Samsung A Phones: What You Need To Know

History and details of each release

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+ smartphones side by side in various colors
Courtesy of Samsung

The Samsung Galaxy A smartphones are a mid-range answer to their flagship Galaxy S line. The A series has solid features and specs and is for those who won't spend the premium for the S phones. Unlike other Samsung Android smartphone lines, the A series releases new models with the same name each year.

Think of how cars are released – rather than sporting a new model name; they just append a year on the name. The naming convention makes it confusing to tell some models apart – there are three different Samsung A3 smartphones – so we did our best to showcase the similarities and differences throughout the years.

Note: The Samsung A series is available in many countries around the world, but not the United States.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018)

The Galaxy A7 and A9 from the back in blue and green.

Display: 6.3-in Super AMOLED

Resolution: 1080x2220 @ 392ppi

Front camera: 24 MP

Rear camera: Quad 24 MP/10 MP/8 MP/5 MP

Charger type: USB-C

Initial Android version: 8.0 Oreo

Final Android version: Undetermined

Release Date: November 2018

The Galaxy A9 (2018) is the first smartphone with a quad camera. The primary camera has 24 megapixels, the second, a telephoto lens with 2X optical zoom, the third, a 120-degree wide angle lens, and finally, fourth one with a small aperture of f2.2 to control how much of the photo is in focus. The camera also has an AI-powered scene optimizer feature.

Storage-wise, the smartphone has 128 GB onboard and can accept cards as large as 512 GB. The phone also ships with Bixby, Samsung's virtual assistant, Samsung Pay, and Samsung Health.

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+ (2018)

Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone, front view, in orchid grey color
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.6-in Super AMOLED (A8); 6.0-in Super AMOLED (A8+)
Resolution: 1080x2220 @ 441ppi
Front camera: Dual 16 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Charger type: USB-C
Initial Android version: 7.0 Nougat
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: January 2018

The Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+ are mid-range smartphones that the company showcased at CES 2018, and their design and feature-set are very close the S series of high-end phones. The main difference between the two is that the phablet-sized A8+ has a larger, 6-inch display. Both the Galaxy A8 and A8+ have ultra-thin bezels (the S8 and S8+ have curved screens with no bezels) and use Samsung Infinity Display technology to make most of screen real estate.

These Samsung Galaxy A smartphones have glass and metal bodies, but a cheaper looking finish than the S series. The selfie camera on each has a dual lens to create the popular blurred background (bokeh) effect using a Samsung feature called Live Focus, but neither camera has optical image stabilization.

The fingerprint scanner is on the back of the phones, just under the camera lens, rather than on the home button like older Galaxy A phones. Both Samsung phones have headphone jacks and microSD card slots, are dust and water resistant, support fast charging, but not wireless charging.

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+ Features

  • Virtual Reality: The A8 and A8+ are the first in the Galaxy A series to support Samsung’s Gear VR headset.
  • Dual Messenger Mode: Users can run two instances of a chatting app at the same time if they have more than one account. For example, one for work and one for friends.
  • Face Recognition Unlock: You can unlock these A smartphones using facial recognition, which works best in good lighting.
  • Time Lapse Videos: A feature called Hyperlapse lets you create time-lapse videos at various speeds.
  • Samsung Bixby: Samsung's virtual assistant, Bixby, is built into both phones, and works similarly to Siri and Google Assistant.
  • 18.5:9 display ratio: Like the Galaxy S8, the A8 and A8+ have an unusual aspect ratio, which is to accommodate the Infinity Display technology. You may experience some black bars on videos, which typically use the 16:9 aspect ratio.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) smartphone in black
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.7-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 386ppi
Front camera: 16 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Charger type: USB-C
Initial Android version: 6.0 Marshmallow
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: January 2017

The Samsung Galaxy A7 looks a lot like the premium Galaxy S7, with a large phablet-sized display. It boasts up to 22 hours of battery life and supports fast charging technology. It has a metal and curved glass build, slim bezel, and is water and dust resistant.

The A7 has a fingerprint sensor on the home button, a headphone jack, and dual SIM card slot. The 32GB Samsung smartphone has a microSD card slot that accepts cards up to 256GB. A Smart Stay feature keeps the screen awake while you're looking at it and there's also a handy shortcut in which you can turn the camera on by double tapping the home button.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) smartphone in beige
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.2-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 424ppi
Front camera: 16 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Charger type: USB-C
Initial Android version: 6.0 Marshmallow
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: January 2017

The Samsung Galaxy A5 has higher resolution camera (16 vs. 12 MP) than the flagship Galaxy S7, which came out in 2016 (12 MP), but the image quality is not as good, at least in part due to the lack of optical image stabilization. It also has the same size battery as the S7, but since it has a lower resolution screen, it doesn't eat up as much power, and thus lasts longer. The phone also comes with a fast charger, that should fill up the battery all the way in about an hour.

Storage-wise, the phone has 32GB built in, and a microSD card slot so you can expand it by up to 256GB. The Galaxy A5’s fingerprint scanner is below the screen, but not integrated with the home button. Like the Galaxy A7 (2017), the A5 is water and dust resistant. 

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) in grey
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 4.7-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 720x1280 @ 312ppi
Front camera: 13 MP
Rear camera: 8 MP
Charger type: USB-C
Initial Android version: 7.0 Nougat
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: January 2017

The Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) is the first in the Galaxy A series to adopt the USB-C standard, which adds fast charging technology and an end to the hassle of trying to insert the cable upside down. Like the A5 and A7 released the same year, it bears a resemblance to the S7, with a metal rim, glass back, and shimmery bezel, and water and dust resistance. There's a fingerprint scanner in the home button for unlocking the smartphone and making mobile payments.

