Samsung A54 phone review - Solid all-rounder with big flaws

Updated: November 27, 2023

Now that my Nokia X10 phone is no longer usable, I am in need of a new device. Thus beginneth my journey. This little escapade ends with the purchase of a Samsung A54 device. Spoiler alert! But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let me tell you all the details, the context, the background story. As it happens, two years ago I bought a rather cheap phone, one Nokia X10, in order to replace another cheap phone, one Motorola G6, which had died on me. Value for money, long-term ROI, all that, pay attention please.

Two years in, the Nokia X10 is also misbehaving. The volume button and the side button (the one for camera or assistant or whatnot) have fallen out, and the phone battery is draining rapidly. This started after the last system update. Related? Who knows. But if I use the phone a bit, and/or activate its mobile hotspot, the battery will thereafter deplete within hours, no matter what. Makes the phone practically unusable. And so I spent a good week or so searching for a possible replacement, a task that proved immensely difficult, but in the end I achieved great success, verinajs. And by success I mean, I purchased a new phone. Now, whether it's good or not, well read on.

Teaser 1

Considerations

A little aside, first. Artificial Intelligence (AI), amirite. When various people talk about AI, and by people I mean sales and marketing, they often glamorize the advantages of AI - and inevitably it always comes down to shopping and spending money, because what else should you be doing, right. The thing is, no AI can possibly give you any sort of smart shopping recommendations if your tech savviness is above that of a newt. In this particular case, I spent hours reading reviews on GSM Arena, more hours reading around the Web, still more hours trawling various online stores, to figure out what I could buy.

Consideration 1: money. I've proven again what I've always claimed. Cheap hardware isn't cheap. Buy a lowly device, it will die way sooner than a more expensive thing, on average. The function ain't linear, though. There is a sweet spot of cost and value, of course. But generally speaking, 2x cheap > 1x semi-expensive in terms of cost. In other words, in the last four years, I had to replace two ~250-dollar devices. Now, I decided to go for one ~500 dollar device, with the expectation it will live for longer than four years. As far as the phone cost goes, this has been true for my old Microsoft Lumia 950 and the Motorola One Zoom, both of which are in the nice, solid mid-range bracket.

Consideration 2: hardware. My requirements aren't outrageous. But they are complicated. I don't like over-big phones, and most modern phones are ridiculously large. They are almost like tablets, too heavy and rather unwieldy. Finding a small phone is difficult, because there are very few offerings, plus they tend to be more expensive. Then, I love audio jacks. Most modern phones don't have them. Le complication. I also care about the camera. Each of these ain't a biggie, but it's virtually impossible to find a device that is small, not too expensive, has a good camera plus a 3.5mm port. This was one of the big blockers in my search.

Consideration 3: support. Just recently, I did my iPhone 13 Mini review. There's a nice if highly expensive phone. But you get years and years of support, so you ain't wasting your money for nought. Thus, I started looking for Android phones that offer longevity. Asus Zenfone 8 seemed like an awesome option - audio jack, small form factor a-la iPhone Mini ... but only two years of support, plus a hefty price. Fairphone 5? Rugged, long-term support, but mediocre hardware for its equally hefty price, and no audio jack. Samsung A54? Well, this one offers five years of support, but it's not small, nor does it have the required audio port. The price be decent, though.

In the end, I was forced to compromise. After looking at roughly 50-60 phone models, I realized that the least bad choice would be Samsung A54. I've used this company's phones before, and they were ok, so I had no negative bias; after all I've owned and used a number of Samsung devices in the past. Then, the A54 had the most "coverage" for my spectrum of needs, and I decided to go for it, come what may. With the price of about 350-450 Euros - depending on where you are, and what specific model you want - it seems to fit my monetary pain threshold just fine. And so, here we go.

Specifications, look & feel

For its price, Samsung A54 delivers a whole lot of solid features. The 128GB storage 8GB RAM model I got weighs a tad over 200 grams, measures 6.4 inches diagonally, with a 1080x2340px 403ppi display refreshed 120 times every second. The processor has eight cores in total, four 2.4GHz A78 and four 2.0GHz A55, while the GPU is a mid-range Mali-G68 MP5 unit. Should be good for most practical purposes.

