'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
While Apple, Samsung, Google, and Huawei launch flagships that cost more than $1,000 smartphone shoppers are discovering there are compelling offerings available for much less that do the job just about as well. For the last few weeks I've been using a $350 Samsung phone, the Galaxy A50 on Xfinity Mobile and it is getting harder and harder to justify paying three times that price for other phones.
While I've been very impressed with the hardware of the Galaxy A50, the Xfinity Mobile service has also been reliable and as a Comcast internet and TV customer I took a closer look at my family usage during this review to see if we could make the move to Xfinity Mobile for cellular service. We can't really make the move now, as I'll detail below in my Xfinity Mobile section.
Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review: Best business phone improves in speed and S Pen capability
A few additional specifications the Galaxy A50 has is a FM radio and 3.5mm headset jack. Some trade-offs do have to be made to offer a compelling phone at $350. Missing features we see on flagship Samsung phones include:
As you can see above, these aren't necessarily critical missing features, especially when you consider the A50 is available for a third the cost of a Galaxy S10 Plus or Note 10 Plus.
Also: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs Note 9: Is it worth the upgrade?
When I first opened the box and took out the Samsung Galaxy A50 I thought someone at Samsung was messing around with me by sending a S10 or something. The Galaxy A50 is a gorgeous device that has a high 85% screen-to-body ratio. The phone is black, but the back has that same cool rainbow effect we see on the new Note 10 Plus. Angling the back in light has the phone showing off lovely colors.
Samsung called the phone material "glastic" since it is a very glossy plastic that looks almost like the glass back phones we see on the flagships. I'm perfectly fine with an attractive plastic phone since it is less likely to break when dropped. It is still quite a fingerprint magnet, but wipes off easily too.
The large 6.4 inch display looks awesome and has a small teardrop notch for the 25 megapixel front-facing camera that is centered near the top of the front. The top and side bezels are only about a millimeter while the bottom bezel is about three times the width of these other bezels.
The fingerprint scanner is also under the display, but uses an optical one as we see on the OnePlus 7 Pro and other Android phones. It's been more reliable for me than the ultrasonic one on the Note 10 Plus so I have zero issues with using this type of fingerprint scanner. I would have been perfectly fine with a rear capacitive one like we see on the Note 9 too.
Unlike the flawed Note 10 that has all the buttons on the left side with an empty right side, Samsung has an empty left side, the SIM/microSD card slot is here, with the power and volume buttons on the right side. There is no Bixby button either. The power button can be configured to launch Bixby if you desire though, again just like the Note 10 series.
On the bottom we find a 3.5mm headset jack, USB-C port, and bottom mono speaker. The mono speaker is loud enough for reasonably watching videos and holding conference calls. There is nothing on the top of the phone.
Swinging around the back we see the two cameras and depth sensor in a triple opening vertical array with the flash positioned below the depth sensing lens. Samsung branding is also found on the glastic back.
CNET: Samsung Galaxy A50 review: One of the best budget phones
The Samsung Galaxy A50 launches with Android 9 Pie with the Samsung One UI. The May security patch is currently found on this test unit, which is a bit disappointing since Samsung has shown a solid track record of security patch updates on the flagship phones. Not sure if there is a challenge updating an Xfinity Mobile model, but we should at least see these appear one or two months after general release.
One UI is a great update to previous versions of the Samsung Experience and is quickly becoming my favorite non-Pixel flavor of Android. LG should pay attention to what Samsung has done and take a hard look at its UI with future releases. One UI offers a clean user experience with gesture-based navigation options too. I finally moved away from the standard three-button Android navigation controls and am embracing full screen gestures on Android as I did with iOS.
Thankfully, Samsung still includes its own apps, such as email, calendar, contacts, image gallery, music player, and web browser software. All of these offer more than the stock Google apps, and while others move to purely stock Google apps, there is still a ton of value in these Samsung applications that offer more for the enterprise user.
There are a couple of Xfinity Mobile utilities, such as My Account, Xfinity Stream, and Xfinity Mobile, but that's it. This phone is not loaded with bloatware so the internal storage is yours to fill up with your favorite apps, games, and data.
If you are not a Comcast internet subscriber, then you are not qualified to sign up for Xfinity Mobile service. If you are an internet subscriber, then there are two plan offerings available for your consideration. You can sign up for a plan by the gig or sign up as an unlimited customer. Each phone receives calling and text messaging for free with a minimum charge of $12 per line. There are no activation fees, no minimum contracts, and if you bring your own qualified phone you get a SIM card for free.
The By the Gig option is priced at $12 for 1GB, $30 for 3GB, and $60 for 10GB. These data allotments are shared between all of the lines you enabled, with a limit of five lines per account. If you want a tablet or smartwatch line, $10/line per month with data shared with your allotment, then these count in your five line limit. For my family of five, I could not have any tablets or smartwatches connected if each person had a phone line account.
The unlimited data plan is $45/month per line that has unlimited. You can setup unlimited service for select phones and then have the rest share the By the Gig data allotment too. Given that some of my family members currently use more than 10GB of data each, I might be able to have a couple of unlimited phones and then the rest under a By the Gig option, but so far my T-Mobile One Military option, with free Netflix, is unbeatable.
There are some fantastic deals with Xfinity Mobile for those who bring their own phone or buy one of the new phones on promotion. Xfinity Mobile offers deals as pre-paid gift cards after the purchase is made and service is setup.
I've seen excellent coverage in Washington State with Xfinity Mobile and given that just about everyone I know is on Xfinity in this area there are plenty of hotspot options available. Verizon is excellent when hiking, biking, or enjoying the outdoors in Washington and given that T-Mobile likes to give my number away I will continue to evaluate my situation and consider Xfinity Mobile as a future wireless carrier.
I loved the hardware and the Galaxy A50 will be added to my arsenal of recommendations when family and friends ask me about affordable phones. It offers a lot of what the flagship Samsung phones offer at a fraction of the price. Some may think the plastic phone feels cheap, but I find it to be more than adequate for a $350 phone.
The Samsung Exynos processor worked well for me during my testing, but I am also using my phones for work more than for gaming. The A50 camera is very capable and helps you take decent shots that are more than adequate for sharing with family and friends.
Face recognition works well for quickly unlocking the phone while the fingerprint scanner is fine for secure sites. Samsung's One UI is an excellent interface and I was never frustrated with the Galaxy A50.
Xfinity Mobile is an affordable service option if you can move your family to using more Xfinity WiFi hotspots. If you can have your family sharing 10GB of data in a month, then $60 for up to five phones is impossible to beat. Verizon is also one of the best wireless carriers for coverage outside of major cities and Xfinity does over more than 20 million hotspots around the country.