The Galaxy A8+ (2018) is priced at Rs 32,990, and is available exclusively on Amazon India.
The smartphone comes with front and back glass design, and dual front cameras.
It also features IP68 certification for water and dust, and Samsung Pay with MST Technology.
The Indian smartphone market is dominated by Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Honor, Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus to name a few. These companies have targeted the affordable and mid-range segment with their smartphones, and the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG have been struggling to be a leader in that price point. With the new Galaxy A8+ (2018) and its aggressive pricing of Rs 32,990, Samsung is going with the online-only strategy.
Samsung aims to take on smartphones from its Chinese rivals, the OnePlus 5T, Honor View10 and Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, all of which are similarly priced. Now, the Galaxy A8+ (2018) is an interesting device as it brings premium design and features in an affordable package. In fact, Samsung has added the best of features from the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 to the Galaxy A8+ (2018), which gives it a slight advantage over the competition.
Design: This one’s a looker
If you are a fan of how beautiful the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 look with their front and back glass design, and a metal frame sitting in between, the Galaxy A8+ will give you the exact feeling. The moment you see the device, you’re likely to go wow, and you are like to have the same expression when you hold it too.
The smartphone is sleek, has a slim profile, and gives a premium feel when holding it. But as in case with all the smartphones with glass panels, it is slippery too. And not to mention that it is a fingerprint magnet too, and you’re more likely to keep cleaning the smudges every now and then. Samsung has bundled a clear case along with the smartphone, but that adds a bit of bulk to the otherwise sleek device.
The front houses an edge-to-edge display, with thin bezels on the top and bottom. You have the ambient light sensor, dual cameras and earpiece above the display, whereas the bottom chin is clean. On the back, you the camera module and the fingerprint sensor, sitting right below it. An LED flash module is also present on the side.
Up top, you have the hybrid SIM card tray, that lets you add a secondary SIM and a microSD card. On the right, you have the volume rocker towards the top, and a primary SIM card slot near the bottom. The USB Type-C port and 3.5mm connector is at the bottom, whereas the power button sits on the right. As in case with the previous Galaxy A-series smartphones, the speaker grille sits on the right, another distinct design element.
Infinity Display: This one doesn’t live on the edge
Now, if you loved the Infinity Display on the flagship series, you get one here too, but with one major differentiator – the edges are flat, and not curved. The curved edges actually don’t add much of the functionality, but only add to the style factor.
It houses a 6-inch HD+ display (1080×2220 pixels) with 18.5:9 aspect ratio and you’ll surely love playing games, watching videos or surf your favorite sites on the internet. The display is gorgeous, and the color reproduction is pretty good. Also, sunlight legibility wasn’t an issue either.
Security: Use your finger or struggle with face unlock
The fingerprint scanner has become mainstream on smartphones today, but with Apple ditching it on the iPhone X, and bringing facial recognition instead, other manufacturers are also looking to integrate it. OnePlus added software-based face recognition, Oppo, Vivo and LG also added it, and now it is Samsung’s turn.
While Apple uses a dedicated infrared scanner to scan your face, others only have software-based implementation. Face recognition is also present on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 devices, but they have iris scanner as well, which is much more accurate and faster. I tried the face recognition on the Galaxy A8+, but there are three major issues – one it is not accurate.
I registered my face without glasses, but when I wear my specs, it fails to recognize me. Secondly, face recognition doesn’t work in low-light, or places with dim lighting. Thirdly, when it does recognize your face, it doesn’t instantly unlock, there is a delay of one second or more (at times). That is not the case with OnePlus 5T or LG V30 from I tried the feature. Finally, I had to switch to fingerprint, which works without any hiccups.
Samsung has also included Secure Folder, powered by Knox. Basically, you can add sensitive data such as notes, photos, videos, contacts and files into a secure folder to keep your data secure from prying eyes. You can even add apps to this secure space, which won’t show up in your app drawer, but will be accessible via Secure Folder with fingerprint unlock, or by entering pin or pattern.
Samsung Pay: Cashless payments made simple
After demonetization, I’ve mostly switched to digital payments where ever possible. I use mobile wallets such as Paytm to pay my utility bills, or transfer money over UPI wherever possible. Samsung Pay comes with UPI, Paytm and Mobikwik integration, to have your accounts under one app. It was recently updated with utility bill payment services, which allows you to pay for your broadband, electricity and gas bills among others.
It’s good to see MST Technology on the Galaxy A8+, and it has been very useful. I have added my credit and debit card in there, and even if I don’t have my wallet, I can use the phone to tap and pay, without actually having to swipe my card. Wherever possible, I use it, and it has made my life simpler – my phone is my wallet.
