Samsung has finally joined the likes of Apple and HTC in using metal in their phones with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, revealed this week. The phones is still mostly made of plastic, however, it has an iPhone-esque metal band wrapping around the phone. That’s it. That’s all the metal this phone has on the outside. Still, it’s the first phone using Samsungs new design queues (read: latest iPhone inspired design). Samsung says future Galaxy devices will look more like this phone. Hopefully they improve on the hardware though, because this phone is little more than a pretty face (and barely one at that).
Okay, so what’s the deal with this phone? In the fewest words I can use, Samsung sacrificed specs for looks, and didn’t add enough to make up for those sacrifices. Comparing it to the HTC One or iPhone wouldn’t really be fair, so let’s go through the specifications and compare it to Samsung’s other flagship phone, the Galaxy S5.
Starting off with the screen, it’s a 4.7 inch pentile display with 720p resolution. That makes it more in line with the Samsung Galaxy S3 than the S5, which has a higher resolution and larger screen. Although 4.7″ is clearly a good screen size, that resolution may be a little low. The S5 has a 1080p screen, and isn’t even the best in the smartphone business. The Galaxy Alpha may end up having a slightly “fuzzy” display, an issue that plagues lower resolution pentile screens, unless Samsung has found a way to resolve that issue. The resolution, the pixels per inch, are even lower than the iPhone’s, which is starting to stray towards the lower end of the PPI spectrum for high-end phones. It’s still above the 300 PPI specification for “retina” classification, but due to the pentile pixel array, this may not be enough to make the diplay look sharp.
Samsung loaded it with an octacore processor, which sounds impressive, until you realize that it only ever uses 4 cores at a time. One set of cores has a clock speed of 1.3GHz and the other 1.8GHz. One is used for reduced power consumption, the other for speed. However, both are quite a bit slower than the 2.5GHz processor in the Galaxy S5, and with the Touchwiz customizations in top of Android KitKat, that could end up making the phone feel sluggish.
Battery life also will suffer on this phone, as Samsung has loaded it up with the lowest storage capacity of any smartphone battery they’ve used in years. Of course, with the smaller screen and slower professor, battery capacity won’t matter as much as it does for the S5, but it may still have considerably shorter battery life. Only real-world tests will be able to determine if Samsung placed a large enough battery in this phone.
The Galaxy Alpha loses a few other things from the S5. It loses the water resistance, 16MP camera (although it still can shoot 4k video), and storage space. The Galaxy Alpha only comes with 32GB of storage, and no expandable SD card slot, while the S5 is configurable with up to 64GB of internal storage. Without support of cloud based storage like iCloud, that’s going to be a pain for many users.
By now I’m sure you’re wondering if the Samsung Galaxy Alpha makes any improvements over the Galaxy S5. Well, it’s smaller, thinner, and lighter, but that comes from the smaller battery and screen. It also has a 2.1 MP front facing camera, while the Galaxy S5 has a 2.0MP front facing camera. That may not even be an advantage, as megapixels aren’t the only way to measure camera quality. It does retain the (admittedly not fantastic) fingerprint sensor and heart rate sensor. It also comes in all the same colors as the S5. Honestly, the only thing it gains over the S5 is that it’s slightly better looking, easier to hold and use, and has a small amount of metal around the edges. That’s it. Samsung clearly made many cuts to improve their profit margins on this device, and in doing so, they’ve effectively ruined what could have been their new flagship device. Instead they have some horrible compromise for the people who are considering leaving the brand to get a high end phone from HTC or Apple with metal enclosures. So if you want a worse Galaxy S5 that’s just a bit better looking, just a but more Apple-like, the Galaxy Alpha is the phone for you. All three of you.