Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy A6+?
The Infinity display-clad smartphone is priced at Rs 25,999. But is it worth the money?
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These are interesting days for the Indian smartphone market. Having recently overtaken the United States to become the world's second-largest revenue generator for the smartphone industry, India is now looking drive past China in the coming years.
An uphill battle in which the odds look heavily stacked in the dragon's favour could swiftly turn India's way if the mid-range segment ups its game and begins to scale up sales to rival the current driver of the market – the budget segment.
However, for the mid-segment to actually blossom, the country's most trusted brands, such as Samsung, will have to take steps to ensure the Rs 15,000-25,000 bracket is not bereft of devices that bring with them a finely tuned balance of looks, power and price.
By announcing the Samsung Galaxy A6+ at a price of Rs 25,990, the South Korean tech giant has attempted to do just that. With a Full HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity display slapped on the front of the phone, the device, in many ways, is Samsung's attempt at bringing its iconic flagship features to a device meant for the masses.
In what is uncharacteristic of a mid-range Samsung phone, the device also has a massive 24-megapixel camera at the front to help it appeal to the selfie-loving crowds.
But do the display and the camera justify the price tag? Let's find out.
There are few things that struck me the moment I took the A6+ out of the box. The first one being the wide form factor and the weight of the device. In a sea of slim and sleek smartphones, the A6+ with its 7.9mm thick body feels broad and muscular – a design decision that could actually work in its favour.
Holding the A6+ in my hand, I was surprised to find how it was a bit on the heavier side. However, to its credit, the weight is evenly balanced through the phone and as such shouldn't end up being a turn-off for most users.
The other thing that grabs your attention the moment you first interact with the device is just how premium it looks and feels. With a metal unibody that merges with the bezel-less Infinity display at the front, the A6+ is definitely a looker. The back panel also features two antenna bars — to be honest, they add to the design of the phone.
However, it's not just with the looks that the use of metal comes in handy. The metal unibody also helps improve the build quality of the device, giving it a solid feel in the hand. Though I managed to not let the phone slip out of my grasp during the duration of the review, the tank-like build of the A6+ gave me the impression that even if had, it would have survived the mishap(s).
The back panel also houses the device's dual camera setup, flash, and the fingerprint scanner along with Samsung's logo and some regulatory information tucked neatly inside antenna bars at the top and bottom of the device.
Though the pill-shaped fingerprint scanner housed beneath the dual camera lens add to the aesthetics of the device, in terms of ease of use, it's not the most practical gadget. During my time with the phone, more often than not, I ended up finding the camera instead of the fingerprint scanner while trying to reach out for the latter.
There are a few other design choices that Samsung could have given more thought to. For example, the placement of the speaker grille. The mono speaker is placed towards the top right side of the device, slightly above the phone's power button. This makes it easy to accidentally cover the speaker while watching a movie or playing a game in landscape mode. The volume button and the two sim+MicroSD slots are to the phone's left.
The headline feature of the A6+ is definitely the display, and it is where the phone truly shines. Though in essence the idea here appears to be to bring the flagship Galaxy S series type display experience to a mass market device; however, being a mid-range phone, things get a little tricky while implementing it.
Unlike the Galaxy S9 – which has a display that curves on the side and melts into the phone's frame – the display on the A6+ resorts to no such sexy tactic to win over buyers. With an aspect ratio of 18.5:9, the phone follows the 2018's favourite trend but does come with some chin and slight bezel on the top – the latter a result of Samsung's effort to steer clear of the dreaded notch.
Moving away from the design and looks, the 6-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED panel on the Galaxy A6+ is a delight to use. The South Korean tech giant is known for equipping its high-end phones with really vibrant displays that have punchy colours, deep blacks, and great viewing angles, and with the A6+ Samsung has replicated that on a mid-range phone.
The display is plenty bright, and even under direct sunlight, content on the panel remains more than visible that too without cranking the brightness all the way up. The device as such is great for gaming, watching videos and consuming other multimedia content indoors, as well as on the go.
