Samsung Galaxy A8+ Review


Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018) is the company’s latest premium mid-range smartphone in the ‘A series’ that was launched in India last month. It is the first phone from Samsung after the Galaxy S8 series and the Note8 to adopt the Infinity Super AMOLED display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio, but this has a FHD+ screen instead of Quad HD+ screen. It is also the first Samsung phone to feature dual front cameras. Is the smartphone worth the price? Let us find out in the complete review.

Unboxing

We unboxed the smartphone recently, check out the video below.

Box contents

  • Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018) smartphone in Black color
  • 2-pin adaptive fast charger (9V-1.67A | 5V-2A)
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • In-ear headset
  • SIM Ejector tool
  • Clear protective case
  • Quick Start Guide and Warranty Information

Display, Hardware and Design

The Galaxy A8+ comes with a 6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity display with a resolution of 1080×2220 pixels at about 410 PPI, aspect ratio of 18.5:9 and a screen-to-body ratio of about 75%. Since the phone has AMOLED display blacks are perfectly black. The corners are curved, similar to the Galaxy S8.

Due to the aspect ratio content doesn’t extend to the sides of the phone when you are watching normal 16:9 videos. If you want it to extend to the sides, you have to pinch the screen to fill the content. If you are watching a video in 21:9 aspect ratio, which has the benefit of removing black bars on the top and bottom of screens, the software stretches the image to fit the 21:9 format and allows you to watch the video as it more naturally.

Similar to the other top-end Samsung phones, there is Blue light filter that is said to reduce eye strain by limiting the amount of blue light emitted by the screen. You can’t adjust the screen resolution like the S8 and Note8 phones, but change font size and style and select apps that you want to use in the full screen aspect ratio. There is also Always on display that shows up in the lockscreen when the phone is in standby. Always on display doesn’t consume a lot of power, but still it takes up some power.

On the top, there are a lot of sensors. Next to the LED indicator, you can find the usual set of proximity and ambient light sensors on the left side of the earpiece, on the right there is a 16-megapixel front camera with f/1.9 aperture along with a secondary 8-megapixel camera with f/1.9 aperture. The phone also has gyroscope and magnetic sensor, otherwise known as magnetometer for VR.

It also has support for Face recognition, which doesn’t work well if the lighting is poor in the room, if you are wearing glasses, hats, or use heavy makeup. But it is quick to unlock the phone. The phone doesn’t have home button just like the S8 series, so the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back. It also doesn’t have capactitive touch buttons, so you need to use the on-screen buttons. By default, the button layout is Recents-Home-Back, but you can change it to Back-Home-Recents and change the background color of it from the Navigation bar option in the settings. You can also add a button to the left side of the navigation bar to show or hide it.

The phone has metal frame, but it doesn’t slip out of your hands easily. On the right side, there is a power button along with the loudspeaker grill. On the left side, there is a volume rocker and a primary SIM slot. On the bottom, there is a 3.5mm audio jack, USB Type-C port and the primary microphone. On the top, there is a secondary SIM slot that also has a microSD card slot that accepts cards up to 256GB. There is also a secondary microphone. You can also see the antenna lines on the top and the bottom.

It is a good thing that Samsung has provided dedicated dual SIM and microSD card slots when there are a lot of phones that come with hybrid SIM arrangement.

On the back, there is a 16MP camera with LED flash, f/1.7 aperture and the Fingerprint recognition sensor below it. Unlike the S8 series and the Note8, it is not hard to access the fingerprint sensor, but it might be difficult for some with long hands since this phone is tall.

Again, similar to the Galaxy S8 phones and the Note8, this has a glass back with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection that protects it from scratches. Even though the phone has a huge 6-inch screen, it is compact to hold, making it one of the most compact large-screen phones. It measures 159.9×75.7x 8.3, slightly bigger than the S8+. It weighs 191 grams, but it doesn’t feel that heavy since the phone is huge. The phone has IP68 ratings for Water and dust resistance, but Samsung warns that you should not immerse the phone in water deeper than 1.5 m or keep it submerged for more than 30 minutes.

Even though the sides are not slippery, the back is slippery to hold, so it is recommended to use the case that comes with the phone in the box. Samsung also says that it is the first ‘A series’ to support Samsung’s Gear VR.