The interface features a lighter version of Samsung's TouchWiz than in previous phones in the series, which means less sluggishness. The A3 has only 16GB storage, but it will accept microSD cards up to 256GB. Its battery is said to last through about two days of regular usage, likely in part due to its lower resolution (720p) display.

Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro 2016 front angle
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 6.0-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 367ppi
Front camera: 16 MP
Rear camera: 8 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 6.0 Marshmallow
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: May 2016

The Galaxy A9 Pro phablet comes with a premium glass and metal design, like the S7 and S7 Edge. Its body is not as thin as the flagship phones, but its added bulk contains a much larger 5,000mAh battery that promises to last up to 33 hours of talk time over 3G and an incredible 22.5 days on standby.

This phone, like many Galaxy A models, has a dual SIM card slot and a microSD slot that can expand the internal 32GB of memory by up to 256GB. The home button on the front contains a fingerprint scanner. The A9 Pro's camera has optical image stabilization and an LED flash.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A9 2016 front angle
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 6.0-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 367ppi
Front camera: 13 MP
Rear camera: 8 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 5.0 Lollipop
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: January 2016

Like the Galaxy A8+ and A9 Pro, the Galaxy A9 phablet has a 6-inch display, and unlike the Samsung Galaxy S6 released the same year, it has a microSD card slot to supplement its 32GB of internal memory (up to 128GB). The 4,000 mAh battery can last up to two days with regular use, and its compatible with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology for fast charging when you're out of juice.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A7 2016 front and back views overlapping
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.5-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 401ppi
Front camera: 13 MP
Rear camera: 5 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 5.0 Lollipop
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: December 2015

The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) is a step-up from its predecessors regarding design, looking more like the Galaxy S series than the previous phones in the Galaxy A line. Its sports dual SIM card slot, memory card slot, headphone jack, and a home button with a built-in fingerprint scanner. The Galaxy A7 (2016) and Galaxy A5 (2016) are the first smartphones in the Galaxy A line to support Samsung Pay.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A5 2016, front, back, and closeup angles
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.2-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 424ppi
Front camera: 13 MP
Rear camera: 5 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 5.0 Lollipop
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: December 2015

The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) is similar to the 2017 A5 in many respects, including screen size and resolution and processor, but the newer model has more internal RAM (3GB vs. 2GB) and storage (32GB vs. 16GB). It looks similar to the flagship Galaxy S6, but unlike that model, the A5 has a memory card slot and a fingerprint scanner.

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2016)

Samsung Galaxy A3 2016 back angle
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 4.7-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 720x1280 @ 312ppi
Front camera: 13 MP
Rear camera: 5 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 5.0 Lollipop
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: December 2015

The Samsung Galaxy A3 (2016) has a shiny glass surface that looks premium but tends to be slippery. Samsung's TouchWiz overlay includes motion and gesture controls as well as a robust power saving feature. It has only 16GB of internal storage, but luckily it has a microSD card slot.

The water-resistant Galaxy A3 (2016) has a dual-SIM slot, but one of the slots doubles as a memory card slot when you're not in need of the second SIM card. The A3 has a fingerprint scanner and a headphone jack.

Samsung Galaxy A8 (2015)

Samsung Galaxy A8 2015 smartphone front
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.7-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 386ppi
Front camera: 5 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 5.0 Lollipop
Final Android version: Undetermined
Release Date: August 2015

The Galaxy A8 has the biggest screen of the 2015 series, pushing it into phablet territory. It's also the first in the A series to get a fingerprint scanner for unlocking. The A8 (2015) has a dual-SIM card slot (great for frequent travelers), microSD card slot (accepts cards up to 128GB), and headphone jack.

The 16-megapixel camera is also an improvement and has several modes, such as panorama, and Pro and other modes are available for download. Samsung's TouchWiz overlay contains less bloatware and adds a bunch of interface theme options so that users can customize colors and other elements.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2015)

Samsung Galaxy A7 2015 front, back angles
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5.5-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080x1920 @ 401ppi
Front camera: 5 MP
Rear camera: 13 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 4.4 KitKat
Final Android version: 6.0 Marshmallow
Release Date: February 2015

With a larger screen and 1080p resolution, the Galaxy A7 (2015) one-ups its predecessors, though it shares the same camera specs with the 2015 A5 model. It also features a faster processor, and like the A5 and A3 includes a microSD slot and a headphone jack.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2015)

Samsung Galaxy A5 2015 from above, angled
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 5-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 720x1280 @ 294ppi
Front camera: 5 MP
Rear camera: 13 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: Android 4.4 KitKat
Final Android version: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Release Date: December 2014

The first Galaxy A5 is a slight upgrade over the A3 released at the same time, with a higher resolution primary camera and screen. The display is also a bit larger, as is the battery. Like the A3 (2015), the A5 has a headphone jack and microSD slot, but not a removable battery.

Samsung Galaxy A3 (2015)

Samsung Galaxy A3 2015 front angle
Courtesy of Samsung

Display: 4.5-in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 960x540 @ 245ppi
Front camera: 5 MP
Rear camera: 8 MP
Charger type: micro USB
Initial Android version: 4.4 KitKat
Final Android version: 6.0 Marshmallow
Release Date: December 2014

The original Galaxy A3 eschews the plastic construction that many earlier mid-range Galaxy smartphones sported, in exchange for a metal unibody design. It also drops the LED notification light, which blinked in various colors to indicate whether it was a text, reminder, or another type of alert. It retains the headphone jack and microSD card slot, which in this case accepts up to 64GB cards to add to the 16GB of internal storage.