Samsung Galaxy A8 Impressions: a new design can’t hide what lies beneath

by: Matthew BensonAugust 3, 2015
1.4K

samsung galaxy a8 2 1

Samsung’s new Galaxy A8 had been rumored for some time now, but it was only last month that leaks started making their way onto the Internet. The device itself is somewhat of a hybrid of sorts given that it is essentially a mid-year refresh for the Galaxy A7 which released back in January, yet it has a new body and some of the positive changes that were introduced in the Galaxy S6.

After spending roughly a week with the phone, I wanted to present to you my initial impressions of the device, with a full review to follow in coming weeks. Please be aware that while the phone has been announced for both China and India, this piece (including the specs themselves as well as the $615 price tag) all pertain to the Korean model.

Of specs and such

samsung galaxy a8 box

The Galaxy A8 looks like it should be a top tier phone, given the aluminum unibody design and large display which borders on bezel-less-ness. Assuming the tacky packaging isn’t a give away however, the specs themselves serve as a minor reminder of the parts inside, in an effort perhaps, to temper the expectations one might have.

The Galaxy A8 features a 5.7-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, a 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor backed by 2GB of RAM, 32GB of on-board storage and microSD expansion up to 128GB. It also has a 16MP rear-facing camera, 5MP front-facing shooter, and a 3050mAh battery. It runs the most recent version of Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay atop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, and also comes with the same fingerprint sensor as seen in the S6. The device measures just 5.9mm thin and weighs only 151g, making this the thinnest smartphone Samsung has released to-date. It also retails, in Korea at least, for 714,000 won (about $610), though current pricing on sites like eBay has it going for around $800+

Hardware

On paper, the phone seems like a fairly solid mid-ranger, even if still considerably less impressive than a flagship-level product. Unfortunately, after using the phone for even just a few minutes, its limitations become quite obvious. Between the Snapdragon 615, the 2GB of RAM, and TouchWiz, the phone is constantly lagging and stuttering. At times it takes seemingly ages for Swiftkey to load up or to open an application and, coming from the Galaxy S6, this is egregiously problematic. Even something as simplistic as opening the Settings menu has lag with the background loading up a pure white screen, followed by the actual listing. After many of these apps are running in the background, reloading them doesn’t take quite as long, but suffice to say from the software side of things, the A8 is probably not going to make any top-10 lists this year.

Running a benchmark test on AnTuTu, the device scored 45233 placing it on-par with some 2014 flagships. Curiously the app reported the SoC as a 32-bit variant, and didn’t prompt for side-loading of the 64-bit version.

Battery

Battery life is relatively good, with the A8 easily lasting throughout the day with moderate use including liberal web surfing, texting on several applications including Line and Slack, and a few phone calls. Tethering seemed to drain it quickly however, and I have opted to wait for the full review before evaluating it with respect to games and heavy-handed tasks. All-in-all, the battery performed better than that of the S6 and at no point during the day did I actively worry the phone would power down before getting home.

Sold in South Korea but aimed at Asia

samsung galaxy a8 2 2c

In an almost comical way, the A8 doesn’t seem to be made for South Korea. Despite featuring the same “Dual SIM” set-up that is found in the Chinese model, the second slot is strictly relegated to microSD even though you can technically put a nanoSIM inside it. The primary tray is even labeled as “SIM 1”, clearly indicating Samsung didn’t bother to create an original part for this model. Likewise the software is puzzling given that the dialer has not a shred of Korean-language text on it, something that I had yet to ever notice on a Samsung device. In standard Korean models, the “ABC” markings are all replaced with Hangul characters, regardless of the device’s language setting.

This, coupled with the lack of LTE band support compared to the Korean Galaxy S6 model truly serve to emphasize the notion that this phone is literally an “Asian market” product. Through tinkering with a hidden menu, I was able to enable LTE support, but at the expense of any voice. Altering the band settings again, voice was possible but no data. Given that testing for this impression piece was carried out in Japan there is somewhat of a caveat, but in testing the Korean Galaxy S6 this troublesome problem didn’t occur at all.

