Samsung is trying hard to promote its mid-range Galaxy A smartphones more so now than ever before. After all, it is a segment that’s seeing a lot of buzz right now thanks to brands like OnePlus and more recently Pocophone. Samsung has been around for a long time so it knows it needs to bring a flashy feature that will grab your attention for a while. It started things by bringing a triple camera Galaxy A7, but that wasn’t enough which is why the company decided to add another sensor to create a quad camera system on the new Galaxy A9.
The Galaxy A9 (2018) was launched on Thursday and just like that, Samsung announced the world’s first phone with four cameras. And the notable thing here is that it doesn’t come on a flagship Galaxy S phone, but a mid-range Galaxy A device. Four cameras are a lot of sensors for a phone, but Samsung says it will give users the ability to capture a variety of shots from a single device. I spent a very brief amount of time with the Galaxy A9 at the launch in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and here are my initial thoughts.
While the cameras are the Galaxy A9’s most defining feature, it is imperative that we talk about the unique design. The front is a familiar tall AMOLED Inifinity Display, which looks great, but the rear panel is what will attract you even more. The glass back gets a gradient colour scheme in some very funky colours called Bubblegum Pink and Lemonade Blue. The former sees shades of pink shift from light to dark from the top down, while the latter options sees a shift from green to blue. The colours also play around depending on how light bounces off. It’s a pretty design that’s not too harsh on the eyes and I’m particularly fond of the Lemonade Blue options. The Caviar Black is plain without any gradient design, but still a looker nonetheless.
The body of the Galaxy A9 is quite attractive. The glass on the back curves around the edges and into the metal frame, giving it a Galaxy S9 like comfortable and premium feel. Despite the large battery inside, the Galaxy A9 didn’t feel too heavy to hold. The power, volume and Bixby buttons on the sides also have a nice click to them. The top of the frame sees a slot that will hold two nano SIMs and a microSD card. The bottom sees a speaker grille, USB Type-C port and a headphone jack. The squarish fingerprint sensor on the back is well-positioned and made it easy to reach and identify on one go.
There is no denying that the Galaxy A9 is a tall phone thanks to a 6.3-inch FHD+ (1080×2160) Super AMOLED display. As I mostly got to use the phone indoors, I didn’t find any issues with the brightness levels and viewing angles. The display looks sharp and vivid, but slightly oversaturated which is a natural. Pictures looks sharp on this display and while Samsung didn’t explicitly mention it, the Galaxy A9 should support the Widevine L1 standard which means you will be able to stream content on Netflix and other platform on 720p resolution and higher.
The Galaxy A9 is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 660 chipset, which is a pretty powerful mid-range processor. This coupled with 6GB should offer some smooth user experience and easy multitasking. There’s also an 8GB RAM variant which will be available in select markets. Sure enough, initial usage was smooths and snappy without any lags while opening apps. Since I couldn’t put the chipset through intensive tasks during my brief time, it’s hard to say how well it handles performance heavy tasks and graphic intensive games.
The highlight of course is the quad cameras on the back of the new Galaxy A9. This setup includes a 24MP main sensor with f/1.7 aperture, an 8MP 120-degree ultra wide-angle lens with f/2.4 aperture, a 10MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and a 5MP depth sensor. The front camera also sees a 24MP selfie snapper. With all these cameras on board, the camera app becomes quite populated with features.
I was able to try out the cameras in a limited setting for a brief amount of time. in doors and with adequate lighting, photos look sharp thanks to a fast shutter speed and f/1.7 aperture. The 24MP primary camera will retain good detail. The camera app comes with a host of modes like Live Focus, Beauty, Super Slow-Mo and Scene Optimiser, among others. You can also switch between standard lens, wide-angle lens and 2X optical zoom by tapping the appropriate leaf icon on the bottom. I have been impressed with the wide-angle lens on the Galaxy A7 and my feeling remain the same for the Galaxy A9 as well.
The wide-angle lens is able to capture a lot of area in a frame. It would be wise to keep the subject right in the center as the edges will see some distortion. Notably, the camera is able to recognise the distortion and will offer you the option to correct it, which is a helpful little feature. The selfie camera tends to smoothen facial features even with beauty mode turned off. With so much going on with the cameras, we will need more time to provide some definitive conclusions.
Lastly, Samsung is also touting a large 3,800mAh battery with fast charge support via USB Type-C. You’re going to want all the battery you can get for a phone that will make you open the camera often. The battery should offer enough charge for a full day and maybe more depending on your usage. I couldn’t test the battery life in my brief time with the phone but we will have more in a detailed review.
Overall, the Galaxy A9 looks like a promising mid-range smartphone that brings an attractive design and one of the better Snapdragon processors. Samsung has priced the phone at 599 euros which comes to around Rs 51,000 in India. That’s pretty steep price for a phone with mid-range specs. The unique quad camera system will have to be really convincing in order to justify the price tag, and we will have more for you on that in our in-depth review.
Disclaimer: The reporter’s travel and stay for this event in Kuala Lumpur have been arranged by Samsung.