My phone is dual-SIM, or to be more precise, hybrid-SIM. This means the second SIM slot can be used for a nano-SIM card or a micro-SD XC card (rotated 90 degrees around). The dual-band Wi-Fi antenna supports the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/6 standards, there's Bluetooth 5.3, although I couldn't possibly care less, NFC, fingerprint reader, compass, and then some.

The optics are as follows: triple rear camera, with a 50MP f/1.8 wide-angle lens, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens, and a 5MP f/2.4 macro lens. On the front, there's a 32MP f/2.2 selfie camera for those of you yearning for some unwarranted self importance shots. The phone can record 4K videos at 30 FPS or 1080p videos at both 30 or 60 FPS. Now, you get stereo speakers but no 3.5mm audio jack, alas.

Charging is done using a 25W USB-C port, with the battery cell packing a hefty 5000mAh. We shall explore how much practical usage this block of chemicals and electrons can actually deliver. On paper, this is all the phone anyone would ever need for anything reasonable.

Back side, camera

In terms of its looks and ergonomics, the phone has a pretty generic modern-day signature. It sits well in your hand, it's thicker than what phones used to be in the past, since ultra-thin is no longer cool, and the corners are "sharper". This is good, meaning it's less likely to slip out of your hand. I have observed this new styling trend with the iPhone 13 Mini, and it pleases me.

What I don't like is the camera bundle. The lenses stick way too much out of the back panel. Yes, the cameras look pretty and aggressive and all that, but effectively, your phone rests on said lenses whenever you place it on a flat surface. There's definite tilt, and I'm not sure how the camera will cope with constant scraping over the months and years of use. We shall see.

Camera protrusion

First setup, data migration from Nokia X10

I've never been happy with how Android handles data. It's chaotic. As a remind, let's look at my history of device-to-device (Android) migrations:

Finally, we get to Samsung A54, and the old Nokia X10, which still works. I had to install an "app" to do the data migration. On both phones. It's called Smart Switch. Whatever. Well, it did copy stuff, but:

Account transfer

Skip out on all this? Yes, skip out on all this.

Phone setup

Now, contrast this with the iPhone device migration I did when I tested iPhone 11 a while back. A completely different game. 'Nuff said.

Sanitizing the phone

The bigger, much bigger task ahead of me was making the phone behave. Obviously, the data transfer didn't do much. Moreover, Samsung uses its own set of apps, none of which are present on vanilla Android, meaning I was starting more or less from scratch. Finally, Samsung also has a pretty "aggressive" approach to smartphones, meaning they want you to use their account and their software, and it's pretty much take it or leave it scenario. Thus, I had to go through EVERY possible option and setting and toggle on the A54 and change the silly, noisy, privacy-unfriendly defaults. This was an exhausting, disheartening task, and it took me roughly 4-5 hours of tapping the screen like a monkey until I had everything done the way I want it. Well, almost everything.

This was a grueling process. Menu upon sub-menu of options and yet more options, and not all easy to find. But I persevered. Along the way, I also discovered that Samsung phones (nowadays) do things somewhat differently than what I knew or expected.

Usage access 1 Usage access 2

Going from pretty much everything ON to pretty much everything OFF!

Background data off Notes, calls permission

Why would a notes app be allowed to make phone calls? What.

For example, the Samsung Camera MUST have permission for Nearby Devices, otherwise it won't launch. Why? For Bluetooth audio. What a load of bollocks. Especially since I always turn Bluetooth off, and never ever use it - all of the special permissions relevant to Bluetooth are also off, of course. But this means that if you want to use the camera, you must allow nonsense, or install a different app. How very fun.

Camera permissions Camera annoying

I disabled all of the "fun" stuff, and the camera still asks me to use Snapchat Lenses. What the.

Speaking of different apps, I removed about half a dozen Samsung ones and replaced them with stock Google stuff. Now, Google isn't famously known for intuitive or well-designed software in any way, but in a lot of cases, I found its apps easier to use and generally superior to what Samsung apps do. That says a lot about the default set, but hey. For instance, Samsung's Notes couldn't or didn't display my (migrated) notes, but Google's Keep Notes did. The Samsung Messages app is less intuitive than Google's (you have both installed). And so it became uninstalled. And so forth.

Side key 1 Side key 2

Another problem with Samsung software and tools - you pretty much need a Samsung account to use them. I decided not to make one, which meant I couldn't even open half of the listed stuff to see what gives. Open an account just to see what an app could do? No thanks. This made the cleanup decision that much easier, as I removed pretty much the entire set of Samsung apps. I wanted to remove more, like Modes and Routines, Bixby Vision and Bixby Voice, but they cannot be uninstalled. Naturally, I made sure there is NO pointless digital assistant enabled, Samsung or Google.

Gestures Digital assistant

I also noticed that some applications "hard-code" to Chrome and friends, even though Firefox (with UBlock Origin of course) is my DEFAULT BROWSER. In the CNBC app, when I tried to check - and uncheck the ad options - it launched Samsung Internet. Of course the app didn't work as I didn't want to "agree" to its usage terms. Uninstalled. Second attempt, CNBC launches Chrome, not Firefox. Terms, nope. Disabled. Only on the third attempt, did the app invoke Firefox. Now, I'm considering ditching the CNBC app, too, even though it does a decent job in its own right. But again, hey.

Default browser Internet

I wish I could turn the clock and go back to 2013. That was peak Internet.

And the struggle continues

There was more. So much more. I had to disable gestures, disable all sorts of weird options and features, voice, typing, keyboard addons. The Samsung camera makes a stupid shutter noise. No option to disable it, you have to mute System sounds. How's that for flexibility! Don't get me started with edge panels. What's the purpose of that on a phone? Another launcher on top of the three or four other launchers? Then, there's Device Protection. Anti-virus for Android. Holy. What is this, 2004? Of course I did not turn this on, nor do I have any intention of using anti-virus software, on any platform for that matter, but this is just silly.

Default home screen Nav bar edit

The default wallpapers are too shiny. I also changed the button order on the nav bar.

Privacy overview Device protection

So much unnecessary stuff. Don't get me started on pointless biometrics!

Edge panel Edge panel config

Edge panels are confusing, and they also provoke my OCD.

Keyboard extras Writing suggestions

Notice the title not being properly wrapped in the screenshot on the left.

I then had to sort out the home screen, wallpaper, ringtone, clock, weather, lock screen. I disabled the double-tap option to wake the screen, but the clock widget has its own tap-to-see option, so I had to figure out and disable that one, too. Every time I'd long-press > Add to Home screen, Samsung would add the selected icon onto a SECOND home screen, not the primary one. I would then have to - every single time - drag the icon to the first screen, and delete the second one. Again and again. This happened a dozen times. The system just seems to keep re-creating the second screen, even though I explicitly don't want to use it.

Second home

Digital Wellbeing cannot be disabled on this phone - it was/is possible on the Nokia X10. Google Photos works better than Samsung Photos, and it has an explicit no-backup-to-cloud feature. I also had to change the default save directory for screenshots (Samsung Capture), because it would save files in the DCIM folder, and that mixes up photos and screenshots. Not good. At least, you can disable the screenshot post-edit function, which is not the case for the X10 or a whole bunch of other Android devices.

Gallery app Screenshots location

Cloud sync option, nope. Toggle off, toggle off, toggle off, repeat.

On the plus side, the Weather app is actually pretty nice, so much better than what you get elsewhere. In fact, most Android setups don't have a good weather app, or they combine it with Calendar, or similar. Furthermore, the quick action menu is also more elegantly designed and arranged than on stock Android, and the clock is prettier, too. So it ain't all bad. That said, Samsung Calendar can only do holidays for only ONE country. But if you open Google Calendar, add more regions, then Samsung Calendar will sync with Google's and use those, too. Pointless.

Weather app

Finally, after roughly a day of tribulations, I was done. And this just highlights the enormous pain and futility of this exercise, because no two Android setups are ever the same. Ever! If I get another phone, no matter what manufacturer or model, I will need to do all these pointless things again and again and again and again, just so that my phone's IQ stays in the triple-digit zone, and does not dip into that sweet mass-media IQ85 range.

Now, let's use the phone

With all this hard work complete, my A54 was starting to look the part. Clean, efficient, quiet, with little to no data being pinged to the mothership. I wish I could disable or remove even more components, but that's life. I could have gone for something like Google Pixel, as vanilla as it gets, but the other elements in my requirements equation were too far off to afford that (financially and usage wise).

The phone is fast, snappy, but that's no surprise. Pretty much any modern phone will have good performance, at least for basic, simple stuff. Ergonomics wise, the A54 could do better. Let's start with the positives. It's thick, which makes it easier to hold. It has raised, sharper edges, which makes it easier to hold. The old trend was to use rounded bezels, and now the trend is to make them more notched. I like this new trend better. Like the scene from the movie The Dictator, rounded, pointy. Indeed. Samsung Keyboard is also nice, as it has the number row displayed permanently. In applications where this is relevant, it also shows the special extras like @ and .com visible on the primary pad. Cool. I did make the fonts smaller, as the default value seems to be too big. Usually, it's the other way around.

Overlay menu Hotspot options

Better quick actions than stock Android, but you need to punch in your code to activate Hotspot, which, by the way, has tons of nice options and features.

On the negative side, the phone is too heavy. And the three camera lenses stick out waaaay too much out. If you put the phone down on a table, it will tilt quite some, and you can't really type with it lying down. With a bunch of other phones I've had or still currently use, you could place your device on a flat surface and type without any problems. Here, the phone constantly rocks. This slows you down, plus the click-clack noise is utterly annoying. You effectively must use a phone cover all the time.

The screen has no protector film, and even though it's meant to be Corning Gorilla Glass 5, it's super-easily scratched. I managed to do that on the first day, simply by putting the phone in a little bag, where it rubbed against a zipper. End result, there's now a permanent mark on the display. It looks like a smudge that can't be removed. Ultra annoying. I mean, you want your new stuff to stay pretty for at least a day or two.

Scratch

The battery charging is tricky. I use a 65W Anker device, and it still took 2.5 hours for the A54 to go from 20% to 89%. This is quite slow, and most of my other phones manage to get the full charge in about half that time. Fast-juicing probably works, but it needs a proprietary charger, I guess? I will have to see how things work out with my Slimbook Executive, which has a 100/15W in/out USB-C charging port. The other phones seem to like it, and they charge rapidly. Overall, there's too much emphasis on "optimization" and the basics seem to be missing.

Battery options Restart feature

Fast charge is on ... but it ain't happening. Restart phone? What. We're not longer in the Windows 98 era.

Finally, hashtag for searching in Settings, what. This modern Internet nonsense needs insta-purging:

Hashtag suggestions in search

Camera

The camera seems to be okay. At first glance, nice colors, good angle, it handles low-level light just fine. There's also 2x optical zoom. But let's go into more detail. Well, TL;DR: the camera is only okay.

The color spectrum is not true. Samsung Camera adds "false" color to the images. They look more vibrant than in reality, and this is without any HDR nonsense. This does make your photos look more stunning, but this ain't a true representation of the world around you.

Camera, different zoom levels

From left to right: 0.5x, 1x, 2x zoom. Interestingly enough, the ultra-wide camera ain't too bad, although you can see the blurring and color wash, especially off center. The 2x zoom seems to offer the best quality results, much like the 3x zoom on my Motorola phone.

I always like to compare the camera on the review device to what I consider my "staple" phone. In the past, this used to be the Lumia 950, and now it's the One Zoom. Even though it's four years old now, the One Zoom seems to perform better than the A54. First, it has 3x optical zoom versus 2x on the A54. There seems to be more clarity and depth outside of the focus area. At night, in bad lighting, the A54 takes a long time to snap a photo, something like 2 seconds. The One Zoom usually takes only about one second.

Comparison, One Zoom

Samsung A54 on the left (and in all of the side-by-side photos below). The Zoom handles fine detail and background clarity more effectively. The images look sharper.

I then borrowed some posh phones from me friends, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 13 Mini, and did a fresh round of comparison shots:

Comparison 1, iPhone 11

Comparison 2, iPhone 11

An exact angle match can be tricky, since different phones have different optics, but you get the general idea. With the iPhone 11, there seems to be a bit more clarity, more depth, more detail. The background sky + terrain in the A54 photo is just a blur. The iPhone matches the real colors more accurately.

Comparison vs iPhone 13 Mini

Top: A54. With the iPhone 13 Mini, I actually took a photo of my Slimbook's laptop wallpaper, in average lighting conditions, 20cm distance. You can see the color spectrum effect, with the A54 doing more vibrant hues. You can also see more pixelization, and the mountain ridges and the forest trees a bit blurrier. However, the results are quite solid. Very good, in fact.

All in all, it does the job. It's pretty all right, especially considering the phone's price. The selfie camera ain't too shabby, either. For most people, the super-rich colors will add a certain wow effect, and for casual photography, this is a perfectly capable device. If you need more than that, you will notice the rough edges.

But the biggest problem remains the Nearby Devices permission, which prompted me to open the Play Store and try to find an alternative app. Boy, was this a wild ride.

Play Store ... and associated disappointment

I cannot fully express my dismay at this experience. Play Store is all right - IF you know what you're looking for. If it's a program you're 100% familiar with and you trust it, awesome. But if for some reason you're actually searching for content, then it's a horrible ride. Let me explain.

I decided to try to install Google Camera as my replacement camera app. After all, I've already done a similar thing with half a dozen other Samsung vs Google apps. However, in Play Store, there is no Google Camera. But if you search through Firefox, not logged in, the app is there. Apparently, Google curates what you see based on what device you have. I wasn't able to find any definitive answer whether this app could run on my phone, and by which name or clone I could identify it.

Store search 1 Firefox Play Store search

But it gets worse. Not only didn't Play Store not show me what I need, it gave me an almost random list of useless answers. First, you get a bigass ad. One third to one half of the screen is an ad. I hate ads. I hate the ad model. There is a cultural and intellectual divide between me and companies that follow this West Coast model of ads-ads-ads everywhere everything all the time (like NENA's song Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann).

Second, below the ads, you get a list of apps. But the names, the publishers, they all look random. You read the reviews, and you can't decide. Just check the negative reviews (1- and 2-star ones), because that's what one ought to do when they consider software, and there's no single software that stands apart.

A lot of apps have ads or in-app purchases. For me, this is an almost instant no no.

But before we actually get into any sort of installations, look at the results. Search for Google Camera, and the second page (after one swipe) is crazy. Youtube, Discord, X, Teams. What the hell? How are any of these related to camera? What am I supposed to make out of this list of results? Games? What.

Store search 2 Store search 3

This is the future. Shiny icons and people clicking on shiny icons! We just need AI, and humanity is complete.

If I look at this as a mistrustful cynic that I am, the only thing that comes to mind is that the results serve only one purpose, and that's to make me install stuff so my data can be used and profiled, and someone can make profit. NOT for me to get a meaningful, useful piece of code that will actually serve my needs. Perhaps I'm wrong, but the results speak for themselves. Either there's a "hidden" agenda, or the results are useless. Either answer means I am unable to make an educated choice here.

There was one notably open-source app in the list. But this one also has ads. The app's homepage says no ads. No personal data is collected, fine. But again, what am I supposed to do right now?

If you change the search parameters ever so slightly, the results are totally different. Even with the same search phrase, you get different results now and then. And more ads. In one case, it was ad, app, ad. And the app I chose to try was Lightroom Photo and Video Editor. Does it do any camera stuff? I don't know. I need to install it first right?

Which I did. You can't open the app without signing in. Despite my best judgment, as I was already too "deep" into this pointless experiment, I decided to use my Google Account option for that. The app then told me about its mobile app usage (set to ON by default). I disabled this once I logged in. No camera. Uninstall. Ten minutes later, I get an email from Adobe, telling me that I have an account with them now. How? I used my existing Google Account to log in, I didn't create one with Adobe, didn't ask for it, nor allow it.

Lightroom sign in options Lightroom setup

I explicitly did not create an Adobe account, I used the Continue with Google option.

So I logged into Adobe using the credentials provided in that email, noticed there were two more data analytics toggles available, both set to ON, and finally, an option to delete your account. I toggled the two options off, and then I took a screenshot of one of the categories, which reads: "Allow my content to be analyzed by Adobe for product improvement and development purposes." What. Alarmed, I went into Adobe's FAQ to figure out what this actually means. Before I could shout GDPR, j'accuse, turns out this only applies to cloud stuff, in an aggregate manner that is (hopefully) not personally identifiable in any way. But still. This whole Internet is one big sad joke. The whole online privacy thing is a farce, and you, me, the user, we're the lowliest of the low. I deleted my account, and have no intention of trying anything Adobe ever again in my life.

Adobe account 1 Adobe account 2

I, didn't create, anything. Toggled everything to off, and then promptly proceeded to delete the account. Right.

I went back to the Play Store, and now, I got a fresh ad. Yeah! Nothing inspires me more than the American date format on an ad "offer". Again, I have absolutely no idea who the developer is, what they do, or why, or how they relate to my phone, region or usage, or why their product was shown to me at this particular moment. Feels like scatter bombing. PTSD, here we go! I closed Play Store, and decided that I won't be using it for anything but the tiny set of ultra-trusted programs that I actually love and use, like Firefox and VLC.

Store ad

Now, this has NOTHING to do with Samsung A54 per se, but this escapade was prompted by Samsung Camera, so here we are. If the camera didn't ask for pointless permissions without which it couldn't run, we would not be in this situation, now would we?

Media playback

I tried to play a couple of videos and listen to some songs. No complaints. The display is clear, the audio is fairly sharp and there's good depth and range. I'm no audiophile, but as far as smartphones go, the A54 seems to be the best I've tested and used so far.

VLC media player

VLC for music, FTW!!!

Other stuff ...

Browsing wise, it was the standard, quiet affair with Firefox + UBO as my sanity portal to the Internet. Anything else simply doesn't fly. Now, what else is there to do on the phone? Well, can't say for sure, as I'm not a big phone user. I do occasionally try various apps, occasionally use some apps, but nothing that would really make sense to the common touch consumer. Perhaps if you're a dinosaur like me, you may care about my spartan usage model.

WhatsApp restore Home screen, almost done

Work work. In the end, the phone was presentable. But I was tired and frustrated.

In that case, I still had a lot of housekeeping ahead of me. Telegram works fine, without any issues (plus the data is all there). Google Authenticator codes cannot be migrated over from phone to phone, you need to explicitly export/import them, or use the cloud function, which sounds like a paradoxical choice for an offline 2FA tool. Similarly, I had to copy WhatsApp data by hand, set up Viber from scratch, and sign into every single other app that I have, one by one. Here WeGo works fine, but I had to configure everything, including units, traffic alerts, and re-download my offline maps, as they were not ported by the less-than-stellar Smart Switch.

When it comes to software updates, the phone will update the firmware, Play Store will update the applications that exist in its arsenal, as for the rest? Well, if you do not create a Samsung Account then you can't really use the Galaxy Store. I was able to manually update applications, one by one, by going into their settings menu, clicking About, then update. Each one individually. If I tried to click the Update button in the Store, it would prompt me to create an account. I think this is the first time I encountered a situation where your Android phone may not be fully up to date, if you don't create the relevant non-Google account. This highlights the correctness of my choice not to use something like Samsung Internet, because think about it, a browser that does not update, and/or you have to manually update it, every few days. Tedious.

I can understand if you don't get new software or new features or things like that without "logging" into the store, but what about security? Now, maybe I'm wrong, and maybe Samsung does update applications automatically to address potential vulnerabilities and risks, but that's not the impression I got from the short foray into the Galaxy Store. My impression was that I must use an account to get the updates. Weird and frustrating.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against Samsung per se. But what I find annoying is that you need TWO accounts to manage the updates and security of your system. One person, TWO accounts. Android already requires your Google account, and that's supposedly your one-stop-shop for everything phone. For that matter then, why not just Samsung Account? Or, why not three or four accounts? Do you see my point?

Galaxy Store App update

If you click the Update button, it takes you to your Samsung account. Alternative: update apps one by one.

