We'll try not to make a huge deal out of it, but we can't overlook it either - Samsung's discovered the right spot for a fingerprint reader on the back of a phone. The high off-center placement on the Galaxy S8 and Note8 this year has been universally hated and we're glad that with the A8 (2018) Samsung's starting the year on the right track. Perhaps the S9 will follow suit.
Our initial experience is that the fingerprint reader works fast and the lengthy setup process with more than the usual number of taps ensures you'd be unlocking at awkward angles and with most parts of your finger.
Anyway, we got a little distracted there. The Galaxy A8 (2018) is unmistakably a Samsung phone, with the glass sandwich and aluminum frame putting it in the company's premium tier. This year, the A-series is treated to tall, 18.5:9 aspect displays like them flagships. Only here it's 1080p instead of the S8's 1440p.
The smaller of the two new handsets, the Galaxy A8 (2018), gets a 5.6-inch diagonal. That's 0.2 inches smaller than the S8, while the A8+ (2018) with its 6 inches slots right in between the S8 and S8+. Segmentation at its finest.
That's display sizes, but in terms of physical dimensions, the A8 (2018) is in fact larger than the S8. It's a fraction of a mil taller, but 2.5mm wider and slightly thicker - there's no doubt which is the sleeker device.
In fact, the A8 feels noticeably chunky - in a reassuringly heavy way. We're not saying it's a bad thing, it's just that if you're after the A8 thinking it's more pocketable than the S8, you'd need to reevaluate. The dry numbers are there to support our claim - the A8's 172 grams are 17g more than the S8 and one short of the S8+, while the A8+ is in Note8 territory. TL;DR - the S8 remains the top choice for pocketability in Samsung's premium lineup.
In keeping with the trends, the A8 (2018)'s display has its corners nicely rounded - putting aside potential durability benefits, it just looks pretty and futuristic, and all that. It's an in-house Super AMOLED panel, and it's awesome as usual, at least that's what we can tell by looking at it with no actual tests carried out yet. The usual modes can be found in settings, letting you tune the output to your tastes.
The front isn't as minimalist as on the S8, hence the larger physical dimensions. When it comes to proportions, the A8 is like a scaled down Pixel 2 XL - there's more chin and forehead than on the S8, and the sides are thicker too.
There's sadly no pressure sensitive area underneath the home button like you'd find on the S8/Note8, which lets you have a shortcut to the homescreen regardless of what's being displayed on the screen. Did we mention segmentation already?
The top bezel is packed with stuff though, so Samsung could only shrink it so much. To the right of the earpiece there are two cameras - one is 16MP, the other 8MP. To the left is the proximity/ambient light sensors window, and further to the left you'll find a notification LED - because no Always On Display can replace it (there's that too, of course).
Samsung brought weather sealing to the A-series last year, and we're happy to report the IP68 rating is present on the 2018 models too. Another feature we'd like to see getting more widespread adoption is a dedicated microSD slot. Instead, some makers are scrapping external storage altogether. Well, not Samsung on the A-series - even on the dual SIM version of the A8 (2018), you don't have to sacrifice storage expansion for a second SIM.
The loudspeaker on the Galaxy A8 (2018) is on the right side, above the power button. It looked like an odd placement when Samsung introduced it on last year's A-series, but we've come to accept it after was also the choice for the J-series of 2017. It's in the same spot on the A8 (2018).
Which brings us back to the age-long issue of stereo speakers, or rather their absence in Samsung's smartphone lineup. Well, the A8 (2018) doesn't have them either. S9, maybe?