Flashback: a look back at the best Samsung Galaxy A phones through the years

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Samsung built the Galaxy A series as a popular series of premium mid-rangers. This week we saw three new additions, but to understand how far the series has come, we need to look back at the beginning. We have already researched the beginning of the line, Galaxy Alpha, who wanted the sleek and stylish instead of a feature before looking style flagship like the Galaxy S5.

We do not cover every single A-series phone, instead we try to check in on the more interesting models. We will see that they refined the Alpha formula – it was a little more style over the substance for most Samsung fans, so the company shifted the balance towards more value.

We see it in the Samsung Galaxy A7. It was only 6.3 mm thick and was thinner than even Alpha (6.7 mm). Its metal frame and 5.5 “1080p Super AMOLED screen made it stand out from the middle class of the mill. In our review, we described it as an affordable alternative to the Galaxy Note4 for those who did not need a stylus. Getting in comparison with a note means that the A7 really managed to sell its premium image.

Samsung Galaxy A8

Samsung Galaxy A7 • Samsung Galaxy A8

However, it was the Galaxy A8 that was Samsung’s thinnest smartphone so far – it only measured 5.9 mm thick. It had an expansive 5.7 “Super AMOLED screen, as big as the Galaxy Note from that year, yet its thin metal frame was quite light. It may have lacked an S-pen, but it was more affordable than the Galaxy Note5 and had a microSD slot, which Note5 did not.

Yes, Samsung has been moving and then restoring the memory card slot on Notes for over 5 years now.

The following year added an extra step to the A-series ladder, the Galaxy A9 (2016). It was the largest premium smartphone that Samsung had made up to that point – its massive 6.0 “screen even dwarfed the Galaxy Note5 (5.7”).

There was a Pro model that upgraded the camera from 13MP to 16MP and the battery from 4,000mAh to 5,000mAh. Both versions were powered by the Snapdragon 652, which was one of the first chipsets to have the meaty Cortex-A72 CPU core.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016) • Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) had to content itself with reusing the Snapdragon 615 chipset from the 2015 model, even though the versions in Exynos got a different chip. We can use several sections to describe the differences between the 20nm Exynos 5430 Octa on the old phone and the 28nm Exynos 7580 Octa on the new model, but for the purposes of this article suffice it to say that it was not a straight upgrade.

Samsung had a goal with the Galaxy A7 (2016) – a particularly popular group of 5.5 “phones from Chinese brands that ate up its market share. We think that explains most of its oddity, it was built for a particular set functions.

However, the Galaxy A8 (2016) was closer to an advanced device. It used the Exynos 7420, the flagship chipset for the Galaxy S6 from the year before. It had a large 5.7 “Super AMOLED screen like the original A8, although other than the chipset, the upgrades were quite small.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
Samsung Galaxy A8 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) • Samsung Galaxy A8 (2016)

The following year, Samsung shaved the top of the A-Series – the Galaxy A7 (2017) was as tall as it got. It had a 5.7 “Super AMOLED display and an Exynos 7880 chipset. And while it may sound like an upgrade over the 7420, it is not. It only had Cortex-A53 cores, so this was not a suitable replacement for A8 (2016).

This brings us to the 2018 series that scored a few camera senses. Galaxy A9 (2018) was the first phone in the world with four cameras on the back: 24MP wide, 8MP ultra wide, 10 MP 2x telephoto and 5MP depth sensor.

You can check camera examples from our review. Image quality had issues, the main camera never delivered sharp images with well-balanced colors. Still, if you wanted a telephoto camera on a Samsung in 2018, your choices were a Galaxy S9 +, a Note8 or an A9.

There were also Galaxy A8s (which sold as A9 Pro in South Korea), but we skip this one due to its limited availability. We will note that the A8s were Samsung’s first phone with a selfie camera with a hole hole, which became a staple in the S-series a few months later. Around this time, there were a couple of A-series phones that are only in China, but we do not want to get off track.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018)
Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
Samsung Galaxy A8s

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) • Samsung Galaxy A8s

The Galaxy A7 (2018) dropped the telephoto lens, but a triple camera on a mid-ranger was still quite rare back then. This one also had an Exynos 7885 chipset – despite a model number that is only 5 points away from the A7 (2017)’s chipset, this one packed a pair of high-performance Cortex-A73 cores and upgraded to the next generation Mali-G71 GPU. It was a chipset that is much more suited to a high-end phone.

Next is one of the more unique items in the Galaxy A series – the Galaxy A80 from early 2019. It is to date the only Samsung that uses a flip up camera. The flip-up mechanism was home to Samsung’s first 48MP camera, which was connected to an 8MP ultrawide shooter and a 3D Time of Flight sensor.

The 6.7 “Super AMOLED panel was called the” New Infinity Display “because of not having an annoying notch or hole in the hole. It was also one of the first Samsungs to support 25W fast charging (the battery had 3,700 mAh capacity).

Samsung Galaxy A80
Samsung Galaxy A90 5G

Samsung Galaxy A80 • Samsung Galaxy A90 5G

We can not conclude our review without mentioning the Galaxy A90 5G. It was the first A-phone with a 5G connection, something the series is struggling with in 2021 (two of the three new A-phones this week were 4G). Also this one was powered by Snapdragon 855. Not bad for a mid-ranger, right?

The A-Series has produced some unique devices over the years, but also a few less impressive examples. We think the 2018 and 2019 models are when the series gained a foothold by showing its experimental character.

We know we rushed through half a decade of phone launches – this was just an overview. Some of these phones deserve a dedicated Flashback article, we will definitely visit the Galaxy A80 again (and we will see a sequel even more). What is your favorite A-series phone?

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