Samsung has been the frontrunner in the mobile phone game for a decade or so, and it has shaped the industry into what we see today. In this process, Samsung has popularized many trends – like wireless charging, infinity displays – and defied many others – like the notch. Samsung Galaxy A9 is a device which does both – defies the trend of triple cameras but tries to popularize the concept of four cameras instead. Does it succeed?
Since the moment I started using the Galaxy A9, I have honestly only had mixed feelings about the answer to the question, especially taking a look at Samsung’s audacious pricing which starts at Rs 36,990.
The idea of “four cameras” is something that instantly grabs attention, but the impression might change once you start using the phone. However, its taffy-inspired colors surely make it an eye candy for the younger users out there.
After all, this Samsung Galaxy A9 is about exploring uncharted avenues and the South Korean giant’s choice to introduce four cameras is definitely worth weighing to verify whether having four cameras covers all bases. You may call it a gimmick that a slowly plunging (at least in context of popularity) company is using to keep its consumers entertained if not entirely engaged.
So, in this review, we’ll take a look at Samsung’s claims with maximum veracity and least bias. While the quad cameras are arguably its most intriguing aspect, we will take a look at what else the smartphone offers, and whether it’s a good all-round package.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the specifications of the Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Specifications
Evidently, the biggest and the most gripping highlight of the Galaxy A9 is its set of four cameras on the back, but that’s not all. Let’s take a look:
|Display||6.3” Full HD+ Super AMOLED, 1080×2220 pixels
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 660|
|RAM||6/8 GB RAM|
|Storage||128 GB, expandable upto 512GB via microSD|
|Primary Camera||Main Camera : 24MP AF, F1.7 + Telephoto : 2X optical zoom, 10MP AF, F2.4 + Ultra Wide : 120°, 8MP, F2.4
+ Depth : 5MP, F2.2
|Secondary Camera||24MP (F2.0)|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor|
|Network and Connectivity||LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), VHT80, Bluetooth v5.0 (LE), USB Type-C, NFC, GPS, Glonass|
|Body||162.5 x 77 x 7.8 mm, 183g|
The Galaxy A9 also comes with the same specifications that you might find on a Xiaomi smartphone at almost half the price, but that’s what you have to pay for a ride aboard the “brand value” train. While I realize these specifications might not exactly be exciting, Samsung seems to be confident that it will titillate (at least) Samsung fans.
But before I take any more digs at the pricing, let me tell you about what all comes in the box.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Box Contents
The box packaging of the Galaxy A9 is pretty standard and you get the following inside it:
- Samsung Galaxy A9 handset
- 15W charging brick
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- Samsung in-ear headset
- TPU clear case
- SIM ejector
- Manuals and paperwork
I admire the fact that Samsung is including in-ear style earphones within the box, which I am actually very fond of because of their clarity and a good amount of isolation. Further, the clear case is where Samsung has begun following the suit of Chinese competitors trying to lure Indian users by adding freebies. This case is pretty durable, and since it’s clear, it does not steal the thunder away from the dazzling back.
Now that we’ve already begun talking about the sparkling back, let me also take you through the overall build and design of the Galaxy A9.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Design and Build Quality
There’s no harm in pointing that Samsung’s take on design is not too diverse and it almost seems that the entire design team is concentrated on making the next Galaxy S-series or Note series product more appealing than the previous one while almost the same design trickles down to its smartphones intended for lower price brackets.
The same can be seen here, with only distinguishing factor (from the Galaxy A7) being the four cameras on the back. The boxy design slapped with so many cameras is almost intimidating and concerning. With its rounded rectangle design – the essence of which can also be spotted within the Samsung Experience UI – the phone looks a bit outdated.
The neon colors of the Galaxy A9 somehow manage to save it from being a boring phone, but it is unlikely to appeal customers in all age groups. If you’re someone who might actually be attracted by this, let me tell you that these accents actually use a gradient and would appear differently based on how you hold it. I personally prefer the “Lemonade Blue” (random history lesson: pink lemonade is actually more popular and was invented accidentally) over the “Bubblegum Pink” but that is probably because of the gender-specific social conditioning.
