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Review 6 min read 5 comments

Samsung Galaxy A9 hands-on: quad camera for the poser generation

The Samsung Galaxy A9 is here! Samsung packs a total of five cameras, a gigantic display and a huge battery into its new model - well, what do you call something like that? A mid-range flagship? Whatever it may be, the newest member of the A-Series breaks with Samsung's previous strategy. Instead of introducing new features in the S-Class and then reaching down all over the alphabet, the Galaxy A9 is now the first to undergo the supposed camera revolution.

Upper class price for the middle class

A price tag higher than $999 is normal for a flagship nowadays, and the mid-range class is increasing its price accordingly: the Galaxy A9 costs 599 euros (around $690). With this price, Samsung has to compete directly with competitors like Honor 10 and the OnePlus 6T, which will be announced on October 30th. At its market launch, the Galaxy A9 will definitely have rivals. Apropos: The Galaxy A9 will be arriving in European markets in November, just in time for the Christmas business.

Color inspired by Huawei

The front and back of the Samsung Galaxy A9 are made of Gorilla Glass 5. An aluminium frame holds the amazingly large smartphone together. The 6.3-inch format may not seem so massive by today's standards. After Samsung has done without the notch and the chin below the screen is comparatively large, the Galaxy A9 is more massive than many a competitor with the same display size. 

Like the first Galaxy smartphone, the A9 is also available with a color gradient as we know it from various Huawei smartphones. The color variants are Lemonade Blue and Bubblegum Pink. If you like it more discreet, you can go for Caviar Black.

samsung galaxy a9 back side
This color variant is named Bubblegum Pink. / © AndroidPIT

Huge 6.3-inch display

For the 6.3-inch panel, Samsung relies on AMOLED technology . The resolution of Full-HD+ with 2,220 x 1,080 pixels is completely sufficient for the first impressions despite the size. Everything looks razor sharp, the color representation is very bright, as usual with OLEDs, but most users are more likely to like this.

samsung galaxy a9 chin
FHD+ is just enough for the display size. / © AndroidPIT

Bixby button in the A-Class

The Samsung Galaxy A9 is the first A-series smartphone with a Bixby button . However, we waited in vain for new announcements about Bixby itself at the press conference - and as with the other smartphones of the S and Note series, reprogramming the button on the A9 is not possible.

The Galaxy A9's fingerprint sensor is located on the back and not in the on/off button on the right, as on the 2018 A7.

samsung galaxy a9 bixby
The Samsung Galaxy A9 has a Bixby button. / © AndroidPIT

Standard Samsung software with Android 8.0

The Galaxy A9 unfortunately still comes with Android 8.0 . The interface called Samsung Experience doesn't differ from the previous Samsung smartphones according to the first impressions. The Korean company has not yet announced a date for the update to Android Pie.

samsung galaxy a9 front
The interface on the A9 has few surprises in store. / © AndroidPIT

Only a Snapdragon 660?

The Galaxy A9 is powered by Qualcomm's mid-range Snapdragon 660 chip , an Octa core with four Cortex A73 and Cortex A53 based chips each, and an Adreno-512 GPU. In terms of performance, you can sort the chip roughly between Snapdragon 820 and 835, and the smartphone feels correspondingly fast to operate. There are no rough jerks, but the new A-Class doesn't feel as direct as the Google Pixel 3. I think a Snapdragon 660 is not enough in this price range.

The main memory has a capacity of 6 GB. There is 128 GB of integrated memory, which can be expanded by up to 512 GB via microSD. In addition to the microSD slot, the Galaxy A9 also offers two SIM slots that do not allow simultaneous 4G operation.

samsung galaxy a9 lower part
USB-C port supports USB 2.0 only. / © AndroidPIT

Still has an audio jack

In terms of audio capabilities, the Samsung Galaxy A9  offers the standard fare . There is a mono speaker on the bottom and: Hooray, the jack port is still on board.

Are 5 cameras really useful?

