Samsung Galaxy M32 review: Playing to its strengths

Question is, in a market that is dominated by specs, will that be enough.

Samsung Galaxy M32 review: Playing to its strengths
Samsung Galaxy M32 has been launched in India at a starting price of Rs 14,999. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There are three major things to know about the Galaxy M32. Four if you factor in the price.

  1. It has a fast Super AMOLED display,
  2. a ginormous 6,000mAh battery, and
  3. One UI 3.1 software (which has just received a fresh update to bring the May security patch and other improvements).

The M32 starts at just under Rs 15,000. No other competing phone, be it from Redmi, Realme, or Moto can match the M32 on these three levels. It may not be going all out on specs in other areas, but as the saying goes, you tend to perform better when you’re in your element and there’s absolutely no doubt that Samsung is playing to its strengths here.

Also Read | Samsung Galaxy M32 first look: How it compares to Redmi Note 10S, Realme 8 and Moto G40 Fusion

Question is, in a market that is dominated by specs, will that be enough.

Compact, but solid all-rounder

The pandemic has made smartphones an indispensable commodity. Their utility cannot be stressed enough. A high-quality screen is easily among the most sought-after features that many buyers are looking for today. They’ll spend most of their time looking at it, after all. That Samsung makes the best AMOLED screens is well established. Even Apple uses Samsung-made panels in its latest and greatest iPhones. The fact of the matter is, they don’t need any introduction. Even more so, when Samsung chooses to outfit them on its own devices. A mass-market product like the M32 getting a piece of the pie is good news for budget-conscious buyers.

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The M32 has a 6.4-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen with 90Hz refresh rate. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Samsung may not be the only brand doing this but it leapfrogs competition from Redmi and Realme by simultaneously offering a “segment-first” 90Hz refresh rate in the M32. Phones like the Redmi Note 10, Note 10S, and Realme 8 all top out at 60Hz. Technically, this makes the M32’s display faster and while there are other factors like chipset and optimisation that also weigh in to ensure optimum performance, day-to-day interactions with the M32’s 6.4-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen are largely a pleasurable experience.

Also Read | Redmi Note 10 Pro Max review: Setting a new benchmark for value for money

The M32’s display can also get quite bright – up to 800 nits – so you’ll have no trouble navigating through the screen or reading text or consuming multimedia when you’re out and about in direct sunlight. The bezels, while they are definitely on the higher side, are uniform on three sides and work well for this segment. The M32 is also the only mainstream phone to get Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection at its price.

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The M32’s value proposition towers over every other phone in and around its price. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Still, if I was to nit-pick, more and more brands are now opting for a hole punch cut-out at this price while Samsung is sticking to a waterdrop-style notch which seems a little dated for a 2021 phone. And, even though the phone is Widevine L1-certfied, it can’t stream HD content from Netflix, other OTT platforms yet. You should also know that the Realme 8 and Redmi Note 10/Note 10S displays can get brighter with the Realme phone also supporting HDR10. The Moto G40 Fusion gives you a larger 6.8-inch 1080p LCD display with a faster 120Hz refresh rate and HDR10 support. Spending Rs 1,000 more will get you a Redmi Note 10 Pro that ticks all the boxes – 6.67-inch 1080p Super AMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate, up to 1200nits peak brightness and HDR10 support – if display is your top priority. It comes with a few other bells and whistles too.

That said, the M32’s value proposition towers over every other phone in and around its price, especially if you’re someone who is looking for a compact, but solid all-rounder. You see, most phones in this segment are either too slim and light or too tall. To be able to do that, these phones must make a compromise in other area(s).

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This is a one and a half to a two-day phone by all means. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Like a majority of budget phones, the M32 also has a plastic back. It is glossy and prone to smudge and fingerprints. Next to competition, the M32 is also a thick and chunky phone (9.3mm, 196g) but it is not uncomfortable to use or anything. Considering that it packs a 6,000mAh battery inside, fact is, Samsung has done well here. This is where it has used its years of experience and expertise to build a phone that surprises with its build and ergonomics. The M32 feels confident inside out. Button placement is just spot on (the side-mounted fingerprint scanner works well), navigation is smooth and unobtrusive, and haptics are nice and tight.

Battery life, expectedly, is great. This is a one and a half to a two-day phone by all means. Even for the most demanding users. My only gripe is that even though the M32 supports 25W fast charging, Samsung is only bundling a 15W charger in the box which takes close to two and a half hours to charge the phone completely.

