AGM A8: OWNER REVIEW
by Emmanuel "Doods" Tecson
August 13, 2019
Hi, I’m a long-time tech enthusiast and I’ve always loved the idea of waterproof smartphones with user-removable batteries. This is why I bought the AGM A8.
By waterproof, I mean that there is at least an IPX7 waterproof-ness rating on the device. Passing this rating certifies an item to be submersible in water up to 3 feet for 30 minutes without malfunctioning. If a smartphone can withstand being submerged in water, then you can rest assured it’ll definitely survive rain situations and accidental spills, or shallow submersion in liquid.
User-removable batteries ensure the consumer that their smartphone can remain in working condition long after phones without user-removable batteries. This–as highlighted by the iPhone battery slowdown controversy circa 2017-2018–is because the lithium-ion batteries that most (if not all) smartphones use tend to degrade significantly after 2 years. A user-removable battery feature helps solve this problem. I’m glad the A8 has it.
Another reason for my purchase is because I thought this was the best smartphone in the market in the waterproof user-removable battery category. I was wrong. I should’ve bought the Samsung Galaxy S5 because it has a mountain load more features than the A8 at the same price range. You can find a full specs comparison for them here: bit.ly/A8versusS5. I thought waterproof removable battery smartphones from the mainstream brands didn’t exist until I heard about this one, along with the Samsung Galaxy Xcover series.
In any case, below I detail my experience with the AGM A8, a surprisingly charming budget rugged phone that’s definitely grown on me a bit after all this time.
The A8 costs $140 in Aliexpress.
The A8 is IP68-rated which means it is both dustproof and waterproof. I haven’t tested my A8 for dustproof-ness but it has been dropped a few times over its life. Its screen is protected by a first-party tempered glass screen protector but it touches a table surface directly when the phone is face down on a table. This is the limit of its ruggedness. I imagine, if this phone was dropped a certain way, the screen could break–maybe–but this phone has survived all drops it had been through so far (about 20 times). This device has been through drops that would have easily cracked most smartphones, even ones with protective cases attached.
Imagine someone releasing a grease-proof phone in the future. That’s something I’d like to see. My A8 has gotten greasy a few times over its life. When the greasiness gets too hardcore, I literally wash my phone with soap and water, it’s wild. I have done this about 30 times already, including once to shoot this picture:
So far, I have never gotten this phone submerged in water. It can probably survive it, but I’m too scared to try that out. As a mountain biker, all the ruggedness I need from this is drop-friendliness and rain-readiness which it does have thankfully.
I enthusiastically share that my customer service experience with the A8 has been excellent. They’ve been able to accommodate most of my spare parts needs. They sent me these spare buttons and flaps for free:
Other than (obviously) the removable battery, the parts of the A8 that can be replaced as far as I know from consulting with customer support so far are the charging and audio flaps, the power and volume buttons, and the rubber body casing. I was also able to repair/replace its charging port since the phone’s body is serviceable. All the mechanic had to do was unscrew parts of the body to get inside. Beautiful!
Other Notable Features
All the hardware buttons on this phone are situated on the right side. It’s been great for a right-handed person like me. I use the Button Mapper app to add additional modern and retro functionality: namely, a Google Assistant button like on modern LG phones, and a Play/Pause button like on old Sony Ericsson phones and Walkman devices. Double-clicking on the volume up button does the former, and double-clicking on the volume down button does the latter.
NFC functionality works on the A8. I’ve used cheap NFC stickers with it with no problems. Right now, I keep an NFC sticker in my wallet that automatically saves my phone number to an NFC-enabled phone. I keep demonstrating this with the A8.
The A8 has first-party support for custom roms Resurrection Remix and Lineage OS. I learned how to install these roms through a YouTube video posted on AGM’s YouTube channel. It was helpful and easy to understand. Installing Resurrection Remix upgraded this phone’s Android version from Android 7.0 to Android 7.1. It has also added a lot of useful functions like the ability to bring up the flashlight using the power button when the screen is off. I absolutely love this!
I hate the necessity of flap covers in ports. The A8 has a flap for both the headphone jack and the charging port. Sometimes, I can’t plug stuff in ‘cause the ports are necessarily too deep inside the device, because of this rugged design that unfortunately included these unholy flaps!
The biggest flaw of the A8 is its display. It’s the worst display I’ve ever seen on a phone. Colors start distorting right away when you push the display up to full brightness.
Although I was able to configure this phone’s volume level to a workable one through a Magisk module, the out-of-the-box volume level on the A8 is something I find at least 20% lacking.
Overall, A8 gave me a few good surprises: namely: the reliable support staff, first-party support for custom ROMs, and the abundant availability of spare parts. Who should buy the A8? People who want a budget rugged phone without using a case, who also want to try out custom roms, but don’t mind being stuck on Android 7.1. I give it an overall score of 6/10.