An Acceptable Display

The display, while a Full HD SAMOLED panel, fails to have the same ultra-sharp, vibrant in-your-face colors and crispness that the Galaxy S6 has. The phone does support multiple screen modes, thus allowing for those who hate over-saturated colors to dial-back the concentration. It also has the fantastic auto-brightness “outdoor” automatic setting Samsung has championed as of late, where using the device in extremely bright conditions results in a high contrast color enhancement making it easy to see. This feature is definitely worth having and makes switching back to a standard phone all the more difficult afterwords.

Serviceable Sounds

The sound quality of the Galaxy A8 is not much different than that of the previous A-models, including the grating high pitched clicking sounds that accompany input -they can be turned off however. This is largely due to the fact that once again, the product’s sole, tiny speaker is located on the rear of the device, next to the protruding camera module. We question Samsung’s design given that the bottom side of the phone clearly could have supported the inclusion of a downwards-firing speaker a la the Galaxy S6. Just take a look:

samsung galaxy a8 2 6

Notice the empty space to the left of the USB-port? Compare it to that of the Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge as seen below:

samsung galaxy s6 active vs galaxy s6 and edge (12 of 20)

The speaker placement smacks of cost-cutting to say the least, something that is further emphasized by the software.

Troubled TouchWiz

It’s amazing that for all the positive or interesting changes Samsung brought to the table with the Galaxy S6, it has gone right back to the traditional comfort zone with the A8. Gone is the motion-sensitive background effect seen in the S6, and gone is the ability to select multiple lock screen backgrounds. Hybrid Download, a feature which allows users to download files over 30MB using both Wi-Fi and LTE, is missing. There is no setting menu for “Accessories” allowing for features like an “S-Window” type cover. There is no high-sensitivity mode for those who want to use the device with gloves.

This, in addition to the lag mentioned earlier, basically relegates the Galaxy A8 to the same type of user experience found in the original A-models. The only real exception is the presence of a full Theme Store.

The build is paradoxical

samsung galaxy a8 2 3

As mentioned earlier, the build of the Galaxy A8 is fantastic, especially at first glance. The sides in particular have a modified version of the “pointed oval” design motif seen on the Galaxy S6, but instead of being flat, curve along with the contour of the device. It is extremely thin as well, though for a device this large the lack of girth actually makes it a bit more difficult to hold than were it to be a bit thicker.

The lack of a notification LED is a major sore point, however. Samsung has been including this on phones even back when they were made of plastic, yet seems to arbitrarily distribute it. Why the Galaxy A8 lacks the LED, yet paradoxically has capacitive buttons that vanish from sight when not lit, seems to hint at a very haphazard design aesthetic. The front camera has also been moved from the right-hand side of the device, to the left, and vice-versa for the sensors.

samsung galaxy a8 2 4

While arguably no one will find the Galaxy A8 to be an ugly looking phone by any means, after using it for a bit, it’s more probable that the faults will become more apparent than any semblance of appreciation for the new frame, especially given how the large size makes the barren bumper all the more mundane.

On a final note, given the size of the device, it is going to be immediately compared with the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ when they launch next week. Perhaps Samsung’s timing was done to get the A8 out beforehand, allowing those with more meager budgets to “get in” on the big-screen action.

The pricing problem

The idea that Samsung Korea is charging 714,000 won (about $610) for this phone is truly an impressive proposition, and one that reflects the fact it’s sold on local carrier SKT. Ideally, those individuals living inside the country will purchase the A8 on-contract and thus receive subsidiaries and discounts. This is not unlike what goes on here in Japan, where devices are often sold at prices far higher than in the rest of the world, but with no down-payment and the potential of saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars via monthly discounts.

A8_column_2_p-840x377

It looks nice, but with a price tag between $500-610+, is it actually a good value-proposition?

