Samsung Galaxy A55 review: A great cheap phone all-around

Beautifully balanced and budget-friendly

The Samsung Galaxy A55 from the front
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Excluding its underpowered chipset, the Samsung Galaxy A55 offers you more than you might bargain for, for a phone of its price. Keeping its price steady, and its display, battery and cameras at a high quality make this a strong pick for any buyer wanting to save money on their next phone.

Pros

  • +

    Big and colorful display

  • +

    Strong cameras

  • +

    Price remains low

  • +

    Good battery life

Cons

  • -

    Lacking processing power

  • -

    Not coming to U.S.

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I still struggle to understand why the Samsung Galaxy A55 isn't coming to the U.S. this year. But I'm at least glad that my fellow Europeans have access to the best budget phone of the year so far.

While it has the bad fortune of launching just before Google's next, and likely excellent, attempt at a budget phone in the Pixel 8a, the Galaxy A55 has staying power thanks to its offer of solid, and in some cases flagship-equaling, performance and specs. About the only area it really trips up is performance, so if that's your focus you should look elsewhere.

The outgoing Galaxy A54 already sits at the top of our best cheap phones guide, and the Galaxy A55 definitely deserves that spot. We'll have to wait and see how the Galaxy A35 (which is coming to the U.S.) deals with our testing before we know who gets the crown for now though.

Samsung Galaxy A55: Specifications

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Starting price£439 / AU$699
Display6.6-inch FHD AMOLED (1080 x 2340)
Refresh rate60Hz/120Hz adaptive
Rear cameras50MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 5MP macro (f/2.4)
Front camera32MP selfie (f/2.2)
Chipset Exynos 1480
RAM8GB, 12GB
Storage128GB/256GB with up to 1TB microSD
Battery5,000 mAh
Charging25W wired
SoftwareAndroid 14 with One UI 6.1
ColorsAwesome Ice Blue, Awesome Yellow, Awesome Lilac, Awesome Navy
Dust/water resistanceIP67
Size6.34 x 3.04 x 0.32 inches / 161.1 x 77.4 x 8.2 mm
Weight7.51 ounces / 213 grams

Samsung Galaxy A55: Price and release date

Samsung put the Galaxy A55 on sale in March 2024, priced from £439 in the U.K. and from AU$699 in Australia. That's a little cheaper than the Galaxy A54 was last year, but still places the A55 in the same bracket as the Pixel 7a, and the OnePlus 12R if you're prepared to stretch your money a bit further.

The U.S. isn't getting the Galaxy A55, but instead Samsung's offering the similar but slightly cheaper Galaxy A35 for users wanting a well-priced Samsung there. The A35 uses the same body, display, battery and color options as the A55, but uses inferior cameras, a less powerful chip and smaller RAM options in return for a cheaper price tag.

Samsung Galaxy A55: Design and display

Samsung's flat sides and individually mounted rear cameras design again appears on the Galaxy A55, making the relation between it and the more expensive Galaxy S24 series clear. But one new unique element of the latest Galaxy A models is the Key Island (although Samsung doesn't give it a particular name), a raised portion of the side rail that contains the volume and power buttons.

The Samsung Galaxy A55's rear cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The protrusion feels more subtle than it looks in photos, and your thumb rests quite naturally on the slope up from the main side rail where the power button lies, at least in my case. But the island did catch me out a time or two because I would feel for the power button without looking to try and unlock the phone, only to press down and find I had mistaken the island for the actual active button. 

The Samsung Galaxy A55 rear cameras and key island

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The side rail beyond the bump has a nice brushed texture, helping differentiate it from the glossy and satin finishes of the Galaxy S24. The fact these sides are metal for the first time on a Galaxy A series phone also helps increase the feeling of luxury, although the bezels and lighter weight reveal this isn't a premium Samsung device.

The Samsung Galaxy A55 from the side

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Speaking of the screen, it's a 6.6-inch OLED panel with an FHD resolution and 120Hz peak refresh rate, larger than the Galaxy A54's 6.4-inch screen or the Pixel 7a's 6.1-inch screen, sitting between the 6.2-inch and 6.7-inch displays of the Galaxy S24 and Galaxy S24 Plus or OnePlus 12R. 

This is the first time a Galaxy A series model has featured an adaptive refresh rate, but only between 120Hz and a standard 60Hz from my experimentation. Samsung also promises up to 1,000 nits of brightness, which would beat the Pixel 7a (though not the OnePlus 12R), but we still need to get the A55 to our lab to verify Samsung's numbers.

The Samsung Galaxy A55 displaying video

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung has clad the Galaxy A55's front and back in Gorilla Glass Victus Plus, a slightly dated but still effective toughened glass. The water/dust resistance rating of IP67 is similarly good, but not flagship-quality.

The last thing to know design-wise about the Galaxy A55 is its four color options. You can go for Ice Blue (pictured), Navy, Lemon or Lilac, which are all on the lively side rather than the more sensible Galaxy S or Galaxy Z color palettes.

Samsung Galaxy A55: Cameras

Samsung's camera loadout for the Galaxy A55: a 50MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide, and 5MP macro and 32MP front camera, is unchanged from the Galaxy A54 last year. But Samsung's been making improvements in the meantime, so let's see how it compares against two big competitors, starting with the Pixel 7a.

In this main camera shot, the Pixel offers a higher dynamic range with brighter highlights and darker shadows in this photo of Beckenham Green, while the Galaxy does better with color richness, a historic focus of Samsung's photography processing.