More than the total of five cameras in a smartphone has only been available in Amazon's fever dream called Fire Phone. The good news first: The lens salad on the back of the A9 can only make more sense. From top to bottom can be found here:

  • 120-degree ultra-wide angle, 8MP, F2.4
  • 2x telephoto, 10MP F2.4
  • Standard focal length, 24MP, F1.7
  • Auxiliary camera for Bokeh photos, 5MP, F2.2

As great as this looks on the data sheet, 50 percent of the cameras could be superfluous . The 120-degree wide-angle camera could be used as an auxiliary camera for the Bokeh photos. Even Samsung itself has shown that this is possible since the Galaxy Note8. And also the reason for the existence of the tele-camera can be argued about. The 24-megapixel module has approximately the same angular resolution as the telephoto sensor - but with better light intensity. 

samsung galaxy a9 camera app
In the camera app, there are a few tree symbols for changing the focal length. / © AndroidPIT

Useful or not: Samsung offers various shooting modes that allow the sensors to be used in different combinations or to combine four pixels into one in poor lighting conditions. There is also an obligatory AI on board, which assigns the subject to one of 19 different types. At least I'm really happy about the wide angle sensor, sense and nonsense of the other modules will be clarified by a detailed test.

The Selfie camera offers 24 megapixels and an F2.0 lens. In the app there are various lighting options for portraits available, as we have already seen on the iPhone X.

Big, fast battery

Apart from the performance, the 14-nanometer Snapdragon 660 has inherited a number of features from the 835 - in addition to Bluetooth 5.0, Quick Charge 4.0 should be mentioned. The battery offers 3,720 mAh - Samsung hasn't revealed any concrete figures on charging speed yet.  Unfortunately, wireless charging is not on board.

samsung galaxy a9 backtop
Too bad: Despite the glass back, wireless charging is not supported. / © AndroidPIT

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) technical specifications

Dimensions: 162.5 x 77 x 7.8 mm
Weight: 183 g
Battery size: 3800 mAh
Screen size: 6.3 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2220 x 1080 pixels (392 ppi)
Front camera: 24 megapixels
Rear camera: 24 megapixels
Flashlight: LED
Android version: 8.0 - Oreo
RAM: 6 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
Removable storage: microSD
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.2 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Too much hot air?

Honestly? The Galaxy A9 is at first glance a solid smartphone that should sell well even with two cameras less on the back. Do I just have to think about the Polos on the McDonalds parking lot, decorated with spoilers, a nasty look and four tailpipes? Or is the Galaxy A9 the perfect device for the Instagram generation?

I'm feeling a lot of hot air from Samsung here. Instead of high-end hardware at SoC, display & so on., Samsung relies on four cameras. But is this the right way to go? For me, the Galaxy A9 makes the wrong compromises, but I'm still happy to let it change my mind in a final test.

5 comments

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  • Remember how we all laughed at the fact that the day we would see an iPhone with a screen taller then 4" it would probably be 2" wide by 6" tall? Yeah, that's how I feel about more then 2 Camera Lenses on back of a smartphone! 😅

    Can someone please Photoshop a smartphone for April Fool's Day next year that shows the back of it as all camera lenses with just the one fingerprint scanner?😅


  • I feel the quad cameras are a gimmick


  • That was awesome update


  • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

    The a and j lines have always struck me as way overpriced poseur phones.


  • Commented on the other article, about liking the idea of 2x optical, but have been observing that the current explosion of "innovative" lens/sensor configurations seems to have stalled third-party app development, so that a buyer is more and more likely to be stuck with the OEM's stock camera app, for better or worse. Samsung has competent devs for this, other marginal OEMs simply don't, and aren't likely to attract any third party developers for a tiny market. The two camera apps I use on my aging Android L phone produce dramatically better JPEGs than ZTE's, and even force good DNGs from the old API, but have not been updated since last year. I doubt either app would work right on most of the bug-eyed phones being churned out currently.

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