Even when considering the price in India (Rs. 32,500; $506) we are still talking about a sizable stash of cash to part with. How Samsung deemed this to be an acceptable figure is mystifying to say the least, with the upcoming OnePlus Two and even Moto X Play offering more-for-less. If the whole idea to create the Galaxy A-series was to better compete with top-tier offerings from Xiaomi, Huawei, OnePlus, Oppo, Micromax, or any number of other rivals, one might be forgiven in assuming the cost would be an area of concern.

Based on my impressions of the A8 however, Samsung has basically sought to justify a premium price tag simply based on the presence of a thin aluminum construction and fingerprint sensor. There is very little else inside (or about) the device that actually serves to elevate it beyond what would otherwise be a much cheaper, plastic packing product. At the very least without the lag present the experience would be much, much better.

Wrap Up

The Galaxy A8 is somewhat of a puzzling phone, to say the least. From all the press renders and pictures that had been leaked and later officially released, the device looked like it would be a truly stunning piece of kit. The new design flourishes for example: the way the side curves ever so slightly. Indeed the material itself looked to be of somewhat “better” quality, a belief perhaps fostered by use of the Galaxy S6/S6 Edge for the past few months.

samsung galaxy a8 2 5

The camera protrudes slightly less than the previous Galaxy A models.

Ultimately the only real problem with the Korean Galaxy A8 is the price, as charging $610 for a device that can’t even hold a candle to last year’s OnePlus One is a bit hard to swallow. Truth be told the experience with the A8 is quite similar to that of the previous installments in the A-series, and not unlike what we had with the HTC Desire 626 earlier this year. Unfortunately while HTC had enough Sense to price its product to better compete with rival offerings, Samsung has opted to charge above and beyond what some flagships retail for.

Even at the lower price points the device is being sold at in Asia unfortunately doesn’t compensate for the lag issues however, as there are undoubtedly cheaper local products with similar build quality and better performance. 

Samsung Galaxy A7

The Galaxy A7 certainly looks different than the A8, yet at this point is going to cost much less money despite having similar features.

It is highly unlikely that the Galaxy A8 will ever see release in North America, though given the release of the A3 in the UK, there is a possibility Europe might get it. While we suggest waiting for the full review, based on our initial time with the device, there are seemingly far better, cheaper products that can be purchased that offer similar (or better) specs at much more competitive prices, including Samsung’s own Galaxy Alpha -if you can still find it.

  • nuldolor5x.com

    I know this thing was going to lag very badly. I didn’t develop interest in the phone the moment I learnt it was going to have only 2GB of ram. I would better buy Oneplus 2 which is even cheaper.

    • My Galaxy Prime

      I lost interest when I saw “Snapdragon”

    • SaRPeR

      It has nothing to do with RAM. It is about optimization. I have Note 3 Neo with 2 GB RAM and it never lags and it scores around 40000 at Antutu.

      • leyz

        Exactly!!! people are overemphasizing the importance of Ram. It’s a matter of if the software is done properly Polish up your Touchwiz, Samsung.

  • Chirag Kalra

    Where is the video :-/

  • Johan

    Uh huh… You will also get a “Moto X Play” with the same specs, minus the thin body and fingerprint sensor, but plus a bigger battery, better camera and near stock Android for LESS THAN HALF THAT PRICE.

  • systemupdate

    it is just so interesting that Apple can sell the same device for $1000 and fans would be drooling over it and yet when Android manufacturers make ‘Amazing’ devices with great and arguably better specs, they are just a mid ranger.
    What a world we live in?!

    • My Galaxy Prime

      I have been saying this for years

    • Pez Nospam

      I don’t think iphone is laggy as suggested in the article.

  • Pez Nospam

    I think Samsung is losing the plot with that price for a laggy phone.

  • Angry Mobile Nerd

    The author has totally exaggerated the price. Even in China this phone only demands $515 USD. However, the real bargain is this phone has also just launched in Hong Kong for around HKD 3500 ($450 USD).

    You’d have to be an idiot to pay $800 on eBay for this phone.

    • Actually it’s not an exaggerated price at all. As the piece clearly states, this impressions piece is based on the Korean model, and $610 is exactly how much Samsung is charging for it in South Korea. At the time of writing, there was one Korean model on eBay and it was selling for over $800.

