Samsung Galaxy A13 5G review: An affordable 5G phone on AT&T

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The Galaxy A13 5G doesn’t hold many surprises, good or bad. For $249, it’s a reliable device with good performance, healthy battery life, and a decent camera. None of this comes as a surprise, as Samsung makes a lot of these types of phones, and the company is very good at it.

The phone launched in the US as an AT&T exclusive; now you can also buy it unlocked or through T-Mobile. But that initial carrier relationship plays into what is perhaps the most compelling reason to look at the A13 5G now: it’s certified to use AT&T’s newly enabled C-band spectrum. This is the variety of 5G that promises faster-than-4G speeds and good signal range — a combination that some US 5G networks have so far been lacking. The list of C-band compatible devices at the network’s launch was short and dominated by expensive flagships, with the exception of the Galaxy A13 5G.

More phones at different price ranges will join the C-band club this year, but for now the A13 5G offers the lowest entry price if you’re on AT&T. That in itself isn’t a good reason to buy the A13 5G, especially since AT&T’s C-band launch is limited to just eight US cities and the rollout will be slow, but it’s a point in the A13’s favor if you even think about it.

Worth noting: Samsung announced the replacement of the A13 in January 2023, the Galaxy A14 5G. It comes with a longer security support policy and a lower price of $199. We’ll be testing it soon; until then, our guide to the best phones under $500 is the best place to find our latest recommendations for budget-friendly phones.

The A13 5G's 6.5-inch screen is big enough, but its 720p resolution is too low for its size.

The A13 5G’s 6.5-inch screen is big enough, but its 720p resolution is too low for its size.

The Galaxy A13 5G has a 6.5-inch 720p display – a low resolution for a relatively large screen. It’s also an LCD panel, which is common in the sub-$300 class and looks a bit washed out compared to the richer OLED displays you’ll find on mid-range phones like the Galaxy A52 5G. It has a refresh rate of up to 90 Hz, which makes scrolling and animations look a little smoother than the standard 60 Hz. But overall, the poor resolution and low contrast mean the screen isn’t one of the A13 5G’s strengths.

You may need to factor in an extra $10-20 for a microSD card with your purchase

However, the MediaTek 700 5G chipset and its 4 GB of RAM are strong points. For a phone at this price, it handles day-to-day tasks really well, allowing me to quickly switch between apps and not being prone to overzealously closing apps in the background. It stutters a bit with more intensive tasks like zooming/scrolling through Google maps or Zillow, but overall the A13 kept up with everything I asked it to do in my daily life.

The A13 5G includes only 64 GB of built-in storage. That’s not unusual in the budget range and is enough to get by if you’re very careful with your cloud storage options and downloads, but it’s not much. You may need to factor in an extra $10-20 for a microSD card with your purchase.

The power button doubles as a fingerprint reader for biometric unlocking.

The power button doubles as a fingerprint reader for biometric unlocking.

There’s a fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button on the side of the phone, and it’s very fast – so fast that I even double-checked that the phone locked correctly (it was). It’s not as sleek as the built-in readers on high-end phones, but it actually feels more reliable and easy to use. Long live the side-mounted fingerprint reader, I say.

Battery life is another of the A13’s strengths. The phone’s 5,000 mAh cell lasted a few days with moderate use on Wi-Fi; a heavy user would probably get through a full day and then some.

The A13 5G packs a 50-megapixel main camera along with two low-resolution macro and depth sensors.

The A13 5G packs a 50-megapixel main camera along with two low-resolution macro and depth sensors.

The camera setup of the A13 5G is simple: there’s a 50-megapixel main camera with f/1.8 lens, accompanied by 2-megapixel macro and depth sensors. Those 2 megapixel cameras are usually useless, so you only work with the standard wide-angle camera on the back and a 5 megapixel selfie camera. There’s no ultrawide – for that you’d have to step up to the A32 5G in Samsung’s line-up – and there’s no night mode in the camera app.

Photos in bright daylight look fine, and even moderately low-light images look good enough for social media, although images in very low light are a blotchy mess of noise reduction. The live preview in the camera app as you take photos looks horribly washed out, but the final product almost always looks much better. This makes it hard to know exactly what you’re getting, so you just have to trust the A13’s camera to do its job.

The Galaxy A13 5G is a functional, low-cost device that will connect to AT&T's new C-band 5G spectrum.

The Galaxy A13 5G is a functional, low-cost device that will connect to AT&T’s new C-band 5G spectrum.
Photo by Allison Johnson/MastStatus

The Galaxy A13 5G is a great budget device that makes sense for those more concerned with day-to-day performance and long battery life than a high-quality screen or versatile camera. If you’re on a tight budget and you’re an AT&T customer, those are two more reasons to consider the A13. The carrier’s C-band 5G is now limited to just a few markets, but the phone is backed with three years of security updates and two years of OS upgrades – long enough to expand the network to more major cities.

If you’re on a strict budget and you’re an AT&T customer, those are two more reasons to consider the A13

If any of the above criteria don’t apply to you, there are better options available for the same cost – even less! The $239 OnePlus N200 5G is a great choice if you’re on T-Mobile – it offers similar performance and a nicer screen for $10 less than the retail price of the A13. The N200 won’t work on AT&T’s or Verizon’s 5G networks, so it’s a 4G-only phone if you’re with one of those carriers – not a bad deal for the price, but you’re missing out on the better 5G speeds coming in the next few years.

At the time of writing, the price of the Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G has dropped to $249 if you buy through AT&T (from $399), offering a better display and equally healthy battery life. It’s not currently certified for AT&T C-band, but it’s still a good buy if you’re outside of one of those eight launch cities anyway.

If those alternatives don’t appeal to you, then the A13 5G will serve you just fine – it’s a reliable device for under $300 that’s fully prepared for next-generation wireless technology, with no nasty (or pleasant) surprises.

Update January 23, 2023, 7:10 PM ET: Added details about the Galaxy A14 5G, which was announced by Samsung in January 2023 as the successor to the A13.

Photography by Allison Johnson / MastStatus

Agree to continue: Samsung Galaxy A13 5G

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a set of terms and conditions before you can use it – contracts that no one really reads. It is impossible for us to read and analyze all these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to click “agree” to use devices when we review them, since these are agreements that most people don’t read and absolutely can’t negotiate.

To use the Samsung Galaxy A13 5G, you must agree to:

  • Samsung terms and conditions
  • Samsung Privacy Policy
  • Google Terms of Service (including Privacy Policy)
  • Google Play Terms of Service
  • Automatic installations (including from Google, Samsung and your carrier)

The following agreements are optional:

  • Back up to Google Drive: “Your backup includes apps, app data, call history, contacts, device settings (including Wi-Fi passwords and permissions), and SMS.”
  • Use location: “Google may periodically collect location information and use this information in an anonymous manner to improve location accuracy and location-based services.”
  • Allow scanning: “Allow apps and services to scan for nearby Wi-Fi networks and devices at any time, even if Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is turned off.”
  • Send usage and diagnostics data: “Help improve your Android device experience by automatically sending diagnostics, device, and app usage data to Google.”

In addition, there is an option for the Google Assistant to agree to access the assistant with ‘Hey Google’. “If you agree, the Google Assistant will wait in standby mode to detect ‘Hey Google’.”

Final Standings: There are five mandatory matches and at least four optional ones.

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