Galaxy Alpha: are you not entertained?

August 15, 2014

samsung galaxy alpha hands-on (3)

The Galaxy Alpha landed this week, bringing what Samsung fans have been demanding for years – a touch of metal. However, the phone was not received with the enthusiasm Samsung was probably hoping for. Some complained about the small battery. For others, the HD screen was the biggest turnoff. The metal design proved controversial as well, and once again Samsung is accused of copying Apple.

In this Friday Debate, tell us your opinion about the Galaxy Alpha. Samsung introduced a metal phone. Finally. Do you like it? Is it too iPhone-like? Is it what Samsung needed? Does it stand a chance against the new iPhone? Would you recommend it over other Android devices?

Join our discussion, vote in our poll, and sound off in the comments.

Joe Hindy

Yes, I am wildly entertained. I honestly have no idea what to think about the Galaxy Alpha. On the surface it appears as though they have a solid thought here. Bring Touchwiz and all that jazz to a metal framed design to do battle with the iPhone 6 which is going to have a similar design and premium appeal.

However, the more I look at this phone, its specs, its release date, and its lack of fanfare when released (the Galaxy S5 got a release event), the more I start to lose my grasp on understanding this phone’s existence. Why would you release a phone like this at the end of the summer (when no one is buying smartphones) with no fanfare with your flagship device only a few months out of the gate and your other flagship a couple of months out?

I have a few theories but I guarantee almost none of them are right because, well, I don’t spend millions of dollars on my marketing research team (I also do not have a research team). I would guess that Samsung did this to put something between the S5 and Note 4 release to keep the name “Samsung” on everyone’s lips. It sounds crazy to think of the Alpha as a marketing stunt, but really is it all that absurd? Let’s look at their device release schedule:

Quarter 1: Galaxy S5 rumors and leaks build suspense. Galaxy S5 gets released at the very end of Q1 or…
Quarter 2: …it gets released at the very beginning of Q2. Galaxy S5 post-release reviews, news, etc that literally drag on for months.
Quarter 3: …? Not a damn thing.
Quarter 4: Note 4 rumors and then Note 4 goes on sale. Also, the holiday season.

Now, it’s Q3 and have you seen the blogs the last 24-72 hours? “Samsung Alpha vs the iPhone 6″, “Samsung Alpha, the good”, “Samsung Alpha, the bad”, “Samsung Alpha, wtf?!”, “Apple is going to sue the crap out of Samsung for this.”, etc etc.

Samsung is on the lips of every major and minor tech blog (and many more non-tech blogs) in the industry right now which means people are thinking and talking about Samsung in August for the first time in years. The people who write the news are talking about it, the people who read the news are talking about it, and Samsung has effectively burrowed its way into the iPhone 6 buzz. Hell, even I’m talking about it and I don’t even write about hardware! People aren’t just talking about the iPhone 6 anymore, they’re talking about the Alpha vs the iPhone 6. That means the Alpha press will continue right up until the release of the iPhone 6 later this quarter.

So I guess if I had to call the Alpha anything, it’d be freaking brilliant. By releasing a phone during the “dead point” in their device release schedule, Samsung has effectively found a way to stay “en vogue” for the entirety of the 2014 year. The Galaxy S5 takes up 2 quarters with its buzz and release and the Note 4 takes care of the late part of the year. Now they have this big Alpha release in the Summer. I believe the Alpha was made to look the iPhone on purpose specifically so we (we meaning us of the press) would go nuts over it and talk about it a lot more than it probably would’ve been talked about if it were, say, the Galaxy S Mini (because let’s face it, no one cares about that thing).

It’s Samsung 24/7, 365. I guess that means I view this device as solely a marketing gimmick but I also realize I went on kind of a random diatribe and didn’t answer all of the questions. So here we go.

1. I like it better than the iPhone 6 because I like Android.
2. No it’s not going to be better than the iPhone 6.
3. No it’s not going to do better than the iPhone 6. 

Is it what Samsung needed? I suppose we’ll know when the Q3 sales reports come out.

Robert Triggs

I’m not sure how to feel about the Galaxy Alpha, in all honesty. I like the look, and the specs are fairly solid, for the most part. I also applaud Samsung for putting out a high-end handset in a slightly smaller form factor, this is a much better effort than the mediocre “Galaxy Mini” series.

I really want to think of the Galaxy Alpha as a modernisation of the classic and much loved Galaxy S2. It even has the look. But I just can’t bring myself to believe in that sentence.

As Joe as pointed out, the timing is all wrong for a start, the hype and marketing is odd, and it really seems like Samsung just wanted to get us talking about something.

Although the Alpha is being billed a premium handset, nothing, apart from the looks, suggests that this is a real game changer in the sub 5-inch market. I know I keep coming back to it, but the GS2 rightly received its reputation not for premium looks or its price tag, but because it offered consumers something new that they really wanted.

