Samsung is the biggest smartphone maker on the planet. In Kenya, the company is one of the top smartphone makers as well with its Galaxy brand being a household name in the country.
Before the market was invaded by Chinese brands like Infinix, iTel, Tecno and others, it was Samsung that was the great disruptor. The Korean company’s early devices like Galaxy Mini, Galaxy Music, and Galaxy Pocket played a major role in increasing smartphone penetration in the country and cutting to size Nokia’s dominance of the market.
However, today, Samsung finds itself in a tight spot when it comes to providing budget devices as newer brands have since come up that provide what in the opinion of many a user is great value for money – desirable specifications and good designs at rock-bottom prices.
As such, the name Samsung may not be really what many would associate with some notable entry-level and lower mid-range smartphones but surprise! It still is courtesy of these 10 smartphones and several others from earlier dates not highlighted in this article. Thanks to Samsung’s horrible device naming scheme, a lot of these devices may sound similar but there’s always something that differentiates them and hence accounts for the difference in pricing. And there’s more coming soon.
1. Samsung Galaxy J1 mini
The Galaxy J1 mini, released in March last year, continues Samsung’s long and often confused mini smartphone journey. For all intent and purposes, the Galaxy J1 mini is built to be a smaller version of a device that went on sale the year before, the Galaxy J1.
It is a little bit smaller with a 4-inch display instead of the J1’s 4.3-inch WVGA panel. To show for its relative newness, however, it packs twice the memory of its bigger elderly sibling (1GB RAM), a camera with equally meh features (maybe worse) – 5-megapixel shooter at the back and a VGA equivalent on the front.
That the amount of (user accessible) storage one will find onboard (just over 4GB) is at least half of what is advertised is not a new thing for devices at the J1 mini’s price point where something’s got to give for there to be a deal.
Other specifications of the device include a 1,500mAh battery and HD video recording using the back camera, awful compared to what Tecno and Infinix have to offer at the Galaxy J1 mini’s price.
Price: Kshs 8,000
2. Samsung Galaxy J1 mini Prime
Released to the market late last year, this is a remake of the Samsung Galaxy J1 mini and as one can tell, there isn’t that much in the way of differentiation.
Price: Kshs 8,000-10,000 (for both 4G LTE and 3G models with dual-SIM)
3. Samsung Galaxy J1 Ace
This one is a veteran. As one of the very first budget smartphones to start selling in Kenya with LTE network connectivity, it has seen its best days zoom past it. Still, it can be found in various retail outlets across the country. I have spotted in many stores in Nairobi, seen it on sale in the coastal towns of Mombasa, Mtwapa and Malindi and encountered it on display on the busy Oginga Odinga street in Kisumu.
Even with its inferior specifications (4GB onboard storage, 512 or 768MB RAM), 2 years later, it looks like the J1 Ace is here to stay, at least for the time being. Its other specifications, like the 4.3-inch WVGA display, 5-megapixel camera are what it has to show for its close association with the Galaxy J1 whose name it bears.
Price: Kshs 9,000-11,000 (for both 3G and LTE models)
4. Samsung Galaxy J1 2016
This is the device that brings some sort of mild hope to the expansive Galaxy J1 lineup. It is slightly big with its 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display but goes back to the familiar grounds of 8GB onboard storage where just over half is user accessible, 1GB RAM, a Spreadtrum chipset, a 5-megapixel camera and not much else. The battery, though, is a bit bigger (2,050mAh).
To take care of the needs of its target users, the device comes with Samsung’s Ultra Data Saving Mode, a remake of Opera’s Max app, a feature that is also available on most of the other devices on this list from the last two or so years.
Price: Kshs 11,000-13,000 (for both 3G and LTE models)
5. Samsung Galaxy J2
This is the true successor to the Galaxy J1 that arrived just when we were being thrown into confusion by the many members of the J1 family that Samsung kept releasing and which were each touted as successors to the first generation J1.
Not only is the J2’s display bigger by a few point inches (it’s 4.7-inch), it also has a better resolution, qHD (540 x 960 pixels).
In place of the low-end Spreadtrum chipset we are now used to seeing on Samsung’s low-end devices, there is an Exynos 3 processor with a Mali GPU to make things a bit smoother but other than that, it’s back to default settings as far as the rest of the specifications go. There’s still that tired 5-megapixel+2-megapixel camera combo on the back and front respectively, 1GB RAM+8GB storage internally and a measly 2,000mAh battery. Nothing much to excite a user in 2017 but those specs did their bit in Q3 2015 when the J2 was announced.