When I shift my attention towards the front, I find the sight rather soothing. The front of the smartphone accommodates a 6.3-inch FullHD+ Super AMOLED “Infinity Display” panel which has immaculate quality. As we already know, many other leading smartphone brands including Apple and OnePlus rely on Samsung for its OLED displays, and the panel justifies its monopoly in the game. I’m delighted to see that the sparkling colors do not make their way to the front and the minimal bezels here are black.
The back is made out glass but there’s no wireless charging support. While the display is protected under Gorilla Glass 6, the exact generation of Corning’s protective glass shielding the glass back is not clear.
Along the edges, you find ports and mics, buttons and slots, as usual. The right side carries the volume rocker, and the power button while the left side features a dedicated button for Bixby, which I accidentally pressed many times while taking screenshots and ended up loathing myself because Bixby is just not my thing – as I’m sure it’s not for many others either.
On the top is the SIM tray, which conveniently accepts two SIM cards and a microSD, along with a noise-canceling microphone. The bottom of the Galaxy A9 is reserved for a USB type-C port, headphone jack, and a solo speaker.
Overall, the Galaxy A9 does feel slightly hefty and using it would be a two-hand affair if you have small or medium-sized hands. At 183 grams, the phone is not necessarily light but you wouldn’t feel the bloat unless you’re using a thick protective case. But then, this is also something that you’d get used to, over time.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Display
As I noted in the previous section, Samsung is really at the top of its game when it comes to the quality of AMOLED displays which is why we can see that even some of its rather affordable smartphones come with AMOLED displays. Even on the Galaxy A9, we can see that the display is something that you cannot really complain about. It is super bright, very rich when it comes to colors, vibrant, and has a good contrast.
Colors, whether natural or artificially enhanced, pop out – thus, laying out a dramatic and vivid picture. And while the display is not certified for HDR content officially, watching videos with a wide dynamic range actually feels like a bliss. The text appears clear and crisp and I have had no problem, whatsoever, while swiping across, tapping, or typing on the screen.
The display is also certified with Widevine L1 license for HD and Full HD content via paid video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies etc. and while I’m not really a binge-watcher, I found myself easily drifting on to the next episode, and consuming much more video content than I usually do.
With this large screen, Samsung has omitted the notch and while, it is as tall as the one on OnePlus 6T, the bezels on the top and the bottom of the display make the smartphone slightly larger than what is exactly appealing to the eye, but the expansive display should help you forgive this slight demerit.
The display, being an AMOLED, also remains always on and like any other Samsung smartphone, the interface is neatly laid and you also get colored badges for incoming notifications in this state.
I really enjoyed the display and have no complaints about it at all.
If you’re looking for the best display on a smartphone under Rs 40,000, the Galaxy A9 should definitely be among your primary choices.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Camera
The camera is not only one of the USPs of the Galaxy A9 but also what Samsung is presumably using to justify the high price. We tried to get a variety of shots with the Galaxy A9 and have attempted to bring you a wholesome picture of what the smartphone is capable of.
The quad camera comprises a 24-megapixel primary sensor with f/1.7 sensor aimed at providing ample muscle power for night light shots, a 10-megapixel telephoto sensor for 2x zoom, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor for a 120-degree field of view, and lastly a 5-megapixel sensor for sensing depth to render images with bokeh effects.
Let’s take a look at some of the samples of the Galaxy A9’s cameras.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Camera Samples: Daylight
In daylight, the Galaxy A9 manages to capture colors really well, but falls flat when it comes to details, especially when the object is too close or too far.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Camera Samples: Low Light
When there’s low light, the smartphone really struggles to capture details, especially when the object is moving. Unlike daylight pictures, here the saturation is overblown and makes the image look unnatural. Further, the smartphone often fails at retaining ample light in the image.