The Alpha’s 599 Euro price tag is ludicrous when you stack it next to other flagships. At the other end of the market, when I look at the brilliant Moto X, I can’t see the majority of consumers opting for Samsung’s Alpha over more competitively priced mid-tier staples, despite the metal finish.
On the other hand, the swanky look and Samsung logo might win some over, and perhaps it might even attract a few iPhone owners too. If the Alpha is a handset for those who want Samsung’s premium features packed into a smaller, more attractive package, then I guess it does its job quite well. 

The question is, do consumers really care for Samsung’s unique features anymore? I want to love it, but I don’t think the Alpha is a handset that many will remember come next year. 

Gary Sims

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is certainly an enigma. On the one hand its design is a radical departure for Samsung, while on the other hand it still has a plastic back cover. The specification is high-end, as is the price, but that puts it some what in competition with the Galaxy S5, but not quite.

The timing of this device is all wrong, there was no special media event and consumers thought that they had seen Samsung’s flag ship offering in the S5. In all honesty Samsung fans are now looking forward to seeing the Note 4.

Is the Alpha a flag ship device? Is it in competition with the S5? Where does it sit in the Galaxy range?

I think the answers can be found in the enigma itself. Samsung replaced the head of its mobile design team in May, with Lee Min-hyouk taking over from Chang Dong-hoon. If Lee wanted to stamp his own mark on a Samsung phone then it was way too late for the S5 and the Note 4 needs to stick within some well defined lines (since it is a cash cow for Samsung). So what does he do, he makes the Galaxy Alpha.

Of course, this is just pure speculation, but since the Alpha can’t be a direct competitor to the S5 it has a smaller screen, a lower resolution display (only 720p), a lower performance camera and isn’t water resistant. But it does have 32GB of storage, 2GB of RAM and the new Exynos 5 Octa 5430 CPU, along with a Mali-T628 MP6 GPU. And of course it also includes a finger print scanner, like the S5.

In other words what I am seeing here is a device that could have been the S5 if it had a better display and a better camera. So Min-hyouk makes this phone with a radically new design (for Samsung) but because it can’t compete with the S5, he tweaks it a little, lowers the specs and the Galaxy Alpha is born.

But what about that design? Of course it looks like an iPhone. At least HTC’s metal body design tries to be different, but this is Samsung’s clone of the “classic” iPhone design. However it certainly gets a few things wrong. For one, the camera housing protrudes out of the back of the phone, something I don’t really like. Also when you look at the phone from the back it just looks like any other plastic Galaxy smartphone.

Of course Samsung has released interesting devices before with high-end specs and a top end price. I am thinking of the Samsung Galaxy Round. Ultimately I am guessing the Alpha will have a limited release. But it does show that Samsung is prepared to break with its own traditions. Consumer response will let Samsung know if it should pursue other design avenues like this one.

Which company do you think will come out on top, in the long run?

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Comments

  • Daniel Stone

    I think samsung just pull out the alpha to test it out. With their 1st smartphone with ‘real metal’ trying to see how acceptance is the market towards the new ‘design’. Honestly wouldn’t surprise me that samsung will not pull out all the stocks in this new material. Samsung do really need to change their design and refine touchwiz get rid of all the nonsense and keep things which people really use, not add another list of ‘features’ so marketing people can do their jobs easier. SAMSUNG needs to refine the galaxy series. Hope they dont mess up the note series.

    • Frosti

      Well, if you are right and they just want to “try it out”, like you said, why does the Note 4 look similar to the alpha? At least thats what leaked pictures show.

  • Roberto Tomás

    I think the Alpha is nice. There are 5 variants of this phone, according to the Brazilian press (which I also read), and only the specs on one version is released. There may be Qualcomm variants, or a variant with a Youm display, among other options. But the one released is nice. I am disappointed that the one we can see doesn’t have Youm, doesn’t have Samsungs new VNAND… and I honestly wish tehy would not use a metal rim, it looks so ghetto. But you can’t complain, it outperforms every other processor expected to hit retail this year, and it is underclocked for the puny battery.

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      @roberto_tomas:disqus Can you point me to that Brazilian source about the five sources? I only know of one other version with a Snapdragon 805, I think.

  • Colts5609

    The design is a step in the right direction. Probably just the first in this new design language. I expect all of the other mid to upper level Samsung phones to have a similar design characteristics. Personally, I don’t care if it is made out of metal, titanium, plastic, carbon fiber, etc. If it looks cool, ill be more drawn to the device. It is nice to finally see them address their issues. The first being design. But for many, many other reasons, I will not be a Samsung customer for the foreseeable future.

    • robertkoa

      I need a powerful pocket sized phone and for me that means about 5.0″- 5.2″ Device Height.
      Alpha is a nearly perfect size –
      EXCEPT they made it so thin that we get a
      smaller Battery and no SD Card.

      The thinness over function makes no sense to me- if this Device was the thickness of the S5 or the HTC One M8 we could have
      a 2400- 2600Mah Battery.

      The Camera and speed of the Alpha will be close to Flagship as you will see.

      I am hoping for a Alpha Pro with thicker Body, and Bigger Battery and SD Card .

      The Alpha is a stylish nice phone with a lot of Power.