Moving from a natural subject to a man-made one, we have another main camera shot of Beckenham Public Hall. Samsung's signature saturation is very visible, making the orange bricks look especially orange compared to the more balanced coloration of the Google phone.

Next we have here an ultrawide comparison between the Galaxy A55 and Pixel 7a of an uprooted tree stump. The Galaxy's exaggerated colors don't do it any favors here, while the Pixel 7a's better brightness helps us make out all the different lines in the splintered wood.

For the macro camera comparison, we swap to the OnePlus 12R, as it has a macro camera unlike the Pixel 7a. This rain-spattered leaf is much sharper through the Galaxy A55's camera than it is through the OnePlus', and with brighter colors too. 

It's a surprisingly good macro image overall, considering the difficulty of steadying the branch and the number of shots it took before I got one I was satisfied with. I still think a telephoto camera, or an ultrawide camera's macro mode, does this kind of close-up shot better than a low-res macro camera, but you can't be that demanding with phones of this price.

We finish up with a portrait selfie against a leafy backdrop, with the Pixel 7a subbing back in as our comparison phone. The Galaxy A55's darker coloring makes for a bit of a drab picture compared to what the Pixel 7a produces, which is less than ideal for a photo where you're the main subject.

Samsung Galaxy A55: Performance

The Exynos 1480 chipset in the Galaxy A55 is brand new, but it's not designed to be a super-powered chip like Samsung's Exynos 2400 is. Instead, it offers rather disappointing performance against phones with older chips that were designed to be powerful from the start.

The Pixel 7a uses the Tensor G2 from 2022's Pixel 7 series, and the OnePlus 12R a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from 2023's flagship Android phones. Despite their age they easily defeat the Galaxy A55 in the Geekbench CPU benchmark and 3DMark GPU benchmark, especially in the OnePlus' case.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Galaxy A55Pixel 7aOnePlus 12R
Geekbench 6 (single-core/multicore)1,161 / 3,4641,401 / 3,3681,553 / 5,135
3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited (score / frames per second)905 / 5.41,828 / 10.93,693 / 22.1

Don't be fooled by these numbers though: the Galaxy A55 still feels smooth to use, and even when playing games the framerate plays steady. But after racing for a while in Grid Autosport, the poor anti-aliasing for the cars and backgrounds made it clear this isn't an optimal phone for gaming or other demanding tasks.

The Samsung Galaxy A55 playing Grid Autosport

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung offers 8GB RAM and 128GB storage by default in the Galaxy A55, but in some markets an 8GB/256GB option is available, and some lucky countries also have a 12GB/256GB option to pick. That's a surprising amount of RAM for a cheaper phone, so it's a shame it's not available to everyone who wants the best multitasking ability in their phone around the world.

If the storage options seem a little limited, fortunately the Galaxy A55 is one of the rare phones that supports microSD support, offering you up to 1TB of extra capacity if you have the correct card.

Samsung Galaxy A55: Battery and charging

The 5,000 mAh battery inside the Galaxy A55 is pretty sizeable, and results in long battery life. The A55  drained by 22% over three hours of YouTube video playback, while the OnePlus 12R dropped by 26% and the Pixel 7a by 18%.

As the OnePlus 12R is currently no. 2 on our best phone battery life guide, this could mean the Galaxy A55 has a surprisingly impressive battery too. However, my test may favor the Galaxy A55, due to its smaller, dimmer display, compared to the web-browsing test we conduct in the labs.

The Galaxy A55 can support up to 25W of charging, although there's once again no charger for you in the box. Using my own 25W charger, I was able to power the A55 up to 26% in 15 minutes, 52% in 30 and then  100% in 1 hour and 23 minutes. The OnePlus 12R is able to get to 96% in 30 minutes with its 80W charger, but that's an exception among phones of this price.

Samsung Galaxy A55: Software and special features

Samsung has provided the Galaxy A55 with One UI 6.1, the latest edition of its Android 14-based software. That's bang up to date with what you get with the Galaxy S24, except unlike the S24, the A55 doesn't have any unique software or AI tricks beyond the Samsung default.

The Samsung Galaxy A55 from the back

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That said, Knox Vault is one new feature for the latest Galaxy A phones, passed down from the Galaxy S and Galaxy Z flagship phones. This is a secure part of your phone's chipset that houses important data like passwords and biometric data, keeping it secure from hackers attacking your phone, and even "self-destructing" your data if it detects physical interference.

The Galaxy A55 is furnished with four years of full updates and five years of security, which is a good deal for a phone of this price. Samsung is more generous with its Galaxy S24 series though, giving those seven years of full software support.

Samsung Galaxy A55 review: Verdict

I’m happy to report that the Samsung Galaxy A55 is cheap but very good, just like the phones that came before it. Although the inbound Pixel 8a could spell trouble, the Galaxy A55 could still be the better value of the two if the Pixel remains more expensive than the Samsung.

The Samsung Galaxy A55 from the back

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Future-gazing aside, the Galaxy A55 has a better blend of features than the performance-oriented OnePlus 12R, and is noticeably cheaper too if you don't have access to the cheaper 8GB/128GB variant. As for Google’s current Pixel 7a, you get a more consistent photography experience with it than with the Galaxy A55, and it's a little more powerful too. But the Galaxy's larger size and surprisingly usable macro camera may be enough to persuade you to stick with Samsung instead.

The Galaxy A55, as of the publishing of this review, is definitely going on the top of our best cheap phones guide. The only question is if it'll be that long until it gets dethroned, possibly by its sibling the Galaxy A35. But even without a gold medal, the Galaxy A55 could still be a no. 1 pick.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.