The wide-angle sensor increases the depth of view from 78-degrees to 120-degrees, offering a wider frame, although at the expense of a slight fish-eye effect. I am really fascinated by this lens and it is probably the only thing that the Galaxy A9 is better at than most other phones in its competition.
In low light, however, details are visibly lost due to the smaller f/2.4 aperture of the wide-angle sensor.
Telephoto (2X Zoom)
The Galaxy A9 also packs in a 2X lens which helps bring distant objects nearer, but it might not be the best option when it comes to low light because of the smaller aperture compared to the main 24-megapixel sensor.
The bottom-most sensor on the Galaxy A9 works as a dedicated 5MP depth sensor and despite that, the portrait mode shots are far from impressive. As you can see edge detection is not the best in class.
When there are more than one faces in the frame, the Galaxy A9 focuses on a single person and blurs out the rest.
On the front, there’s a 24-megapixel sensor and to be honest, it is not surprising at all. Often, the front camera feels sloppy and to be able to click the best selfie for your Instagram account, you really need a lot of patience and multiple attempts.
In low light, especially, the front camera fails to maintain a high dynamic range or match the lighting as per the object in focus, leaving the background over or underexposed.
The Galaxy A9 also gets a selfie panorama mode, but I would have appreciated had Samsung put three cameras on the back and one more on the front – like Pixel 3 – for wide-angle selfies.
The camera’s struggle with retaining detail is even more apparent when you’re clicking a selfie in portrait mode and it simply struggles to detect edges cleanly. When it does manage to get the edges right, the over-smoothening of images can make you groan.
The Galaxy A9 is capable of capturing 4K UHD videos and has EIS, which only works when you’re shooting at Full HD. The videos are just average and while the stabilization is solid, you’ll be required to lower down the resolution and thus, sacrifice on quality.
I’ve embedded the below with the exact timestamp where you can see how the A9 performs while taking videos.
While Samsung promoted the Galaxy A9 as a camera-centric smartphone, it does not live up to the expectation. Meanwhile, we have looked at how two other similarly priced smartphones – OnePlus 6T and Pixel 2 perform.
So here’s a quick comparison:
The OnePlus 6T Captures More detail than the A9!
As you can see that the Pixel 2 shines out as the best out of the group while the Galaxy A9 performs the worst compared to both smartphones in all situations. The A9 only excels when it comes to exposure.
We’ll also bring you a detailed comparison soon, with more images and in different lighting conditions to help you judge better if the winner is not yet clearly visible.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Performance
Performance is one area where Samsung Galaxy A9 falls short of the competitors. While noteworthy smartphones in the segment come with flagship Snapdragon CPUs, the A9 is still stuck with Snapdragon 660, which has very much made a home for itself in the mid-range segment of smartphones. The processor can be seen usually powering phones in the sub-Rs 20,000 segment, but Samsung still banks on it despite the almost flagship-like pricing.
We would have forgiven the choice had it not hampered the performance of the device. To cut it short, the Galaxy A9 is not as powerful as its peers. When it comes to gaming, the smartphone can handle basic to moderately heavy games but as you move up the pyramid, the Galaxy A9 starts showing its true colors – and they are not as shiny or attractive as the smartphone’s blazing back.
You get options between 6GB and 8GB RAM variants – priced at Rs 36,990 and Rs 39,990, respectively – and we tested the 6GB variant. I did not have any problem while multitasking and the phone can keep at least 10-12 apps alive at the same time – although these apps went into hibernation when left inactive for a long duration.
Playing demanding games such as PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 on the Galaxy A9 is taxing and almost made me lose my calm. This is because, the graphics appear distorted and there are plenty of frame drops; the gameplay was noticeably jittery. After spending significant time with the Poco F1, I wouldn’t have gone through the pain of playing games on this device if it wasn’t for the review.
