Samsung Galaxy A8+

When OnePlus says its phones are flagship killers, we obviously compare them to the likes of Galaxy S8. But for Samsung, that might be a double-edged sword. Many would agree that the Galaxy S8 is a better “flagship”, but it's tough to deny the value proposition a OnePlus 5T has to offer. Hence, the Galaxy A8+.

For all intents and purposes, the Galaxy A8+, like its predecessors, is a toned down flagship. It comes with compromises, but it's an excellent phone in many regards.

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

Samsung Galaxy A8+ price and release date

The Samsung A8+ released in India on January 10 and it goes on sale from January 20 onwards. 

It is priced at Rs 32,990, and the device will be exclusively available on Amazon.in for online sales.

Design

Face up, the Galaxy A8+ looks very similar to the Google Pixel 2 XL. The 18:9 display and the frame around it, look nearly identical. That said, the phone follows Samsung's glass and metal design language. It also has a rectangular fingerprint sensor, placed below the camera on the back. If you're imagining the Galaxy S8's camera/fingerprint scanner setup vertically, you're on the right track.

While this is distinctly easier to get used to, it was more difficult to get used to than circular scanners on phones like the OnePlus 5T. The phone did end up missing fingerprints a few times. It's not a glaring fault though and we did get used to it eventually.

Samsung's going for premium looks here, and at that, it succeeds. The glass body shimmers in the night, which is strikingly different when compared to the Pixel 2 XL. The glass back felt somewhat sticky, which keeps it from slipping out, but makes it fingerprint and sweat-intensive.

The design is not only premium but also quite solid. A glass body is, of course, prone to cracking, but the A8+ feels like a well-built smartphone in your hands. If you see this phone at an offline store, you'll probably fall in love with it on first look. It's got a flagship-feel to it, which the OnePlus 5T lacks. If the design was the only concern, this is a better competitor to the Mi Mix 2 than the OnePlus 5T.

Display

The Galaxy A8+ has a 6-inch 1080p 18:9 display, with 2.5D curved glass on top. As a result, the display seems to merge into the frame, giving it an immersive and a premium feel. It's also bright and colourful, something Samsung's AMOLED panels have been known for, albeit noticeable (but pleasantly) oversaturated.

Like many Samsung smartphones, this phone is meant to impress on aesthetics. Samsung evidently wants your buying decision to be based on the display and design, which complement each other quite well. The idea, it seems, is to have the user so impressed with the exterior elements, that you overlook the phone's visibly slow performance. But more on that, later.

As a standalone display, the Galaxy A8+ has a great one. It matches the 5T in terms of colours, but the 5T's display seems more evenly lit than the Galaxy A8+. The latter is slightly dark near the edges and just slightly dimmer overall. You will, however, see this only when you compare the two devices side-by-side.

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

Interface and Reliability

You can't deny the fact that Samsung has improved its user interface. Samsung Experience (as it is called now) is a more modern and smoother version of TouchWiz. Yet, our primary concern here is the sloth. UI transitions are slow, perhaps intentionally. You don't see huge lags anywhere, but the entire software makes the phone feel slower than it is. You can make the Galaxy A8+ snappier by turning off animation scales from Developer Settings.

This being Samsung's mid-ranged flagship, borrows a bunch of features from the Galaxy S and Note ranges. The A8+ has Samsung Pay, Game Launcher and Bixby, Samsung's AI assistant. It doesn't have a hardware key for Bixby though, thankfully, and the assistant is still as hamstrung as ever. 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.

The A8+ also supports the dual-messenger feature, which allows you to clone apps like WhatsApp and use multiple accounts on the same device. Speaking of WhatsApp accounts, the Galaxy A8+ holds two SIM cards and has a separate micro-SD slot, a much sought after feature.

The Galaxy A8+ also leverages Google's "Trusted Faces" features, to provide a Face Recognition unlock option. Like the OnePlus 5T, this isn't as secure as Apple's face unlock option or Samsung's own Iris recognition feature. Neither is it always dependable.

The biggest flaw in Samsung’s software though, is the fact that it this phone runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box. Frankly, it’s downright sad that a phone launched in 2018 still doesn’t have Android Oreo out of the box. It could be the biggest deal-breaker for the Galaxy A8+.

Specs and Performance

Samsung's Exynos 7 series chipsets are often considered slow, but the new Exynos 7885 Octa is no slouch. In fact, that's a striking difference between last year's Galaxy A7 and this phone. The 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 that can't take on the might of the OnePlus 5T. The Cortex A73 works overtime, minimising lags on UI transitions. They kick in whenever you tap on an app icon or need to launch the camera app. Yet, the brute power of the Snapdragon 835 can't be surpassed. And that pretty much sums up the this phone's story. Would you compromise on the design elements of the Galaxy A8+ for brute power? We suspect a lot of users would not.

The Galaxy A8+ also has 6GB of RAM, so you're covered for long-term usage. The specs of this phone may not jump off the page, but it's a poster boy for market research. Here are some burning consumer questions Samsung wants to answer with the Galaxy A8+.

Will it lag?

Answer: Not easily. But Android phones do lag eventually.

Will it lag out of the box?

Answer: No

Does it feel premium and expensive?

Answer: Certainly

There's more, of course, but we'll get to that in later sections. Where the Galaxy A8+ pales against a Mi Mix 2 or OnePlus 5T, is gaming prowess. It'll handle most games well, but you will notice frame drops on games like Injustice 2. Is that a huge issue? We doubt it.

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. While that's sufficient, it's certainly not stellar. 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.

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

To sum up, the Samsung Galaxy A8+ is a consumer's phone. It doesn't target enthusiasts and it doesn't make many bold claims. It's a phone meant for people who want Samsung's brand name and can't afford its flagships. If you aren't keen on OnePlus' brand value, this is indeed an alternative. What it's not, is a replacement.

Prasid Banerjee
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