      • Angry Mobile Nerd

        Yes because basing pricing on what ONE person was selling it for on eBay in no way could ever be an exaggeration (that one person wasn’t you by any chance?).

        You should have left the crazy eBay price out and just used current launch MSRP’s instead. I’ll forgive you for not knowing about the Hong Kong launch because that happened a whooping two days ago (and the Taiwan launch was 2 weeks ago fyi).

        It is ridiculous to think one should have to spend more money on this than an S6.

        • The launch MSRP is indeed what I quoted in the piece. It is sold for $610 in South Korea. I purchased the device directly from Samsung, not from a carrier, and not from eBay. The 32GB S6 retails for $826.00 in South Korea for reference.

          Also I am well aware of the launches of the product in other countries given that I was the one writing most of the content for leaks. Ultimately it really doesn’t matter given that the issue being raised still holds true; the device is priced much higher than those offerings by Chinese competitors that sell superior hardware at less than half the cost.

          • Angry Mobile Nerd

            No kidding it seems every Chinese phone Android Authority has reviewed this year has got “Editor’s Choice”.

          • SaRPeR

            32 GB Galaxy S6 costs around $900 here in Turkey.

          • The_Firm

            Most likely due to tariffs from the Turkey govt and main reason items are more expensive in certain countries.

      • Tandem

        Do you know how much S6 and iPhone 6 cost in South Korea and China? When comparing smartphone prices, you need to compare the pricing in the same country. This phone is priced around $250-300 cheaper than the S6 in most countries it’s officially marketed.

        • For what it’s worth, all of my Samsung products come directly from Korea. Pricing there, as with Japan, is higher than in other territories. The price of the 32GB Galaxy S6 is 967,000 Won, or roughly $826.00. For reference here is the link:
          http://www.samsung.com/sec/consumer/mobile-tablet/mobile-phone/galaxy-s/SM-G925SZGESKO

          The 32GB Galaxy S6 is roughly that price in Japan as well, as is the Xperia Z4 and basically every other flagship
          phone.

          • SaRPeR

            32 GB Galaxy S6 costs around $900 here.

    • The_Firm

      Anyone that buys a Samsung phone on or near release is a knuckle head. Samsung’s phones are guaranteed to be cheaper 3-6 months after release. If you must have a Galaxy just wait a lil longer.

  • Andrew Tan

    My country this phone is pack with Exynos processor which is same as in Galaxy Alpha.

    Cost around USD $488

  • gilbert supeno

    but but but… oneplus 2 doesn’t have a space with the enormous sub type-c and the fingerprint scanner…

  • chris pinkston

    touchwiz sucks point blank. s6 only does ok because of the powerful hardware to push it along. Its a shame that my old m7 is probably smoother in operation than this phone and its a 2013 model. Much better options out there than this

  • joko bellboot

    I think oneplus 2 is no longer a flagship killer it is a mid range killer maybe…

  • Quikmix

    It’s a winner in the looks department, but with the OnePlus 2 and the Moto X Pure both coming with better specs and lower prices, I really don’t see how anyone could want the A8.

    The competition at $399 is heating up, and it’s great for consumers like me who aren’t willing to drop $600+ on a phone.

    • Well please be aware it is specifically $610 in Korea, as I have mentioned. Pricing differs depending on country.

    • Jesus

      The question for me (and others) would be:

      1. Can I get a OnePlus 2? (Probably no…)
      (2. What the heck is a 1+2?? It’s 3, dafuq?? – Most people have no clue.)

    • SaRPeR

      One Plus 2 ugliest phone ever made …

  • Kamalnath Kanthimathinathan

    may be pricing is samsung’s idea of a joke….

  • WarTeiner

    Snapdragon 615 45000+ in Antutu?!?!?! Really?.

    • SaRPeR

      Some Galaxy A8s have Exynos 5430. I think the A8 he has have Exynos 5430.

  • Ruturaj

    Samsung should have used 5433 in 64 bit mode.

