Samsung Galaxy A8+

Samsung did well last year with it's A series by releasing three different models- the A3, the A5 and the A7. However, it has decided to shake things around a bit this year by only releasing the A8 and the A8+.

With those model numbers, it appears that Samsung wants to target the top of the mid-end range. This is a space where "flagship killers" such as the OnePlus 5T and Nokia 8 exist, offering flagship specs at a much more affordable price. But for Samsung, that is a double-edged sword because it wants to sell flagships like the Galaxy S8. 

Thus, for all intents and purposes, the Galaxy A8+, is a toned down flagship. It comes with compromises, but is an excellent phone in many regards. It's pricing is what will determines it's fate.

The Galaxy A8+ has a glass back, curved at the edges

Samsung Galaxy A8+ price and release date

The Samsung Galaxy A8+ was announced in UAE in mid January and went on sale immediately after that. Samsung has priced the Galaxy A8+ at AED 1,999 while the Galaxy A8 is a bit lower at AED 1,799. Both these prices exclude VAT.

The Samsung Galaxy A8 and Galaxy A8+ are also available through du at zero upfront with it's postpaid plans.

Design

Going for premium looks, the Galaxy A8+ follows Samsung's glass and metal design language. The glass back feels slightly different than the S8 which prevented the A8+ from slipping out of our hands. But like most glass phones, expect to clean it frequently to wipe out fingerprint marks that it attracts easily.

The design on the A8+ is not only premium but also quite solid. A glass body is, of course, prone to cracking, but the A8+ feels like a very well-built smartphone in your hands. It's got a flagship-feel to it, which the OnePlus 5T lacks. 

Giving us a taste of what to expect with the upcoming Galaxy S9, Samsung has moved the rectangular fingerprint sensor below the camera on the back. While this makes it easier to get to than the Galaxy S8, we prefer circular scanners on phones. It's not a glaring fault though and we did get used to it eventually.

The Galaxy A8+ has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance which is great and so is the presence of the 3.5mm audio jack, which is placed at the bottom next to the USB Type-C charging port. 

The dual SIM tray sits on the left below the volume buttons while the power switch is on the right along with the interestingly positioned speaker grill above it. And to the delight for some, no dedicated Bixby key either.

Display

The Galaxy A8+ has a 6-inch 18.5:9 AMOLED display, with 2.5D curved glass on top. As a result, the display appears to merge into the frame, giving it an immersive and a premium look. 

Like most Samsung panels, it's bright and colorful, albeit noticeably oversaturated making the colors pop more than they naturally should. Samsung does allow you to switch to a more natural color setting if you prefer that. Brightness levels are good enough to be used outdoors in the Dubai sun but obviously not as good as the Galaxy Note 8.

The resolution on the Galaxy A8 and A8+ is 1080 x 2220 which is slightly lower than what is found on the Galaxy S8 and S8+. For most, this won't be noticeable at all. Viewing angles are also fine- though there is a slight blue tint when you tilt the screen, though nowhere near the levels we've noticed on the LG V30+.

The Samsung Galaxy A8+ has a 6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display

Interface and Reliability

Samsung's custom skin called Samsung Experience is a more modern and smoother version of TouchWiz. Over the years, Samsung has refined it's User Interface to create a minimalist and polished look. But that can take a toll on the performance of a handset.

While you won't notice see any lags on the A8+, the software makes the phone feel slower than it is- perhaps intentionally. You can make the Galaxy A8+ snappier by turning off animation scales from Developer Settings which definitely gives you a faster sense of using the phone.

Even though the A8+ is targeted as a mid-ranged phone, you get the full set of Samsung apps and service with it such as Samsung Pay, Game Launcher and Bixby, Samsung's AI assistant. The A8+ also supports the dual-messenger feature, which allows you to clone apps like WhatsApp and use multiple accounts on the same device. 

You can choose which Samsung apps to install when you first set up the device, but you will still end up with some unwanted apps. For instance, Microsoft's suite of apps are pre-installed and can't be deleted. You can, however, disable them if you want.

For some reason Samsung has decided to ship the A8+ with Android 7.1.1 Nougat which is a bit of a shame considering Google released Android 8.0 Oreo a few months back. Nevertheless, the Oreo update has started hitting the Galaxy S8 and it's probably a matter of weeks before the A8+ gets updated to it as well.