Getting the basics right

Rest of the M32 is all about the basics and it gets them right wherever it can. There is a capable quad camera setup on the back with a 64MP main (f/1.8), an 8MP ultra-wide-angle(f/2.2), and two 2MP sensors, one for shooting portraits and another for macros.

The primary camera steals the show here and is easily among the best in this price range especially under good light. Samsung’s colour tuning, though it is boosted, can still pass off as “true to life” relative to competition. Photos come out with a fair amount of detail and above average dynamic range. Tricky and low light photos are also serviceable. The M32 has the widest ultra-wide-angle lens (123-degree) among budget phones if you’re into that sort of thing. It is also well cut out for bokeh shots with decent subject isolation. Close-up shots aren’t anything to write home about. The 20MP front camera is one of the best selfie shooters we’ve seen South of 20k.

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It can only go as high as 1080p@30fps while recording videos. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Overall, it’s safe to say, the M32 is one of the best camera phones at its price point for still photography. Oddly enough, it can only go as high as 1080p@30fps while recording videos and while it’s competitive, there are surely better options (that can also do 4K@30fps videos).

Also Read | Redmi Note 10S review: Software, not hardware is what makes this phone ‘special’

Core hardware is where the M32 appears to really fall behind. It has the older MediaTek Helio G80 system-on-chip, though there’s also a phone called the Nokia G20 in the market today, that tags along an even less powerful Helio G35 around similar pricing that kind of, sort of takes some of the heat off Samsung. Just to be clear, Samsung’s phone does not have bad hardware per se. It’s just that rival phones have better hardware.

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Rival phones have better hardware. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

With that out of the way, here’ what you need to know about the M32. It’s a good everyday phone. Every now and then, it would stutter and even though it has a 90Hz refresh rate screen, the experience while moving through the various UI elements may not be one hundred percent “fluid” because the hardware just isn’t cut out for that. But the experience isn’t jarring. It’s not an issue or a deal breaker. The phone can also play some games, including next-gen titles like Call of Duty and Battlegrounds Mobile India at low settings, without breaking a lot of sweat. For what it’s worth, it does not get hot and does not throttle when pushed under those scenarios. But be sure that the M32 is not a gaming phone.

The bigger concern – but still not a deal breaker – is that Samsung is using slower eMMC 5.1 storage while rivals have moved on to UFS2.1 and 2.2. This translates to apps taking marginally more time to install and open. This is something that you will have to get used to. But at the same time, only and only if you have had access to faster storage speeds, will you likely notice the difference. But be sure there are faster options available in the market today.

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Samsung has really upped its game when it comes to updates. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Samsung makes strong comeback with software in that it is the only phone in the list to come with the May Android security update out-of-the-box (with Android 11-based One UI version 3.1). Samsung has really upped its game when it comes to updates and its budget phones are also getting them fast and frequently now more than ever. No other rival phone even comes close.

That said, the out-of-the-box experience is far from ideal as all Samsung budget phones, like Redmi and Realme phones come with a lot of bloat or unwanted apps. The first thing to do then is to carry out a bit of a spring-cleaning exercise. Get rid of the app discover feed and lock screen wallpaper carousel, uninstall the non-relevant stuff, and turn off notifications you know you’ll never use. Samsung gives you these options which is nice.

It’s all smooth sailing from there. There are lot of tricks and features to explore, some high-end features like Samsung Pay Mini to try out, and others you can just forget about. Whatever be the case, there’s a little something for everybody here. The push for future-proofing through updates is the icing on the cake.

Samsung Galaxy M32 final thoughts

It’s abundantly clear that Samsung has tried to juggle many hats while designing the M32. The focus was clearly on making a jack of all trades, so you can get a taste of everything without going overboard or anything. Overboard with features as well as overboard with expectations. Everything seems well balanced. If there are “n” number of positives in this phone, there an equal number of ifs and buts too but because the overall package is so solid, it comes out looking good despite its many quirks.

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This is the best budget phone that Samsung has ever made. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The M31s (review) was one of the best budget phones from last year and even though it could have done with a better pricing, it was out there as an easy recommendation for a lot of buyers. The M32 does a lot of those things at an even more aggressive price, and while some might find the use of an inferior chipset or slow storage or the lack of carrier aggregation off-putting, this is the best budget phone that Samsung has ever made. That’s reason enough to keep an eye out for this one.

Pros: Compact but solid build,  Bright and colourful display, Competitive cameras (excellent selfie camera), Fantastic battery life, Appealing software with fast updates

Cons: Could use a faster chip and storage, Video recording caps at 1080p@30fps, Low light camera performance could be better, Ships with lot of unwanted apps

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