The affordable flagship category these days is dominated by the likes of emerging brands such as OnePlus and Honor. The idea is to provide flagship-class specifications with a reasonably good build and a tried-and-tested design for the price of a premium midrange smartphone, which appeals to the value-conscious smartphone seeker. However, Tier 1 OEMs, such as Samsung and HTC, are still pushing for powerful smartphones with midrange specifications and ultra-premium aesthetics, with the hope of appealing to those who prefer a glamorous smartphone for a sensible price.
Reiterating the same philosophy, Samsung has recently come up with their first premium offering for this year in the A-series — the Galaxy A8+ (2018). Priced at Rs 32,990, it competes directly with Honor View 10 and the base variant of the OnePlus 5T. It takes immense inspiration from last year’s flagship Galaxy S8 and comes with a headlining dual selfie camera. Seemed tempting to us, which is why we got our hands on a black coloured variant of the A8+ and have been using for a few days. It will be a while before we publish our full review but here’s what we think of it in the short time we have spent with it.
Build and design:
The Galaxy A8+ looks premium — there’s no second thought to it. It is made out of the same materials that make up the Galaxy S8 and the Note 8 — the front and the rear consist of Gorilla Glass 5 surfaces held together by a metal frame. The front eliminates the curved edges from the S8 but retains the narrow-bezel 18:9 Infinity Display.
The rear panel though curves on the edges like its big brothers, which provides a better grip on a phone that is almost as big as the size of a conventional phablet. We are yet to see how easy is it to hold for extended sessions of usage but the A8+ (2018) feels a tad heavy and is ‘smudge-hungry’ (it attracts fingerprints and smudges unlike anything). One noticeable aspect of the A8+ (2018)’s build — it isn’t slippery like other glass-bodied phones, which is a plus point for this premium Samsung. Also, eager eyes will notice that the fingerprint scanner is now placed under the camera, which aids for a more easy-to-use security verification method and is a clear indication of the upcoming Galaxy S9's revamped fingerprint sensor placement. Looks like Samsung was all ears to its customers.
The highlighted aspect of most Samsung devices is the display and the A8+ (2018) is no exception — a 6-inch super AMOLED panel renders punchy colours with deep blacks and high contrasts. On the A8+ (2018), it adopts an 18.5:9 aspect ratio like the S8 and the Note 8, providing for a bigger viewing experience in a conventional 5.5-inch smartphone form factor. We are yet to test the display outdoors for sunlight legibility and viewing angles.
Performance and UI:
Underneath that big display lies a new heart — a 14nm Exynos 7885 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded up to 256GB. It is still running on Android 7.1-based Samsung Experience 8.5 UI, which is surprising for a premium smartphone in the post-Android Oreo era. Therefore, with midrange internals, one shouldn't expect OnePlus 5T levels of performance.
Nonetheless, the interface is reminiscent of the one from the Galaxy S8, albeit with lesser bells and whistles. It seems to be eager for switching between multiple apps as well as browsing through the interface. The UI seems to be an eye-candy at first glance but we will have to see how this semi-stripped version of Samsung’s custom UI holds up in casual usage scenarios.
The A8+’s headlining feature is the dual selfie camera — 16MP + 8MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture. The selfies look good in daylight and indoor shots are also handled pretty well. The bokeh effect in portrait mode manages to blur out the background effectively; however, we will keep snapping some more selfies to see how it works in varied lighting conditions.
The 16MP rear shooter is also proficient in managing various kind of situations, churning out good-looking photos. Low-light photos are captured without noticeable noise whereas daylight photos are vibrant. The rear camera also gets to use Bixby Vision, which can identify most objects around you with ease. Stay tuned for our detailed take on the A8+’s camera performance in our final review.
The A8+ 2018’s battery department has impressed us as of now. The 3500mAh Li-ion unit is bigger than that of the Note 8’s, which combined with lesser hardware as well as software requirements, helps this phone last almost a day with heavy calling, texting, web browsing and clicking selfies (of course, it’s a selfie phone after all).
The Galaxy A8+ (2018) is an impressive premium smartphone at first glance. Samsung seems to have scored where it really matters for those looking to make a style statement while having a competent smartphone for dealing with everyday tasks with ease. Is it better than popular powerhouses such as OnePlus 5T and Honor View 10 for the price it sells? Stay tuned for our final verdict on Samsung’s glamourous non-flagship premium smartphone....