Specs and Performance

Samsung's Exynos 7 series chipsets aren't exactly considered speed demons, but the new Exynos 7885 Octa is no slouch. In fact, that's a striking difference between last year's Galaxy A7 and the A8+ which is paired with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage for the Middle East region.

The Exynos 7885 sports two Cortex A73 performance cores, paired with six low power Cortex A53 cores. The idea, obviously, is to strike a balance between battery consumption and raw power. The result is a truly balanced smartphone. The Cortex A73 works overtime, minimizing lags on UI transitions and kick in whenever you tap on an app icon or  launch the camera app. 

But the Exynos 7885 is no match for the Snapdragon 835 which can be found  inside phones priced around or lower than the A8+, phones such as the OnePlus 5T or Nokia 8. Even Samsung's Eynox 8895 found on the S8 can run circles around the A8+ when it comes to demanding apps such as games or video editors, and costs just a couple of hundred Dirhams more.

You get two front cameras on the Samsung Galaxy A8+

Battery life

We talked about the quest to balance raw power and battery life earlier. To achieve that, Samsung ensures the Cortex A53 cores are used whenever possible. So, once the Facebook app is fully launched, the Cortex A73 cores will be clocked down in a hurry, leaving the Cortex A53 cores to manage to browse.

Over a day's usage, you get about 12-14 hours of battery life on each charge which should get you through an entire day. The Galaxy A8+ supports Samsung's adaptive fast charging though, so you can get a quick top up with half an hour's worth of charge, that makes the phone last a full 24 hours. It charges from 10 to 100% in under an hour.

Although the Galaxy A8+ has a glass back, it doesn't support wireless charging. Samsung has probably not included this feature to give it's flagship phones an additional feature which, again, begs the question why you wouldn't just spend a little more to get a the Galaxy S8.

Camera

Reviewing the Galaxy A8+, you can almost imagine a product team jotting down consumer questions. The phone has a 16MP camera on the back with f/1.7 aperture, and it is also Samsung's first smartphone to get dual-cameras on the front, a 16MP and 8MP combination.

Rear Camera

With everything else this phone has, the Galaxy A8+ could have been perfect had its camera lived up to the specs. It has f/1.7 aperture and a 16MP sensor, but images are not as good as you may expect.

Low light images are marred by noise. The Galaxy A8+ can still create pretty scenes, but they're not as good as we expected them to be. Colour reproduction is decent, though details and sharpness are low.

On the other hand, daylight shots are quite pleasant. Colours are slightly oversaturated, but most would find that attractive. You can expect high contrast and vibrant photos, though details are soft and with visible noise. The camera works best in bright sunlight, but anything less leads to a sub-par result.

To be clear, it'll more than suffice for sharing on social media and pretty Instagram photos. It's just a sizeable step down from Samsung's flagships.

Front camera

The front camera here is reminiscent of Samsung's usual practices. The image below is clicked in low light, sitting inside a moving car. The phone practically loses every detail on the face but creates a brighter photo than most front cameras would do. In the next photo, the Galaxy A8+ uses the light from the car behind us, to create a much brighter photo.

That said, the dual-camera makes little difference other than adding the Live Focus mode. Yes, it can shoot bokeh photos on the front, but that's about all you get. Personally, we like that it doesn't soften photos aggressively, but many may not. The details aren't great, and photos don't look very attractive either. 

Verdict

There is no denying that the Samsung Galaxy A8+ is a solid phone. It's well-designed, has an impressive set of features, a decent camera and good battery life. With Samsung's tweaks, software and services, the Galaxy A8+ could have claimed itself as one of the best phones in the mid-ranged market segment.

But Samsung has priced the Galaxy A8+ too close to its flagship phone from 2017. For just a couple of hundred Dirhams more, you can buy the Galaxy S8, or for a little bit less, you can pick the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. Other competing phones such as the OnePlus 5T or the Nokia 8 also offer more for bang for your buck.

Thus, at it's current retail price, the Galaxy A8+ becomes hard to recommend. We suggest waiting for the price to drop. 

Abbas Jaffar Ali
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