PUBG Mobile was laggy and there are noticeable frame drops, even at Medium graphics settings. So as long as you’re playing light games like Guns of Boom, Knife Hit, Horizon, SBK 16, you won’t have any issues, but with heavier games like PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9, Mortal Kombat X, you will either suffer due to the choppy frame rate and the low graphics fidelity, which is neither justified nor acceptable at this price.
In terms of general use, the performance is just average and not surprising at all. But I was dazzled the most when I saw this phone score comparably to the Realme U1 on benchmarks, which costs less than half of what Samsung is asking for the A9.
Benchmark Scores: AnTuTu, GeekBench 4, 3D Mark
The Snapdragon 660 on the Galaxy A9 paired to 6GB of RAM (on our test unit) offers middling performance, resulting in scores on par with other Snapdragon 660 devices. Further, the Samsung Experience can sometimes get overwhelming, which might also lead to lower than expected scores.
Here are the AnTuTu, GeekBench 4, and 3DMark scores associated with the smartphone:
In a price-wise comparison, the Galaxy A9 is mercilessly beaten by its biggest challenger the OnePlus 6T, which is powered by the most powerful processor currently available for Android phones.
In terms of audio or video playback, the Galaxy A9’s solo speaker seems very powerful and punchy, although I found myself longing for more bass. However, the bundled earphones have great audio quality and you also get Dolby Audio support which boosts the output slightly when you connect any wired or Bluetooth headset, so much so that listening to music at the maximum volume can be tough most of the time.
Overall, I have no complaints with the audio experience on the Galaxy A9, and this is in line with superb multimedia capabilities of the smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Software Experience
Samsung Experience 9.0 based on Android 8.0 is what drives the Galaxy A9 on the user experience (UX) front. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of this interface, even though it is a gazillion times better than the lousy TouchWiz UI which Samsung phones had a few years ago.
My reason for not liking this user interface (UI) is that it looks like a crossbreed of stock Android and other UIs with absurd shapes and no app drawer, as preferred by many Chinese vendors. Samsung appears to have put in an extra effort to ensure that even though it has elements of both these UIs, it does not look or function like either.
From the stock Android interface, Samsung Experience skin borrows an app drawer, clean quick settings panel as well as the settings interface while it appears to be inspired by MIUI-like skins when you find bloatware such as Daily Hunt and a series of Samsung apps including Samsung Mall, Samsung Max, My Galaxy etc.
The company also promotes its own app store, recommending you to download and buy wallpapers, themes, ringtones etc from the “Galaxy Apps” store.
The Galaxy A9 also comes with Samsung Pay which works over NFC as well as facilitates UPI payments, which means in India, you’ll either be limited to select POS terminals which support NFC or “Wave N Pay”. The shortcut for Samsung Pay keeps prompting you to add your cards, and is almost intrusive.
Another peeve I have with the Samsung Experience interface is that despite the large screen, Samsung has been reluctant to include navigation gestures. It will be interesting to see how the UI fares when the Android Pie update brings a much cleaner One UI.
However, there are some points that show the Samsung Experience UI in good light too. Firstly, it seems pretty polished and there are no bleeding edges when it comes to delivering what it promises. Multi-window and Picture-in-picture work like a charm and while the animations are slow, they do not appear sloppy in any way.
To sum it up, the UI is not terrible but not as clean or simplistic as stock Android. So, upgrading from a smartphone running vanilla Android to another by Samsung could weigh down some users, But if you’re keen on learning new ways of accomplishing the usual chores, you might have an easier time.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Battery
Without a doubt, the Galaxy A9 is a great and noteworthy smartphone when it comes to multimedia. Naturally, one of the areas where a great phone for entertainment is expected to excel is in terms of battery life and here, the Galaxy A9 is A-one. Samsung has installed a 3,800mAh battery on this device which lives up to the general trend observed on Samsung devices.
