We won't pretend that we completely understand the enormous popularity of low-res, large-screened phones like the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime. We can see why people would want more screen real estate, but it's the trade-off of a cheaper matrix for better components elsewhere (like the camera) that doesn't sit well with us.
Take the Moto G, it has a wonderful (for the price range) 720p screen, but the balance of the bill of materials means a run-of-the-mill chipset and an unspectacular camera. Samsung balanced the numbers the other way on the Galaxy Grand Prime - it has a better camera, the selfie camera especially is miles ahead, and a fancy 64-bit chipset.
Okay, so the 64-bit processor isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Things might change if Samsung updates the phone to Android 5.0 Lollipop, but that's a pretty big if. While at it, we think that Samsung is listening to consumers, but is yet to find the right balance.
TouchWiz is no longer the behemoth it once was (good thing since there's only 8GB of built-in storage), but Samsung cut out some of the good parts of its proprietary enhancements along with the bad. The TouchWiz music player is among the best (but is missing entirely from the Grand Prime), while the camera app lost some of its useful features (HDR), most of the fun ones too.
However, as the Nexus line and Motorola's handsets have emphatically shown, the bundle of pre-installed apps doesn't matter much when there's a vibrant app store, full of top notch choices.
As for the hardware, the display is actually better than the specs suggest. The resolution is far from premium, but functionality isn't much harmed. Even viewing angles are better than we expected out of a non-IPS screen, though a touch higher brightness and some Gorilla Glass would have been great.
The exterior is not the most pleasant to look at or to touch, but the phone feels like it can take a good deal of abuse before it gives up the ghost.
The Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime comes in both single and dual-SIM flavors, aimed at mid-range markets in East Asia. In China it even has LTE.
In terms of competition, the HTC Desire 620 dual sim is very similar to the Galaxy Grand Prime, though it ups the ante with a 5" 720p screen, stereo speakers on the front and LTE on all models. Other than that it has the same camera department - 8MP/5MP, both shooting 1080p - and same Snapdragon 410 chipset. There's also the Desire 620G dual sim, a 3G-only version with an octa-core MediaTek chipset due to arrive this month.
The Asus Zenfone 5 also has a 5" 720p IPS screen, but the front-facing camera is limited to 2MP/720p (the one on the back is a match, 8MP/1080p). The Zenfone 5 is a dual-SIM phone based on an Intel chipset.
The ZTE Blade Vec 3G is similar, but it does have a 5MP selfie camera and a more traditional quad-core Cortex-A7 processor. The 5" 720p screen is a TFT though (and we've not had a chance to test it yet), but the Blade Vec 3G is more compact than the Samsung.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia M2 does not have much of a selfie camera, but otherwise gets within striking distance of the Galaxy Grand Prime (4.8" qHD screen, quad-core Cortex-A7, 8MP/1080p main camera). The Xperia M2 Aqua version deserves special attention as it has an IP68 rating, meaning it can survive under a meter and a half of water for 30 minutes.
The LG L Bello goes even lower with its 5" display - 480 x 854 - though the difference in pixel density isn't huge. Unlike the Xperia and the Galaxy, it has LG's compact genes and unique (or annoying, you decide) button setup on the back.
If you are really willing to sacrifice the camera department, the 8MP camera of the Motorola Moto G (2014) is limited to 720p and the front-facing camera is just a 2MP unit. On the upside, it's already running Lollipop and has basic water resistance and stereo speakers.
For tighter budgets, the Microsoft Lumia 535 builds on the 5" qHD screen formula with an IPS matrix and Gorilla Glass 3, plus it has a 5MP selfie camera on its face. There's a 5MP shooter on the back, but both are only good for stills - 480p video is the best the Lumia 535 can do. Still, Windows Phone 8.1 is snappy even on this hardware and the price difference between the Lumia 535 and the Galaxy Grand Prime is substantial.
As you can see, most phones in this class are geared toward a better screen and perks like stereo speakers, most of the time at the expense of the camera department. Still, there's some room to go up or down the price ladder if the feature mix of the Grand Prime (or its exterior) are not to your liking.
While the Galaxy Grand Prime is no Galaxy S4, for a casual user (with less than perfect eyesight) the difference in price isn't proportionate to the difference in experience. Samsung could have put a little more heart in making the phone, but it's a fine device for this day, target market and price.