After (hopefully) helping you better understand the “deal” with LG’s far too similar mid-range G4 derivations, our mission of clarifying convoluted Android smartphone families enters a new phase. Today, we’re all about praising the Samsung Galaxy A roster’s full-metal diversity.
Yes, for once, you’ll see us endorse so-called “brand dilution” instead of bitching and complaining. That’s mostly because the Korea-based manufacturer dominators have been wise enough to separate the top-shelf Galaxy S line and slightly humbler A clan.
Besides, before the A8 came to light, the differences between the A3, A5 and A7 were crystal clear, and their target audiences easy to deduce even only judging from the names and numeric suffixes. The A3 is the entry-level member, although nowhere near as modest as, say, Moto Es, the A5 takes up a higher branch of the totem pole and the A7 comes fairly close to flagship material.
Not as close as the A8, obviously, but we’ll tackle the specifics of the quartet’s key variations as follows:
Samsung Galaxy A8 vs A7 vs A5 vs A3 – pricing and availability
It’s perhaps needless to mention the new head of the household hasn’t gone on sale yet. However, we have a pretty good guess of how much it’s going to cost – north of $500 contract-free. Steep? A little, especially as the GS6 was recently dropped by Amazon to a palatable $555.
Any US carrier pickups on the horizon? We can hope, but they feel rather implausible at the moment.
Design and build comparison
Construction is one of the main reasons we dig the Galaxy A family as a whole. You don’t often see low-enders as robust and premium as their superior siblings, yet save for footprints, the A3, A5 and A7 are essentially identical. All-metal, slender, with slim screen bezels in tow, sharp corners and neat industrial vibes.
Oh, okay, maybe A3’s bezels are a bit chunkier. And the A8 is hands down the clan’s looker, shaving vertical display borders off almost altogether and measuring a mouth-watering 5.9 mm in depth. But all four As catch the eye with svelte figures: 6.9, 6.7 and 6.3 mm for the A3, A5 and A7 respectively.
Display and cameras
From top to bottom, we have 5.7-inch 1,080p, 5.5-inch 1,080p, 5-inch 720p and 4.5-inch qHD Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreens. The resulting pixel density sits at 386, 401, 294 and 245 ppi. See, a smaller panel can definitely have its benefits.
Above all, we’d like to underline there’s something for virtually everybody here, and camera sensors make it even more abundantly clear various classes of customers are catered to. The best photographic unit is evidently provided by the A8 (a 16 MP powerhouse), with A3’s 8 megapixel shooter at the other end of the spectrum.
In the middle, the A5 and A7 don’t disappoint, with interchangeable 13 MP autofocus/LED flash rear cams. As far as selfie equipment goes, there’s no discrimination – everybody gets 5 MP front-facing snappers, no flash included. Bummer? Nah, Sammy always knows how to treat its most narcissistic fans.
Processors, RAM and battery life
Qualcomm may have lost probably the biggest Android chip-supplying contract of 2015, “forcing” Samsung to go the Exynos path to dodge the overheating woes of the Snapdragon 810. But they didn’t lose the OEM’s trust in the low to mid-end segment, with octa-core Snapdragon 615 SoCs on the A8 and A7, and quad-core S410 arrangements delivered to the A3 and A5.
You get 2 GB memory, you get 2 GB memory, everybody gets 2 GB memory… except for the 1.5 gig RAM Galaxy A3. But hey, that’s plenty to adequately ensure Android 4.4 or 5.0’s average requirements, as well as great bang for your buck at sub-$250.
As always, autonomy is a delicate issue and depends on a number of subjective factors. Not to mention no one’s got the chance to fiddle with the Galaxy A8 until now. In theory, even if it’s the thinnest handheld put under the microscope today, the A8 should last longest between charges, thanks to a sizable 3,050 mAh cell.
The A7 renounces around 400 mAh capacity, the A5 further trims the volume to 2,300 mAh, and the A3 settles for a tiny 1,900 mAh pacemaker. On the plus side, the energy needs of the four devices are different, so at the end of the day, they all likely boast 12 hour+ endurance numbers in continuous talk time.
Software, storage and others
The new guy runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out the box, the OGs all come pre-installed with 4.4 KitKat and upgradeable to 5.0 L. On top of that, TouchWiz UI sprinkles a few goodies and add-ons across the board, and hopefully, Android M bumps are also guaranteed across the board.
Digital hoarders should be happy to hear microSD expansion isn’t restricted on any of the A-series phones, with 16 GB the base internal capacity of the entire ensemble, and 32 gigs offered as a costlier alternative on the Galaxy A8.
Connectivity-wise, 4G LTE support has your back for speedy network access everywhere (just not stateside), with Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC covering all the standard bases. Wait, no, sorry, the A8 is Bluetooth 4.1-enabled.
And it’s also the only one capable of recognizing your fingerprint and using it as a security-enhancing feature, via home button touch. Ah, what we wouldn’t give for at least one easily removable battery or water-protected body. Maybe premium sound enhancements of sorts…? Samsung Pay support? Wireless charging?
Guess you really can’t have it all at $230 or $280. Or $700, for that matter. We’ll always find something to undermine a smartphone’s excellence. That said, these four come so close to non-flagship perfection, they can almost touch it.