The J2 looks similar from the front to most recent Samsung phones, with the familiar physical Home key at the bottom flanked by capacitive keys. The corners are bit more curved on this device, which makes it more comfortable to hold. The edge around the front is slightly raised over the display and has a chrome-like finish.
The back of the phone, however, is all new and, unlike any other Samsung phone. Although the camera, loudspeaker, and flash are in familiar positions, there is a striated band running across below them with the Samsung logo on it. The lines then bend near the edge and run across the sides.
The key design feature, however, is the Smart Glow LED ring around the camera. While we will talk about the software side of it later but from a design point of view, the ring sits flush with the back of the phone with only a gentle bump for the camera lens. There are four LEDs hidden into the ring, and they can light up with any color from the RGB spectrum.
While it does look fancy, the Smart Glow LED ring's main purpose is to serve as a notification light. The problem with that is its location on the back of the phone. As you can already guess, you can't readily spot it when the phone is lying on the back, which is usually the normal way to keep your phone.
The only way to see the LED ring light up is by having the phone face down. It's worth noting that this is the only notification system on the phone, as there isn't an LED on the front, and the phone doesn't support Ambient Display mode.
Aside from that, the build quality and finish on the phone are a bit disappointing. The phone feels overwhelmingly plasticky, and the plastic also flexes a bit around the back, particularly around the flash. This isn't a premium device, but it doesn't even try to hide its price category.
Having said that, Samsung phones are known to be reliable despite their plasticky appearance, so you probably don't need to give it the kid glove treatment.
The J2 has a 5.0-inch 1280x720 Super AMOLED display. Resolution aside, the display is quite nice. The colors and contrast are great, and so are the viewing angles. It also gets reasonably bright. Samsung ships it with its four display modes so that you can adjust the color to your liking.
The display is covered by a scratch-resistant glass (which we got to test with a knife) even if Samsung doesn't specify its type. Unfortunately, there is no oleophobic coating on it, which means it always looks like a mess, ruins the selfie camera images, and makes the phone look particularly cheap. Also, the touchscreen only supports 2 point multi-touch, so if you start typing quickly you will find the display has a hard time keeping up with you.
The J2 also lacks an ambient light sensor for automatic screen brightness. Samsung includes an 'Outdoors mode' that puts the screen's backlight into overdrive, beyond what you can achieve with a manual slider but you have to set it up manually each time.