Review: Samsung Galaxy J3 for Boost Mobile
The Galaxy J3 may not look like much, but it performs far better than its meager price point would suggest. It's not perfect, but this low-cost Android smartphone for Boost Mobile is a good pick if you're looking for something in the middle of the pack. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
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Is It Your Type?
It you want something that's a cut above most budget phones, but don't have the bankroll to pay for a flagship, the Samsung Galaxy J3 is a solid pick from Boost Mobile's lineup. Its looks are just above plebeian, but it performs well enough that it should be given at least some consideration.
The Galaxy J3 is average in every sense of the word. It carries forward Samsung's buttoned-down design language, and combines it with mid-grade materials and reasonably good build quality. It's the type of phone that feels like it matches its price point ($180) pretty well.
Samsung hopes the J3's gold coloring will catch your eye. There's no doubt some will find the gold shell well-matched to the black glass. It's a classic color combo. Unlike the attractive, gold, metal frame of the S6 or S6 Edge, however, the J3's gold exterior is plastic through and through. You can tell as soon as you touch it. The phone has a polycarbonate frame with a plastic rear panel. The frame is a bit shinier than the panel, which has more of a matte finish. It's just enough of a difference to set them apart. The J3 is trying just a bit too hard to look classy and elegant and doesn't quite pull it off.
The J3 has what I've come to define as a "normal" size for phones made in 2016. The 5-inch screen necessitates a minimum set of dimensions. It comes in at 5.6 inches tall by 2.81 inches wide and 0.32 inches (8mm) thick. It has a rather boring shape, with rounded corners and somewhat chubby side edges.
I'm able to hold and use the J3 quite easily. It's comfortable all around. The materials do feel slightly cheap to me, but the overall effect could be a lot worse. The frame certainly feels strong, but the rear panel feels like something recycled from Samsung's 2012-era parts bin. The joints aren't the tightest I've seen. The J3 is smooth, light, and just compact enough that I was confident to walk around gripping it in my hand. Sticking the J3 into your pocket is no issue at all.
The gold frame helps define the J3's face nicely, as it contrasts with the black screen. The frame forms a very thin rim around the screen, but not enough to really protect the glass if the phone is placed face down. Samsung firmly believes in physical buttons, which means you'll find a large home button below the display flanked by capacitive keys for multi tasking and navigating back. The home button has a huge profile — almost too huge — making it easy to find. The button wiggles around a bit, which I am not thrilled about, but travel is great. The capacitive buttons work fine.
The volume button is the lone control placed on the left edge. It's rather thin, but the profile makes it easy enough to find and use. Travel and feedback are good, although I'd like for there to be a nub or something on the down/up sides to make them easier to differentiate. The screen lock / power button mirrors the volume toggle on the right edge, but is much smaller. The button is just big enough that I was able to find and use it without issue. Like many phones, the headphone jack is on top and the micro USB port is tucked into the bottom edge.
On the back surface you'll see the square-ish camera module, with an LED flash to the left and two thin openings for the speakerphone to the right. I found the rear plastic panel easy to remove; it feels as flimsy as most Samsung plastic shells. The battery is removable, and in fact must be pulled in order to access the SIM card. The memory card slot is stacked on top of the SIM card slot, but can be accessed with the battery in place.
That's pretty much it. The Galaxy J3 soldiers forth with little fanfare. What it lacks in personality I suppose out makes up for in raw usability.
A 5-inch, 720p HD panel adorns the front of the Galaxy J3. This is a good size/resolution combination, and Samsung's OLED screens have always been impressive. Everything on the screen is clear and easy to read. The phone delivers excellent brightness, high contrast, and impressive viewing angles. I was able to use the phone inside and out without trouble, even under bright, sunny skies. It's a fine screen, especially for a phone at this price point.
Like the LG Tribute 5, the Samsung Galaxy J3 is being sold by Boost Mobile. That means it effectively runs on Sprint's network. The J3 mirrored the Tribute 5's signal performance almost exactly. The J3 easily connected calls everywhere I took the phone, and never missed nor dropped any calls — even when speeding down the highway. The J3 is a better data device than the Tribute 5, and consistently delivered quicker web browsing speeds, app downloads, and app refreshing speeds (think Facebook and Twitter). When used to stream Spotify over LTE, the J3 handled the "average" quality setting (about 96 Kbps) with no problem. It gave me trouble, however, when I jumped up to the highest quality setting, which boosts the rate to more like 256 Kbps. Ditto for video apps like YouTube. It handled SD video over LTE just fine, but it choked a bit when asked to stream HD.
People who actually use their phone to make calls will probably be satisfied with the J3's performance. The earpiece delivers a reasonably solid experience as far as volume is concerned. It's cleanly audible in most places when the phone is set to about 60%. Boosting it all way up ensures you'll hear convos at home, in the office, walking around the mall, or hustling down a busy city street. Quality suffers a wee bit when the volume is maxed out thanks to a small amount of distortion, but I've heard much worse. People thought I sounded good when I spoke to them through the J3.
The speakerphone is a bit below average in terms of quality and volume. Calls coming through the speaker are scratchy and hard to hear.
It was no surprise, then, that I found the ringers to be lacking in the volume department. I missed a couple of calls because I didn't hear the phone. The vibrate alert is just barely vibrate-y enough.
Samsung gave the J3 a decent-sized battery. At 2,600 mAh, it matches that of the higher-powered, bigger-screened Galaxy S6. With a lower-key processor and a lower-res screen than the S6, the J3 is able to make better use out of the battery. In other words, it blasts through an entire day with ease, and leaves plenty of power to spare at the end of the night. I routinely found the phone with 35% or 40% battery remaining at bedtime, no matter how much I used it throughout the day.
Even so, the J3 has Samsung's Power Saver mode and Ultra Power Saver mode. I doubt you'll ever need them, but each has its benefits. The former tones down the screens, notifications, and the processor to eek out a bit more life. The latter puts the phone into basics mode with a greyscale screen to push through hours of basic communications.
The J3 doesn't support wireless charging, nor rapid charging.
Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi
I didn't encounter any deal-breaker issues using the J3's various other radios. The Bluetooth functionality worked flawlessly as far as the pairing and connecting process was concerned. No problems whatsoever. Call quality was mediocre via mono headsets, though, and music wasn't up to par when pushed through my best speaker (which is odd).
The GPS radio located me in less than 5 seconds, but accuracy was never better than about 100 feet, which is way below par. Many phones are accurate to 10-25 feet.
WiFi worked great. The J3 doesn't have NFC.
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