The Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) is one of those devices that will likely end up free-on-contract or a similar carrier-subsidized deal. There really isn't all that much about the handset to leave a lasting impression. Now that the J2 (2016) is officially out, this became even more apparent, as the two devices are identical hardware-wise and price-wise, only the J2 has the added novelty of Samsung's new Smart Glow notifications.
However, even though the J3 (2016) is a basic package, there is still a lot to like about the value-conscious handset, even though it reminds us how little has changed in Samsung's strategy in the low-end in past couple of years. Actually, the latter point will be illustrated even better by some of the J3's competitors and how far they've come. But even with its basic hardware, the phone still has one undisputed draw - the colorful Super AMOLED display, which not too long ago was actually out of reach for even midrangers.
The Galaxy J3 (2016) might be a one trick pony, but if punchy AMOLED colors happen to be at the top of your wanted list, there is no easier way to get one on the cheap.
Now, how cheap exactly? For starters, Xiaomi has you spoiled for choice even below the 150 mark. The excellent value-centric Redmi family is right on the spot. The Xiaomi Redmi 3 has a 5-inch HD display, an octa-core Snapdragon 616 SoC, 2GB of RAM and a 13MP main snapper. And, surprisingly, you don't even have to go for the basic model - for the amount the Galaxy J3 (2016) would set you back, you could get the Redmi 3 Pro with a fingerprint reader, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.
Surprisingly, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 might actually be an even better deal. For about the same price, it somehow manages to bring the same features on a 5.5 FullHD screen. And if that wasn't impressive enough, it appears the company's ex-flagship is now within reach as well. The Mi 4 or, even better, the Mi 4c.
As usual, Meizu is not more than a step behind with a few budget offers of its own. The excellent Meizu m3 Note is definitely a top option with its Helio P10 chip, up to 3GB of RAM, 13MP snapper and 5.5-inch display. Then, we have the aging, but still high-end MX 4. It ups the stakes with its 1152 x 1920 pixel, 5.36-inch panel and 20.7MP camera and for just a few bucks extra, there is the MX4 Pro and its even finer 1536 x 2560 pixel, 5.5-inch display.
ZTE deserves a mention as well, with excellent offers like the Z9 mini, with its 5-inch FullHD panel, Snapdragon 615 SoC, 2GB of RAM and a 16MP camera. The same goes for Oppo and the F1 Plus, which has been selling like crazy. The LeEco Le 2 is also a prime candidate, with a 5.5-inch, 1080p panel and the powerful Mediatek Helio X20 on board.
Moving on to more readily-available options in the Western corner of the world, Lenovo has the Vibe K4 Note to offer with a 5.5-inch FullHD display, a Mediatek MT6753 SoC and up to 3GB of RAM, as well as the Vine Shot for a camera-centric experience. And we can safely add the Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) on this list as it's a really close match to the Galaxy J3 (2016), but with the added bonus of near stock Android, timely updated.
We guess the list above helps explain where Samsung is coming from. In 2016, 100 or so can stretch surprisingly far, especially if you start considering some online deals direct from China. Going down this road, however, inevitably means overcoming availability, warranty and after-sale service issues. That is likely why Samsung still feels relatively safe in pushing more of its under-specc'd entry-level phones through its behemoth of a supply chain.
The use of underpowered Spreadtrum chipsets in both the recent J3 (2016) and J2 (2016) is an example of blatant cost cutting and the low performance of these chipsets defies the purpose of getting a smartphone in the first place. The low-performing chipset and the limited on-board storage would actually hinder proper enjoyment of a variety of apps and online services.
You can get more bang for your buck from other manufacturers if you are willing to walk the extra mile, but if you are not, Samsung phones remain a safe and solid choice. If you're taking this road, however, our advice would be to try and spend a little more on your new phone as 200 euro or so would get you an entirely different category of a device both in features and performance - all without any compromise in after-sales support.