Galaxy A 2016 brings Samsung Pay to budget phones

The 2016 Galaxy A series makes Samsung Pay practical for (almost) everyone.

Samsung's Galaxy S and Note smartphones usually get the most fuss, but it's arguably the Galaxy A series that matters most. These are the affordable phones that you're more likely to see in some parts of the world, and they're what keep the company going. It's a big deal, then, that Samsung just launched 2016 upgrades to the entire Galaxy A line. The 4.7-inch A3, 5.2-inch A5 and 5.5-inch are all sleeker than their ancestors, with narrower bezels and other cues clearly borrowed from the Galaxy S6. However, the real selling point may be shopping. Both the A5 and A7 are the company's first non-flagships to support Samsung Pay -- you no longer need to splurge just to use a Galaxy phone in place of your credit card.

Not that they're slouches otherwise. All of them have sharper displays (720p on the A3, 1080p on the A5 and A7), faster processors (1.5GHz quad-core and 1.6GHz octa-core) and higher-capacity batteries. You'll also find optical image stabilization on the 13-megapixel cameras for the two higher-end models, although little has changed for the 5-megapixel front shooters. And yes, despite the trend among higher-end Samsung handsets, they still have microSD card slots to expand their built-in 16GB of storage.

China gets first crack at the new Galaxy A series in mid-December, and you'll see the line spread to other countries after that. That's unfortunate if you want to pick up a Galaxy A before the year is out, but it makes sense given Samsung's recent troubles. On top of its lackluster high-end sales, it's being squeezed at the low end by Chinese rivals like Huawei and Xiaomi, which offer feature-packed phones for very little cash. Samsung needs these new budget models if it wants to bounce back in the country.