxy A54 feels much more premium, despite being slightly smaller in size.
If you don’t have your heart set on one particular feature from any smartphone and don’t want to stretch your budget to the flagship category, then the Galaxy A54 should be on top of your shopping list.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist