First look A confession: I learned that the iPhone 13’s facial recognition could recognize me while I was brushing my teeth.
There I stand, brush protruding from a gaping jaw, foam running at my lips, Apple logging me without a moment’s pause. It recognizes me in darkness and daylight and all the hours of variable brightness in between.
Samsung’s Galaxy A54, on the other hand, struggled to recognize my mug in most situations. Ablution defeated it like brilliant sunlight. Naturally lit on one side of my desk and artificially lit on the other, my home office completely confused its facial recognition capabilities. Wearing a hoodie gave me the kind of anonymity suggested by the worst clichés of infosec practitioners’ preferred attire.
I mention this because in most other functional areas, the experience of using the mid-range A54 is almost indistinguishable from using a premium smartphone – be it Samsung’s own Galaxy S series or an iPhone.
I found the A54 to be pleasantly zippy, with no noticeable lag between actions. It is powered by a 5nm Samsung Exynos 1380 chipset with an eight-core CPU cluster. It is powered by a non-removable LiPo 5000 mAh battery.
Crucially, this Android 13 handset, released in March of this year, kept up with the demands I put on it, whether it was surfing, mailing, gaming, or zooming. Data flowed quickly over Wi-Fi and 5G, and it probably picked up more signals than some phones I tried.
The machine wasn’t fazed by indignities like jolting during a bicycle ride on cold, foggy mornings, or standing up in a hot, foggy bathroom to play streamed radio or podcasts.
It ended up in the latter location because another bad habit of mine is putting phones upside down on a shelf or bathroom vanity so the sound from their speakers bounces off the tiles. I find it amplifies the phones better so I can listen to streamed audio while I go about my business. The inevitably fuzzy emissions of a smartphone’s tiny speakers don’t aggravate bathroom surfaces, and the A54 doesn’t sound any better or worse in that mode than any other phone I’ve tested recently.
I’ve always felt that midrange handsets like the A54 deserve a 3.5mm headphone port, as a price-conscious buyer of these models might feel the need to take on wireless headphones. Samsung hasn’t included a port on this machine, but can at least hint at the presence of a USB-C slot as an option for wired headphones. I found the machine worked fine when linking to non-Samsung Bluetooth buds.
The handset’s 6.4-inch, 1080 x 2340 Super AMOLED screen separates colors well and never produced any unpleasant artifacts when streaming video or displaying gaming graphics.
The camera produces slightly cruder output than the Galaxy Ultra. When I shot the same fence and football stadium with the Ultra, details were a little more precise, a little more pastel, and a little clearer.
All in all, it’s a great package – except for a few moments when you’re not sure whether the handset will welcome you to life when you look at it or challenge you to recognize yourself in other ways. That uncertainty means that every time I pick up the A54, other products offer a better overall experience.
But done $450 Even if you can find it cheaper elsewhere or on a plan from Samsung itself, its flaws are easy to overlook.
In developing countries, where Samsung’s A-series does big business, the A54 brings a premium experience to millions of people whose budget might not be within reach of a Galaxy S or iPhone. Samsung is cleaning up in those markets, and the A54 won’t hurt its prospects in the slightest. ®