Camera

The A8+ has a 16-megapixel rear camera with single LED flash, Samsung ISOCELL S5K2P6SX sensor, 1.12µm pixel size, 1/2.8″ sensor size, f/1.7 aperture and 78-degree FOV, but it doesn’t have OIS. It has a 16MP front camera with Samsung ISOCELL S5K3P8SP sensor, f/1.9 aperture, 1.0µm pixel size, 1/3.1″ sensor size and 76-degree FOV, along with an 8MP secondary camera with f/1.9 aperture, 1.12µm pixel size, 1/4.0″ sensor size and 85-degree FOV.

Since this has dual front cameras, there is Live Focus that lets you adjust the bokeh effect – the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image – to change the depth of field of a shot. You can control the intensity of the overall blur effect and apply it before taking the image in preview mode, or after capturing the photo in the Gallery app.

It has Auto mode, Panorama, Food and also Pro mode to adjust ISO, Shutter speed, focus, white balance and exposure manually. It also has a lot of stickers and stamps. The camera’s facial recognition technology lets you apply static and animated facial feature stickers on the subject when in Camera or Video mode.

Coming to the image quality, daylight shots are good and the camera captures a good amount of detail, creates really well exposed photos with good dynamic range and detailing, and dynamic range can further be improved using the HDR mode. The autofocus speeds are fast and accurate. Low-light performance is just average with a noise, but the night mode reduces it. However, low-light shots and images with flash doesn’t have much details.

The front camera with facial recognition technology is good for capturing selfies. It doesn’t have a selfie flash, but it has screen flash that brightens the screen when capturing selfies. Dual camera, Live Focus option applies a strong background blur effect. It looks a bit uneven when looking in the camera, but the final output is pretty good. The front camera also has beautify features to adjust skin tone, spotlight and some features such as slim face, large eyes and shape correction.

Check out some camera samples (Click the image for the full resolution sample).

HDR OFF
HDR ON

Night mode

Front Camera
Dual Front Camera – Live Focus

Even though the SoC has support for 4K recording, it records only at a maximum 1080p resolution at 30 fps. It has Hyperlapse video recording with stabilization, but it doesn’t have slow-motion video recording. Video quality is decent, and the audio is good as well, thanks to secondary microphone.

Software, UI and Apps

Coming to the software, the phone runs on Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) with Android security patch for January, 2018. Samsung has not announced when the phone will get Android Oreo update. On the top of Nougat, it has Samsung Experience version 8.5, which is the company’s new UX that is more refined compared to its TouchWiz UX. The drop-down notification shade shows six toggles on the top, and more when you swipe down again. You can easily change the button order and the button grid (3×3, 4×3, 5×3). There are also brightness control slider and option to choose SIM cards easily.

It has vertical swiping interface by default instead of separate apps button, so to navigation between the home screen and app tray you need to swipe up or down. You also have option to add apps screen button to the home screen. You can also simultaneously move multiple apps into a folder easily. You can tap and hold an app icon to open a quick options menu that lets you perform tasks such as uninstalling apps or moving them to Secure Folder without having to open the app. App icons and typography have also been changed according to the new design language.

The advanced features option has Smart stay to keep the screen on while you are looking at it, Games Launcher that gathers your games downloaded from Play Store and Galaxy Apps into one place for easy access and one-handed operation mode that lets you use the phone easily with one hand. Similar to other Android phones it also has Multi Window mode that was first introduced by Samsung several years back.

Other options include Smart capture to capture the current screen and scrollable area, and crop and share the screenshot immediately, Palm swipe to capture a screenshot, direct call to make a voice call by picking up and holding the device near your ear while viewing call, message, or contact details, Smart alert to set the device to alert you if you have missed calls or new messages when you pick up the device, Easy mute to mute incoming calls or alarms by using palm motions or facing the device’s screen downwards, Swipe to call or send message, and Panic mode to Send SOS message by pressing the Power key three times, including option to sound recordings along with the message to the recipients.

The Device maintenance option lets you manage your device’s battery life, storage, RAM usage, and security all in one place. The Samsung Secure Folder that lets you save your personal data and information.

Apart from the usual set of utility apps and Google Apps, the smartphone comes with Facebook app and Microsoft Apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype. You also get option to install apps when you are setting up the phone.

The phone has Samsung Pay, which is Samsung’s own payment service. It works with Samsung’s patented Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology as well as with Near Field Communication (NFC). MST replicates a card swipe by wirelessly transmitting magnetic waves from the supported Samsung device to a standard card reader, so Samsung pay works seamlessly on a majority of Point of Sale terminals in India. It has three levels of security—fingerprint authentication, card tokenization and Samsung’s security platform Samsung KNOX. It also has UPI support and recently got support for Bill Payments.