The use of an AMOLED panel also sees the Galaxy A6+ come with an always-on display which shows the time, date, battery level, alarms and other important notifications even when the screen is turned off.
Specifications and performance
Sadly, this is where things start to go downhill for the A6+, for it is here that the phone loses much of the ground that it wins in the display and the looks departments.
Running the show here is a 1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 SoC with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage which is further expandable by up to 256GB using a micro-SD card.
The dual-SIM phone runs Android 8.0 Oreo-based Samsung Experience 9.0 UI and supports 4G LTE (VoLTE-ready) and USB OTG.
During my time with the phone, I did not encounter many hurdles while browsing the web or putting the A6+ under light stress. However, while playing games, running emulation software or generally putting the phone through the paces by throwing at it some heavy applications, I found the A6+ to crash and stutter quite a few times.
Though the 4GB of RAM generally helps with getting through simple day-to-day tasks, the 450 SoC proved to be slightly underpowered for more heavy duty tasks.
And understandably so.
Considering this is an SoC which is found on budget devices as cheap as the Xiaomi Redmi 5 – the sub Rs 10k segment – Samsung should never have decided to put it on a smartphone that it wants to sell for upwards of Rs 25,000.
Having said that, the use of the particular SoC does has its advantages. Case in point, the great battery life and above-par thermal efficiency of the phone.
Samsung's Experience 9.0 UI also brings with it some nifty features. There's an ultra data saving mode, one-handed mode, S Secure, S Bike Mode and other UI specific features that are quite well-optimised.
With the Galaxy A6+, it appears that Samsung has also put in a lot of thought into the cameras that it has used on the phone.
At the back, the Galaxy A6+ ships with dual rear cameras – a 16-Megapixel sensor (f/1.7) and another 5-Megapixel sensor (f/1.9) for depth sensing. There's also an LED flash to improve low-light photography. In well-lit setups, the pictures clicked using the dual camera setup on the A6+ are satisfactory, with accurate colour capturing as well as low noise.
However, in low light, the setup's frailties get exposed. Low-light photography thus ends up being a little less satisfactory with noise becoming a major issue. Nevertheless, the performance is still on par with its rivals' in the segment.
The depth sensing dual camera setup also captures bokeh shots with the help of Samsung's Live Focus feature that allows the user to toggle the depth effect before clicking the picture. In the limited number of pictures I clicked using the Live Focus, the software optimised depth effect was more than satisfactory.
Coming to the front of the device, the Galaxy A6+ brings with it a 24-Megapixel camera that, aided by the high Megapixel count and software optimisations, helps the device click images that do not disappoint.
The front camera can also shoot software-assisted portrait photos, but they don't turn out to be as great as the ones clicked by the rear camera.
The device gets its juice from a 3,500mAh battery which — backed by the energy efficient 450 SoC tasked to run a 1080p display — provides above-average results. For moderate to heavy use, a full charge mostly got me through the day. However, the phone's lack of support for any kind of fast charging technology did prove to be a problem on days when I left the house without a full charge on the device.
Considering the price of the phone, this is a shortcoming that could come to haunt the A6+ in terms of sales.
Should you buy it?
To be honest, it's a difficult question to answer. The Galaxy A6+ is a "mixed bag" in the truest sense of the term. It brings with it a gorgeous display, premium looks, and quite capable cameras. But the moment you put it under the glare of the magnifying glass and start looking at what lies beneath the surface, you realise there is truly more style to the A6+ than substance.
For all basic intents and purposes, the A6+ is a very good device. For those looking to tackle web browsing, video consumption and other light tasks, the A6+ — with its promise of good battery life paired with the sharp and vibrant Super AMOLED FULL HD+ display — should prove to be a good enough daily driver.
However, if it's performance you desire from a smartphone for which you're being asked to pay upwards of Rs 25k, A6+ is not the device for you.