Price: Kshs 12,000 (you can get a pretty decent Tecno device for this same amount)
6. Samsung Galaxy J2 2016
For some strange reason, you have to sweat your way through various shops in order to be able to find the Galaxy J2 2016. I couldn’t find it in most Samsung-branded retail outlets, at Safaricom shops, Tuscom or even FoneXpress. But it’s there and it’s every bit better than the device it succeeds, the aforementioned first generation Galaxy J2.
The display, for starters, gets a bump up to 5-inches and a shiny new HD panel to do the Super AMOLED tech some justice.
The memory, too, is raised to 1.5GB. The camera gets a facelift to 8-megapixels at the back and 5-megapixels on the front. The battery, in order to cope with the larger display with a higher resolution, sees its capacity increased to peak at 2,600mAh. Not bad, really, when you throw in Android Marshmallow.
The device’s signature feature is Smart Glow, a new take on Android notifications that sees an LED ring surrounding the camera blink occasionally in different colours whenever there are new notifications.
Price: Kshs 13,000-15,000 (dual-SIM)
7. Samsung Galaxy J2 Prime
Whereas the Galaxy J2 2016 edition was released a year ago (July 2016), the J2 Prime followed it 2 months later. It is one of those devices where you simply wonder what Samsung was up to since, to be honest, other than the reduction in pricing, there is no solid reason for the J2 Prime’s existence other than to increase the size of the catalog that Samsung’s marketing team can print showcasing what they have in the market.
Save for differences in physical design and looks, the J2 Prime packs a lot of the specifications of the J2 2016 bar the display and the processor which contribute heavily to the overall package’s pricing. The J2 Prime goes back to a qHD display and a MediaTek processor instead of the HD panel and in-house chip that can be found on the J2 2016.
Price: Kshs 12,000-13,000
8. Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
This device will be turning 3 pretty soon but its specifications, when compared to other newer Samsung devices on this list, show that it was way ahead of its time. Whether it is a case of old stock refusing to go or being in demand, I have no idea but you can still find this device, and its ridiculously long name, on sale throughout the country.
What do you get from a 2014 gagdet? Well, basically everything you get from the Galaxy J2 Prime (see above).
Price: Kshs 15,000 (LOL)
9. Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Plus
Another long name, sigh.
Also, if there’s no reason for the J2 Prime’s existence then I don’t know what to say of the Grand Prime Plus with its mouthful of a name.
This is not a mistake. The Galaxy Grand Prime does, indeed, look every bit like the Galaxy J2 Prime which debuted at the same time. One device, 2 names because, well, it’s Samsung. Or it’s a case of one device, different market focus? If so, then both are available in the Kenyan and that makes everything interesting.
There’s no major difference between it and the Galaxy Grand Prime other than the processor used, never mind that the two devices are two years apart. Whatever the guys at Samsung smoke, I don’t want it. Users get a MediaTek chipset while those who purchase the Grand Prime have a choice of either a Snapdragon 410 chipset or an entry-level Spreadtrum SoC.
Price: Kshs 12,000-13,000
10. Samsung Galaxy J3 2016
In keeping up with the incremental bumps every time there’s a number change, the J3 2016 takes over from where the J2 2016 left and makes things a bit interesting. While the display and most other specs stay the same, the memory and onboard storage are doubled (to 2GB and 16GB respectively). It has a lot of the features found on modern mid-range and low-end Samsung devices like Ultra Power Saving Mode and Smart Manager to make life easier for users.
Price: Kshs 14,000-15,000
BONUS: [The odd one out] Samsung Z2
The Samsung Z2 is not an Android smartphone. Far from it. It is powered by the Samsung-backed alternative mobile platform, Tizen OS. However, it happens to be the cheapest Samsung smartphone on the market if I am not mistaken. It has specifications similar to the entry-level Android devices from Samsung on this list i.e. a 4-inch WVGA (480×800 pixels) display, a VGA camera on the front and a 5-megapixel shooter at the back, a quad-core Spreadtrum processor clocked at 1.5GHz, a 1,500mAh battery, FM radio, 3G etc.
The Z2’s outstanding feature is the long battery life. Yes, 1,500mAh may not mean much in Androidworld but it’s quite a lot on Tizen which is famous for its low power consumption and overall resource utilization.
The Z2 may not be an Android device but it can be forced to run Android applications. Tizen, the platform it operates on, is nascent and as such does not have the millions of applications available on Android. There is an application compatibility layer that allows users in the know to run Android apps on Tizen devices like the Samsung Z2.
Price: Kshs 6,000-7,000
Note: prices may vary depending on which store you visit and the time. The figures quoted here, while accurate at the time of publication based on the retail outlets factored in, are not in anyway final or meant to be taken as such. In any case, they should be a guide, a pointer for what you should expect in the market.