2018 has been one of the most interesting years for mobile technology, not because we saw mind-boggling flagships with groundbreaking features, but also these features slowly trickled down to the midrange segment. Companies have long focused only on developing markets like the USA and Europe, now it's time for the developing regions.
It's no surprise that budget and midrange segments constitute a majority of the sales in markets like India, now that we've seen aggressively priced phones for the last few years, what more can makers do to lure buyers? Add new features, even if they are just a gimmick. The notch is a prime example, but many worthwhile additions like the in-display fingerprint scanner and top-of-the-line processors have made their way to the midrange segment.
While we've seen companies like Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, and Huawei go all-out in terms of pricing and features offered this year, Samsung has been oddly silent. Not for long though, with the A7 (2018), things are changing, and the behemoth is finally feeling the heat from the competition.
The triple camera lens setup on the rear is the A7's forte, and also the most marketed feature. The Huawei P20 Pro also has one, and it has created a storm in the mobile photography world. Is the A7's setup able to actually perform, or just a gimmick? Let's find out:1. Design and Hardware:
When you first look at the phone, it has an eerily similar design to we've seen on all other Samsung phones. But, it all changes when you look closely. The back is made of glass and has a mirrored finish, giving it a very premium yet subtle feel. The front has an average chin and top, but the bezels are huge by Samsung standards.
For years, Samsung has stressed on its Infinity Display technology, no mention of that here. I wouldn't complain though, in the end, the bezels are tolerable and the 18.5:9 notch-less display is stunning thanks to a 6-inch Super AMOLED panel. While the company did cut corners in the front design, the back makes up for it.
The display is class-leading, colours are perfectly saturated, brightness is sufficient, and viewing angles are exemplary as well.
Ergonomically speaking, the device has a solid feel but is very slippery thanks to the glass back. The power button cum fingerprint scanner has been shifted to the right side and is perfectly located for your thumb to reach quickly.
There's a minor indent in the body to help you find the scanner easily and the volume rockers sit just above it. You may end up pressing the volume rockers at the beginning instead of the power button, but you'll have a hang of it soon. Even though the scanner is a lot thinner now, it is fast and accurate.
The speaker, a micro-USB port, and the 3.5mm headphone jack sit on the bottom, while the SIM card and microSD card slot are on the left. The triple camera set up on the back is slightly protruded and barely wobbles the phone.2. Performance:
The phone is powered by an octa-core Exynos 7885 SoC clocked up to 2.2Ghz. It is accompanied with 4 or 6GB RAM and 64 or 128GB internal storage. In simpler terms, the processor is on-par with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 series and supports 4K video recording as well.
Honestly, this is where the phone disappoints. Even if we don't consider the POCO F1 and its Snapdragon 845 SoC, the A7 lags and struggles a lot more than the Nokia 7 Plus and its Snapdragon 660 SoC. While it did get regular tasks like browsing, social media, and entertainment pretty well, you open Snapchat and the skirmish begins.
Playing games like PUBG is even more disappointing, as the frame drops are frequent and the overall experience is rarely smooth. I'd say the issue isn't just because of the chipset, as the Samsung UI on top of stock Android is also to be partially blamed, although more on that later.
For a normal joe, the phone is perfectly fine. But if you intend to have above average multi-tasking, keeping multiple browser tabs open, or gaming, you shouldn't consider this phone. The phone has a 3300mAh battery that does a fabulous job of getting you through a full day of heavy usage with data connectivity switch on all the time.
While the phone takes almost 2 hours to fully charge, it makes up for the long charge time by heavily optimising background apps and the standby time is insane.3. Software:
The phone ships with Samsung Experience 9.0, built on top of Android 8.0 Oreo. It brings a host of new features like gesture navigation, always-on display, smart view, biking mode, multi-window, and Bixby. While I do appreciate the addition of many of these features, the company hasn't been able to make sure that these don't hinder with the day-to-day running of the phone.
The UI often stutters and pushing out updates for such a heavily customized skin is going to be a daunting task for the company. To add to this, the phone ships with a list of bloatware apps like Amazon, Microsoft Office apps, and Samsung's own version of all utility apps.
Ultimately, the UI is a very subjective thing. Many prefer the clean UX of stock Android, while many do appreciate the add-ons Samsung Experience has to offer.4. Camera:
This is the most interesting part of the phone and Samsung has cut no corners. The rear has a 24-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel wide angle lens, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. They are vertically located and are fully operational via the Samsung Camera app only.
The primary lens is able to capture sharp pictures that tend to look slightly oversaturated, but that can be toned down. The white balance is perfect and auto-focus is quick. To capture pictures with a bokeh effect, just switch to the Live Focus mode and you can control the depth of the picture, even after you've clicked it.
The phone comes with a plethora of modes like Beauty, Scene Optimiser, Hyperlapse, and Slow Motion. The portrait mode is very well exported when clicking in well-lit conditions, but often lapses when the person is wearing a headgear, or the surrounding isn't easily distinguishable. The Live Focus feature though is just one part of the story.
This is the first phone in the price segment to feature a wide-angle lens, and it's too good to be true. The wide-angle lens has a 120 degree field of view and can be toggled with just one click. The pictures captured are sharp, the colours are sublime, and the amount of details it can capture is fascinating. If you travel a lot and are looking for the best way to capture the maximum amount of landscape, this phone can be your best friend.
In low-light, the focus tends to be too slow, and the pictures often come out blurry. The LED flash has a slightly warmer tone, giving the images a more natural look. HDR can be set to auto and it does a pretty good job as well. On the front, the phone has a 24-megapixel selfie shooter that works splendidly in daylight but fails miserably in even slightly dim areas.
This is definitely not a selfie phone and has been made for the photography enthusiasts out there, who'd like to play around with the fisheye effect of the wide-angle lens.
Overall, no, the triple camera setup isn't just a gimmick. It works, and the Ultra Wide pictures are mesmerizing. Even though the Live Focus feature disappoints sometimes, when it works, it's flawless. And for the artists out there, the Pro mode is going to come extremely handy.
© MensXP5. The Final Say:
For a starting price of Rs 23,990, the A7 is a very well balanced phone. The wide angle lens is something that helps it stand out, while all other features come with a set of their own pros and cons. Compare this phone to the POCO F1, except for the raw processing power, and the A7 excels at all other departments, including design, display, and camera.
The phone gets everything right for the normal joe. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, fast fingerprint scanner, excellent battery life, expandable storage, and dual-SIM setup. The software is something the end user needs to thoroughly think about.
Are you actually going to like the Samsung Experience or are you better off with an Android One like Nokia 7 Plus?