During moderate usage, the phone easily lasts between 22 to 24 hours with more four and a half hours of using the screen. When running heavy and demanding tasks, the A9 lasts well over 14-15 hours and you can easily watch videos or binge on shows at maximum screen brightness for more than 7 hours easily.
When it comes to charging, the bundled charger rated at 15W takes merely 1 hour 25 minutes to go from 10% battery to 100% battery. The technology governing this is called Adaptive Fast Charging using which the Galaxy A9 consumes 35 minutes to go from 10% to 50%. While it cannot exactly be called mind-blowing, the rate of charging on this device is impressive and convenient.
Samsung Galaxy A9 Connectivity
In terms of connectivity, the Galaxy A9 scores all the basic options such as Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wi-Fi, LTE, as well as NFC. For wired connections, you get the 3.5mm headphone jack as well as the a USB-C port, which BTW cannot be used for audio playback through Type-C earphones.
The smartphone supports dual VoLTE connectivity such that both SIM are capable of sending or receiving calls over data connection without requiring you to switch between your primary and secondary numbers. Galaxy A9 has decent connectivity and call quality and this on par with most smartphones almost tending towards the flagship segment (or certain others which challenge such phones).
Samsung Galaxy A9 Security
The Galaxy A9 gets basic security features such as fingerprint and Face Unlock. The fingerprint scanner on the smartphone feels cramped and is not fast at all. Further, the slow wake up animation makes it almost dreadful. The Face unlocking, too, misses the mark here with very slow performance and high dependency on a bright light source.
I have noticed that using the fingerprint becomes slightly easy if you’re using a cover because it helps you position the finger correctly. But that isn’t very assuring and I hope Samsung improves the fingerprint reader using a software update in future.
Samsung Galaxy A9: Pros and Cons
The Galaxy A9 is a smartphone is a striking smartphone majorly because of its quad cameras and somewhat because of its bewitching colors. However, after using it for more than 10 days, I can admit that it is not very exciting and has areas where it falls short, and what it does well.
- Stunning Display
- Great Battery
- Appreciably fast charging
- Still has a headphone jack
- Wide-angle camera
- Dual VoLTE and reliable connectivity
- Quad cameras fail to impress
- Average performance
- No navigation gestures
- Slow fingerprint scanner
- Bloated UI
Samsung Galaxy A9: Quad Cameras Fail to Justify the Hype
Samsung pulled an ambitious stunt by launching the world’s first smartphone with four camera but it appears that it made a hasty move. This is because, despite the four cameras, the Galaxy A9 clicks average pictures and the only saving grace is the wide-angle camera which stirs up things slightly, although failing to completely make up for lacking cameras.
I have come to feel that the Galaxy A9 is better suited for entertainment because of its powerful audio delivery and a bright and beautiful display, which also supports HD playback on Netflix and other OTT video services.
The boxy design with curved corners makes the A9 look outdated although the dazzling colors make up for it.
The device is great when it comes to connectivity and the dedicated micro SD slot affirms the fact that Samsung still expects its users to carry a lot of media with them on the move. Lastly, in terms of performance too, the Galaxy A9 does not impress, although it would not make you feel restricted either. I’m not a big fan of Samsung’s UI but it can be worked with, if you have the patience.
If you’re in the market for a good camera smartphone, with a budget floating along the Rs 40,000 mark, the Pixel 2 or the Pixel 2 XL (starts at Rs 45,499) will be better options than the Samsung Galaxy A9. Additionally, you also get a flagship processor – Snapdragon 835, which might be a year old but does not feel as impractical as Snapdragon 660 for Rs 40,000.
However, if performance is your main criteria and you can be okay with a decent camera, OnePlus 6T (starts at Rs. 37,999) should definitely be your option.
The Galaxy A9 only makes sense if you’re comfortable with the Samsung ecosystem or use smart devices made by Samsung – such as the Galaxy Watch – and are unwilling to move out of your comfort zone.