  • Aditya Misra

    India is getting the Exynos 5430 model though which is going to make a massive difference in the context of performance. The 5430 is easily SD 801 level and the user experience will be much better as a result.

    Dont know why they have used the anemic SD 615 for this as opposed to the Exynos. Its a terrible deal.

  • SaRPeR

    Some versions of Galaxy A8 have Exynos 5430 CPU. I think you have the Exynos variant. That is why Antutu showed it as 32-bit.

  • Infidel Gastro

    Killer looks and the aluminium construction don’t make up for the wheezy performance and eye bulging price. This device smacks of mutton dressed as lamb.

  • PREM SAMEER

    BEWARE DO NOT BUY SAMSUNG A8 IF YOU A WORKING PROFESSIONAL and DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WASTE …….

    SAMSUNG SUCKS ….. I bought a SAMSUNG GALAXY A8 on 7th Aug’2015 which was defective so got a replacement on 11th Aug’2015.this placed phone is worse than the one i bought… it is lying with samsung service centre……. till today that is 03rd sep2015.

    Now, I feel that I must have bought INTEX OR LAVA instaed of wasting my Rs.32,500 in this shit of samsung… which even doesn’t know what is customer service and how a customer would feel without a phone for month…………

    HEY SAMSUNG need more details check with phone number 9711004343… and Honestly by tomorrow either give me my phone or else my money….

    My patience is over so may put samsung and service center in trouble…..

  • PREM SAMEER

    ALL LIES ther is nothing GOOD IN SAMSUNG A8

    BEWARE DO NOT BUY SAMSUNG A8 IF YOU A WORKING PROFESSIONAL and DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WASTE …….

    SAMSUNG SUCKS ….. I bought a SAMSUNG GALAXY A8 on 7th Aug’2015 which was defective so got a replacement on 11th Aug’2015.this placed phone is worse than the one i bought… it is lying with samsung service centre……. till today that is 03rd sep2015.

    Now, I feel that I must have bought INTEX OR LAVA instaed of wasting my Rs.32,500 in this shit of samsung… which even doesn’t know what is customer service and how a customer would feel without a phone for month…………

    HEY SAMSUNG need more details check with phone number 9711004343… and Honestly by tomorrow either give me my phone or else my money….

    My patience is over so may put samsung and service center in trouble…..

  • PREM SAMEER

    BEWARE DO NOT BUY SAMSUNG A8 IF YOU A WORKING PROFESSIONAL and DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WASTE …….
    SAMSUNG SUCKS ….. I bought a SAMSUNG GALAXY A8 on 7th Aug’2015 which was defective so got a replacement on 11th Aug’2015.this placed phone is worse than the one i bought… it is lying with samsung service centre……. till today that is 03rd sep2015.
    Now, I feel that I must have bought INTEX OR LAVA instaed of wasting my Rs.32,500 in this shit of samsung… which even doesn’t know what is customer service and how a customer would feel without a phone for month…………
    HEY SAMSUNG need more details check with phone number 9711004343… and Honestly by tomorrow either give me my phone or else my money….
    My patience is over so may put samsung and service center in trouble…..

  • PREM SAMEER

    ALL LIES PEOPLE THIS PHONE SUCKS NO BACK UP….OVER HEATS…. FINGERPRINT DOES NOT WORK…….. BEWARE DO NOT BUY SAMSUNG A8 IF YOU A WORKING PROFESSIONAL and DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WASTE …….
    SAMSUNG SUCKS ….. I bought a SAMSUNG GALAXY A8 on 7th Aug’2015 which was defective so got a replacement on 11th Aug’2015.this placed phone is worse than the one i bought… it is lying with samsung service centre……. till today that is 03rd sep2015.
    Now, I feel that I must have bought INTEX OR LAVA instaed of wasting my Rs.32,500 in this shit of samsung… which even doesn’t know what is customer service and how a customer would feel without a phone for month…………
    HEY SAMSUNG need more details check with phone number 9711004343… and Honestly by tomorrow either give me my phone or else my money….
    My patience is over so may put samsung and service center in trouble…..