Notch, teardrop, hole-punch; there are loads of smartphone designs in 2019, but very few of them boast a true all-screen design.
Enter the Samsung A80, whose display takes up the whole face of the phone. But that doesn’t mean there’s no front-facing camera.
In a novel (literal) twist, the top of the phone raises up when it’s selfie-time, and the rear camera module turns 180-degrees to face you.
This means that you get to retain 100 per cent of phone screen real estate, plus you get the same lens that you use to take landscape shots for livestreams and video calls.
Otherwise, the A80 is packed with the sort of tech we’re coming to expect from a mid-ranger: an AMOLED display, in-screen fingerprint reader and 3D depth camera for bokeh photos and video.
Is there anything in this single, rotating camera module lark? Or is it just a gimmick? We went hands on to find out.
Design: Pop-Up Shop
The A80’s headline feature is the pop-up camera, which spins the rear lens array around so that it’s facing you. This has two major benefits: it saves screen real estate, and it gives you in theory a premium snapper for your selfies.
When you’re in the camera and change the shooting mode from landscape to selfie, the mid-section of the phone raises up, and the camera flips around on the horizontal axis.
It’s achieved mechanically, so you can hear the gears whirring very briefly when you activate selfie mode. The extended form factor doesn’t feel fragile, but on our pre-release model, the camera module flip wasn’t quite as smooth as it could have been.
When extended, the phone does feel really big. We measured it at around 17cm tall, which does a little bit cumbersome when using.
Elsewhere, the phone looks and feels like your typical mid-ranger, with a USB-C port supporting 25W fast charging, an in-screen fingerprint reader and a 6.7-inch 1,080 x 2,400 Super AMOLED display.
There’s no headphone port, or any way of expanding the 128GB of internal storage. There’s also no front-facing speaker, so the screen itself vibrates so you can hear people on the other end of the line.
Features: Slip and slide
Samsung has gone all out to capture the “era of live”, which translates to people who love livestreaming, which of course translates into millennials. This means there’s a focus on cameras, social and streaming, and how the three all work together.
The main camera boasts a 48 megapixel sensor, while the ultrawide lens is an 8 megapixel snapper. This 3D depth-sensing setup allows you to incorporate bokeh effects into both photos and videos, as well as take ultrawide selfies.
Samsung’s big selling point for this rotating camera, though, is that it will allow budding social media stars to create high-quality live streams and video.
We sadly weren’t able to test the in-screen fingerprint sensor on our pre-release device. We did get to use the super-steady video features though, and were impressed with what we saw.
They can do other stuff, too, like multitask on that large screen. Samsung gave a rather strange example of being able to hold a video call while simultaneously watching a YouTube video. Because, millennials.
Performance: Mid-range magic
Samsung’s A80 is rocking an unspecified Octa Core processor (2.2GHz Dual + 1.7GHz Hexa). That speed puts it at the top of the new A range of phones, but we’ll have to wait until we get our review samples to run benchmarks.
The processor and the 8GB of RAM certainly made general navigation snappy, though, and camera shutter response time immediate.
The 3700MAH battery isn’t particularly huge when it comes to capacity, but the phone does feature auto battery management. The OS will adapt to your routine and conserves power to make sure you can get through the day.
Samsung’s phone also uses AI to try and make the experience faster. For example, if you post pics on social right after taking them, the phone preps the relevant apps in the background so there’s no waiting around when you open them.
In our manual test, the A80 didn’t appear to support wireless charging, sadly.
Samsung A80 Hands-On Review: Initial Verdict
The Samsung A80 is a really interesting phone. We don’t yet know the price (although we suspect it will be around £500) but it should offer good value when compared to the flagship S10.
For a younger consumer who lives their life through social networks, then it may well be more attractive than a lot of flagships. This appears to be a phone you can use to publicise your whole life with.
Our only concern would be that mechanical telescopic camera, which we’d worry about breaking over time. But right now, colour us impressed with the Samsung A80.
The Samsung A80 will be out on May 29th, price TBC. Look out for a full review very soon.