It also has Bixby Assistant that was first introduced with the S8 series. You can slide to the left to view the Bixby screen or press and hold the dedicated Bixby button to launch it. It has Vision, Home and Reminder features currently. Vision option can detect what users are looking at and take action according to what they see, Home lets users see the content they care most about and Reminder helps users remember important events and to-do tasks. It doesn’t have a dedicated Bixby button so there is no Bixby Voice.

Out of 6GB of RAM, you get 5.71GB of usable RAM, out of which about 3.5GB of RAM is free when the default apps running in the background. Out of 64GB (eMMC 5.1) of internal storage, 52.3GB of storage is usable.

Fingerprint Sensor

The fingerprint sensor is present on the back of the phone, which is not hard to access compared to the S8 and the Note8. It immediately unlocks phone just by keeping your finger on the home button so that you don’t have to press it. You can add up to 3 fingerprints. It can also be used for Samsung Pay in markets where the service is available and for Samsung Pass to verify your identity with browser and other supported apps.

Music Player and FM Radio

Google Play Music is the default music player. It has equalizer, UHQ upscaler, Surround and Tube Amp Pro sound effects that can be enabled from the settings. All these improve the audio when listening through earphones. It also has FM Radio support with support for recording. That said, audio through the bundled headset is decent, but using good third-party headphones makes it better and the loudspeaker output from the mono speaker is decent. Loudspeaker is awkwardly placed on the right side of the phone.

Dual SIM and Connectivity

The connectivity options include, Wi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz, Bluetooth v 5.0, GPS with GLONASS, NFC and USB 3 with support for USB OTG. It has 4G connectivity with support a lot of bands and also has Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) support for Reliance Jio, but it doesn’t support Airtel VoLTE yet. Both the SIMs support 4G, but you can enable 4G only in one SIM at a time, while the other goes to 3G.

The dialer and messaging have familiar UI. Since this is a dual SIM phone, you get option to select either SIMs when calling or sending text message. There are no call drops and the earpiece volume is good.

You can set preferred SIM for voice call, text and data from the SIM card manager. As usual it has Smart Dual SIM feature, similar to other latest Samsung Dual SIM smartphones. This automatically forwards calls from the phone number on SIM 2, even if a user is on the phone with SIM 1’s number. There is a new option called confirm SIM card for calls so that it asks which SIM card to be used for the next call when you make a call without your preferred SIM card for calls.

Performance

It is powered by an Octa-Core Samsung Exynos 7885 processor that has two ARM Cortex-A73 CPU cores clocked at up to 2.2GHz per core and six ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at up to 1.6GHz per core. It has 6GB of RAM and packs a Mali-G71 GPU. Performance is good without any lags, but the gaming performance is not on par with other phones in the price range. Check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.

Battery life

Coming to battery life, the 3500mAh battery looks small for a phone with a 6-inch FHD+ screen, but it lasts for a day even with heavy use and lasts for more than a day with average use. Based on my usage, with dual SIMs, it lasted for 2 days.

It has Medium power saving mode that reduces brightness, reduces the CPU speed and turns off the Always On Display. The Max mode does all this and puts the screen to low-power mode. There is also App power monitor that alerts you when an app is using more power so that you can close it.

In our battery test the smartphone achieved a One Charge Rating of 17 hours and 48 minutes, which is good for a phone with a 3500mAh battery. Thanks to adaptive fast charging, it can charge from 0 to 100% in 1 hour and 42 minutes and from 0 to 50% in just 40 minutes. We will bring you the complete set of battery life test results soon.

Conclusion

Overall, the Galaxy A8+ is a solid successor to last year’s Galaxy A7 (2017) model. Samsung has adopted the Infinity display and the design of the S8 and Note8 series. It has dual front cameras, but the recent trend is dual rear cameras. It has a large Infinity screen, good selfie camera, water-resistant-body, and the battery life is good has well, but the internals and the average rear camera quality, especially in low-light doesn’t justify the high price tag of Rs. 32,990, which is same as the OnePlus 5T.

It is available exclusively from Amazon India as well as Samsung Shop. To summarize, here are the pros and cons of the smartphone.

Pros

  • Large Infinity display is good
  • Good selfie camera
  • Water and dust resistant body
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Average low-light rear camera performance
  • No Oreo at launch
  • Priced on the higher side

Images by Siraj

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Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He is currently using the Motorola Moto G4 Plus. You can follow him on Twitter @ssrivatsan and on Google+