Samsung Galaxy A9 first impressions: The first quad-camera phone is surprisingly pricey

The Samsung Galaxy A9 is the world’s first smartphone with a quad-camera setup.

‘The more the merrier’ seems to be Samsung’s slogan for its latest Galaxy A9 smartphone. At an event in Delhi today, Samsung launched what it touts as the world’s first quad-camera setup on a phone.

The phone was launched in two RAM configurations at prices of Rs 36,990 and Rs 39,990 for 6 GB and 8 GB RAM respectively. Pre-orders for the Galaxy A9 have already begun and it will start shipping on 28 November.

I got to play around with the phone for some time today, and I want to share my experience with you.

Camera and Battery

Let me begin with the two USPs of the phone clubbed together — the camera and the battery.

Samsung GalaxyA9's quad-camera setup. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

Samsung GalaxyA9's quad-camera setup. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

The Samsung Galaxy A9 has a four-camera setup at the back, which includes a whopping 24 MP primary sensor, an 8 MP ultra-wide sensor, a 10 MP telephoto lens and a 5 MP depth sensor. Up front is also a single setup of a 24 MP sensor.

Samsung Galaxy A9

You can surf through some of the images I clicked from the Galaxy A9 by clicking on the Flickr album above.

Samsung also briefed us about this new software addition it has made to the camera, which it calls the Intelligent Camera.

Basically, the software enables the camera to identify some 19 scenes, according to which it automatically adjusts light and chooses the sensor. For instance, if you are clicking pictures of mountains, the camera may automatically choose a wide-angle lens so you can capture a greater portion of the landscape. The other feature that comes as part of the Intelligent Camera is something called Flaw Detection, where the camera will let you know if a person’s eyes are shut in a selfie, for example. The Google Pixel 3 introduced similar features at launch, wherein the phone takes a bunch of photos and then picks the nicest one of the lot.

The Galaxy A9 is fuelled by a 3,800 mAh battery with support for Type-C fast charging. Looking at the glass back, you do expect wireless charging support, however, Samsung told me that the Galaxy A9 “only support fast charging and not wireless charging”.

Build, design and display

The first look at the phone had me thinking, "Eh? That’s a frickin' monster of a phone!"

Samsung Galaxy A9 feature a 6.3-inch AMOLED display. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy A9 feature a 6.3-inch AMOLED display. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

The Samsung Galaxy A9 features a 6.3-inch AMOLED display with an 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. Sadly, the phone looks very much like old-school slab of a device. Phones have gotten taller and slimmer over the years, not wider.

I have tiny hands and when I'm holding the phone, I feel like I'm Boo (from Monster's Inc.) giving Kitty a hug.

via GIPHY

Aesthetically, the build of the phone is pretty good. It comes in three colour variants, Caviar Black, Lemonade Blue and a Bubblegum Pink. The latter two colour variants are great to look at, especially with their beautiful colour scheme and gradient at the back. Unfortunately, the device I got to play around with at the launch event was the black one, and in my opinion, it was the most boring one to look at.

Chipset, storage and OS

Under the hood, the Galaxy A9 is powered by a Snapdragon 660 chipset, and yes, you're on the right track, asking 35K for a phone with a Snapdragon 660 is a bit much. Phones like the Xiaomi Mi A2, Nokia 7 Plus, and the Realme 2 Pro are powered by that chipset, and they are all priced between the 15-20k segment. I'll reserve my final judgement for the full review, but I'm already worried about the specs of the phone.

Like I said, Samsung launched two RAM variants in the phone — a 6 GB of RAM variant and an 8 GB of RAM model. Both the variants start at 128 GB storage, which you can expand via microSD (up to 512 GB).

Samsung Galaxy A8 features a 24 MP camera on the front. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

Samsung Galaxy A8 features a 24 MP camera on the front. Image: tech2/Nandini Yadav

The Galaxy A9 runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and when I asked about the timeline for the Android Pie update, I was told that would happen “soon”. On the UI-front though, at my estimate, the device comes with some 50 pre-installed apps, which includes the Google and Microsoft suite of apps and two Amazon apps, then a whole series of Samsung apps. That clutter wasn’t pretty to look at.

Conclusion

On the surface, the Galaxy A9 is undoubtedly interesting, especially with its quad-cam setup and the blue and pink colour variants. The price is the one area that's most concerning. At Rs 35,000, it's competing with the OnePlus 6T, the Asus Zenfone 5Z and the like. Though in this segment, the hardware with a four-camera setup is likely to attract many users, but in terms of software, the combination of Snapdragon 660 SoC, 6 GB RAM, and the Android Oreo-based UI, may need a lot of hard work to win the race.

Stay tuned for our full review.

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