And then, I stopped, because for me, a phone is just a tertiary computing tool, and I never do anything important or serious on any of them. Thus I must disappoint you with the most boring review of them all. But as far as tertiary computing usage goes, once it's been thoroughly tamed and cleansed, the A54 behaved. That said, I don't like the over-noisy, over-crowded default set.

It's not user friendly, it's not privacy friendly, and the app ecosystem is mediocre. In particular, I'm angry with the camera permissions. Perhaps this blatant hostage take-it-or-leave it approach flies in some parts of the world, but not with me, it doesn't. I don't mind allowing things, if I'm given a choice, an intelligent, respectful choice. But if I'm treated like a dirty peasant, then I will do dirty peasantly things. And one of the chief things dirty peasants do is act spitefully against those would presume to be mightier than them.

Battery life

Oh yes, battery life. Early results, quite promising. The charging is slow, and so is the drainage. Turn off all the sensors, all of the analytics, all of the mobile data slurping, all of the noise and nonsense, use Firefox with an adblocker, and there's no reason why your phone battery should deplete quickly. With little usage, some browsing, some camera, and some music, plus Wireless and mobile data turned on, the charge went down 14% in about 20 hours. That translates to about a week of usage, more or less. Good, but not ideal for a 5000mAh cell.

In comparison, the One Zoom can also do a week with 25% less juice and four years extra age, Nokia 5.3 does two weeks, Nokia 5.4 does in between a week and 10 days, X10 manages about a week, all with 10-25% fewer electrons than the A54. Lastly, the iPhone 13 Mini can do 7-8 days with only half the battery pack capacity.

Now, more rigorous usage. With a fair deal of browsing but no great use of video, mobile hotspot turned on roughly 3-4 hours every day (and used by 2-3 devices at any given moment), some camera usage, and an odd song, the phone can do about three days, maybe four. That's all right, but remember, it has more juice, plus I've neutered almost everything. I'd expect at least a day more.

Battery 1 Battery 2

Mini summary

Before I give you a big, philosophical conclusion, a short summary of my findings is in order. The whole pros and cons thingie. Also, it seems, people love tables that outline pros and cons side by side, so here we are, tabling all the way:

Pros Cons
Very good value for money Phone-to-phone data migration using the Samsung Smart Switch application was only partial
Five years of support Samsung account is required to use a broad range of installed applications and/or update said applications
Camera creates vibrant, clear photos under most conditions (but somewhat false colors) Default permission set is not privacy-friendly; one must invest a lot of time to uninstall, disable or restrict applications
Excellent audio playback clarity Battery charging using non-Samsung equipment is rather slow

Conclusion

I am not sure what kind of impression you got from my review, so let me explain. The choice of the Samsung A54 was a compromise, mostly because it does not have an audio jack. The price is good, the spec is good, the camera is very nice. The user migration and import process was embarrassing. It worked but I had to spend hours configuring the phone to my liking. I wasn't happy with the default apps and options, and I invested several more hours cleansing, purging, polishing. The ergonomics are average. The phone works well once tamed, but the battery could last a bit longer. There are several outstanding niggles in the operating system and app set that bug me so, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to reconcile with them. This is a nice, pretty, capable device, but it doesn't have charm. It will do well as a reasonably-priced phone for lightweight usage, though.

That summarizes my early journey with this device. The A54 delivers a great deal of goodies for its price bracket. Five years of support, nice camera, nice audio. However, if you're a privacy-savvy techie, you will need to spend a lot of time undoing the defaults, making sure your system behaves. The out-of-the-box permissions are way too aggressive, and you can't use most of the Samsung software without an account, which also makes things worse. It's almost like a competition between Google and Samsung, and you're caught in between, a poor consumer with not one but two mega-entities fighting over your data, your choices and your meaningless existence. Well, could I have done better? Perhaps. For this money, unlikely. In general? Well, if I ever start feeling too posh, I might begin to consider the iPhone. Not exclusively, but there's appeal to its haughty, non-peasantly vibes. Anyway. Samsung A54 gets 7.0/10. 'Tis a pretty solid phone, but I wish the app bundle was more user-friendly. And we're done. We shall speak again.

Cheers.