Cameras: Two on the front, one at the back
The Galaxy A8+ comes with a 16-megapixel rear camera of aperture f/1.7. The camera app is similar to the ones that we have seen on flagship S-series and Note-series, and comes integrated with AR stickers that let you add some fun to your photos.
The rear camera is capable of capturing some good photos in daylight and even in low-light. Quality is not Samsung flagship like, but it is good enough for casual photography. I was impressed with the low-light shots, especially with the colors and details it manages to capture. Below are some sample shots.
Now, while the likes of OnePlus and Honor have added dual cameras at the back, Samsung has gone with dual front cameras. One is a 16-megapixel primary sensor to capture photos and videos, the other is a depth sensor that adds DSLR-like bokeh effects to your selfies. This is where I was a little disappointed, for three reasons.
One, the camera lacks auto-focus, and only features facial tracking. Because of this, some photos turned out to be blurry, especially when there are a couple of people in the frame. But with a single person in the frame, it did a better job. Secondly, the richness in details after often missing in selfies, especially when clicking them indoors. Outdoors, I absolutely had no issues at all.
Thirdly, the camera app gets slow with ‘live focus’ mode. You will need steady hands to capture blur-free photos, and this is where auto-focus could have been better. Again, I got average results indoors, but the photos clicked in live focus mode outdoors, had good amount of details with background blur looking good. Below are some samples.
The mode doesn’t work well in low-light, and selfies captured without the mode show some signs of smudging as you look closer. But turning on the screen flash does help a bit in capturing better selfies in dim lighting conditions. Find some samples below.
Artificial Intelligence: Hi Bixby, why you no talk to me?
Samsung’s AI-based intelligent assistant, Bixby, is also a part of the Galaxy A8+, but for some reason, the South Korean giant is offering the watered-down version. The dedicated Bixby-button is missing, and so is the voice functionality. Which means, you cannot invoke the assistant by saying ‘Hi Bixby’.
However, the cards interface on swiping from left to right on the home screen is still present. Here, you have content from your reminders, calendar, weather updates, and widgets from supported apps such as Uber, Google Play Music, and Samsung’s Briefing app.
Samsung has also added Bixby Vision in the camera app, which lets you point the camera at an object or place to offer relevant results. You can also use Bixby Vision to scan QR Codes and point at text to translate in any given language supported by the assistant.
Software, performance and battery life: Smooth Sailing
Sadly, the Galaxy A8+ ships with Android 7.1.1 Nougat wrapped under Samsung’s custom UI, rather than the latest Android 8.0 Oreo. The interface is similar to other Samsung phones, and there is nothing new to write home about. In terms of bloatware, you get Microsoft apps pre-installed, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and LinkedIn, and you can’t uninstall these apps. There are also Google apps such as Gmail, Chrome, Maps, Drive, that are a part of the system, and apps like Duo, YouTube, Play Movies, and Photos that can be uninstalled.
Under the hood is Samsung’s Exynos 7885 cota-core SoC that is built on 14nm process and has two Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.2GHz, and six Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.6GHz. It is coupled with 6GB of RAM and 64GB onboard storage. The combination of chipset and RAM ensures smooth performance in day to day use. I have been using the smartphone for little over a week, and be it using a few apps such as Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, or when playing games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne or Airport Madness 3D or Subway Surfers, the Galaxy A8+ can handle things with ease.
To keep things ticking, the smartphone comes with a 3,500mAh battery with support for fast charging. With my usage which includes phone calls for about 30-minutes, gaming for around 15-20 minutes, social networking, checking emails, using Slack and WhatsApp through the day. With all of this, the battery easily lasted a day, with 20 percent to spare, which is pretty good. Charging from empty to full takes about an hour and 45 minutes, and it is not bad either.
The Galaxy A8+ (2018) has an impressive design and some features that you can find on Samsung’s flagship smartphones. You get a gorgeous edge-to-edge display, a good rear camera and decent front cameras, and impressive battery life. IP68 certification for water and dust resistance, and Samsung Pay with MST technology are good additions, something that rival smartphones don’t have. Also, the overall performance is good, and there is nothing to complain about.
However, it would have been better if Samsung had equipped a dual-camera setup at the back. Bixby is present, but the voice functionality is missing, which is a bit sad. The dual front cameras are decent, and offer good results outdoors, but the performance is not consistent. Also, Samsung has hyped facial recognition tech on the smartphone, but it doesn’t work as expected.
If you can do away with these minor issues, and want a premium smartphone without spending much, the Galaxy A8+ (2018) could be a good option. It is available exclusively via Amazon India. Otherwise, you could look at OnePlus 5T which is a very good performer in the price range, the Honor View10 with AI chops is not a bad option either. And if you want more of an aesthetic appeal with top of the line hardware, the Mi MIX 2 could be a good option too.
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