      The Alpha Pro can be aimed toward Athletes, Designers, Real Estate Pros, Architects, Artists and
      active people who need more power ( Battery , SD Card, OIS Camera, USB 3.0, etc) and don’t mind a 9mm thick Compact Powerhouse. Like me.

      The new Flagship will be Note 4 and Galaxy S6 .

      I suggest Samsung remove the hardware Home button- a Dinosaur – no more in 2015.

      Anyway the Alpha is still a good device , no competition other than
      Sony Z3 Compact and Alpha could be my first Samsung -I would prefer the Alpha Pro for more money OR the plastic S5 Neo if it’s real.

      I am trying to get a Powerful Device that I can put in my pocket even in a case- I don’t want to carry a Utility Belt and fight crime like Batman with my huge highly breakable large phone.
      4.7″ Screens are nice- surprised that Apple made Iphone 6 into a 5.5″ Tall Device- with a 4.7″ screen- oops an ergonomic error IMO .
      Samsung- where’s my Alpha Pro ?

  • Petter Forsberg

    I think the alpha is a step in the right direction for Samsung. It is kind of a failure spec and feature-wise, as compared to the S5. This brings me to say that if I had to choose between the two, I would, despite that I hate the way it’s built, choose the S5. The ultimate move right now in my opinion, is to launch the note 4 which will naturally have killer-specs with this kind of premium aluminium-design. Oh, and one last thing: MAKE TOUCHWIZ F-ING USABLE AND SKIP ALL THE SHITTY SOFTWARE GIMMICKS!! I can’t stress that enough! The crap software is the main reason I jumped the Samsung ship after 1 handset! Either make touchwiz simple and functional, or GTFO(as in: use stock Android)

  • Romeo Bucur

    It is a good effort from Samsung and i am sure it will sell.. BUT ..in my eyes.. it just looks like a cheap copy of a prototype Iphone from 3 years ago that never made it pass the drawing board.. and for good reason.. i don’t know.. maybe it’s me.. but an HTC One or Sony Z2 look far better than this little fella’ ..

  • Dean Waller

    I think this almost like some kind of weird experiment by Samsung…. There is a growing chorus of voices that DON’T want big phones… This seems like an attempt at testing the water to see how high that demand may be… Trouble is its undercooked… I applaud the improved build quality…And I very much approve it’s smaller footprint…. But it’s screen is WORSE than the s5 mini… And no waterproofing?… It’s just not good enough… Especially when the likes of Sony have z3 compact on its way..

  • dandroid13

    There’s always a mention about HTC in Samsung articles, damn fanboyism.

    • crackinthewall

      I think it’s warranted given that this is Samsung’s first stab at a metal smartphone after their ill-fated metal Windows Phone and Bada devices, and HTC is one of the few manufacturers that stuck with aluminum.

      • dandroid13

        And that put HTC in a financial sh!ithole unlike any other OEM before, so there’s clearly no advantage in metal.

  • Jesus Christ

    Another expensive piece of crap that is already outdated before it’s even released.

    • _X_

      Where is is outdated?

  • Jayfeather787

    Waiting for the Nexus 6. It’s nice to see a metal Samsung phone, but I will most likely be putting a case on anything I buy, so I don’t really care what the phone is made of.

  • http://www.sethrubenstein.info/ Seth Rubenstein

    Design wise and spec wise the Alpha looks like a solid phone. I hope this new premium design language extends to the S6 next year. But alas the biggest problem is Touchwiz. I still dont understand why Samsung feels it needs to vomit all over Android. I wont buy a device if it has Touchwiz even though I’d like to buy a Samsung tablet or the Alpha or Note4. If Touchwiz is so important to Samsung then they should at least offer an option to restage the device with stock Android. Could tap into a large market of people who dont buy Samsung devices bc they’re Android purists.

  • CHRIS

    Bring that metal and 2K display to the 5.3″ Galaxy S6 and you shut up a few critics. I like the Alpha just wish it were a true flagship phone.

  • Anonymousfella

    I agree with Joe, this does an attempt to capture the attention of the tech media and make waves when market is usually quiet, anticipating the next iPhone.

  • mazdy

    It’s a simple equation this phone is an experiment with one objective. To battle the Chinese by slowing them down. However the price got to be competitive.

  • Will S.

    Hardware is looks, but this phone simply lacks excitement. Apart for those with a strange obsession with metal, I don’t know why anyone would choose this over a GS5 or Note 4.

  • Lilith_Black

    If their attempt at all metal means a easily scratched and dented back or slippery and grungy looking (grey M8) I will not be welcoming that. I like plastic that are well designed: LG an. Google did a great job on G3 and Nexus 5(esp black) respectively.

    However, what Samsung can do now is to lessen the bloat (For instance, I don’t need two browsers, music players etc) or just simply allow us to delete them / remove the KNOX trigger preventing root

  • xoj_21

    its good step in design, i like simple design, was not a fan of the holes, but fake leather look was worse.
    lets just hope samsung doenst give up removable bat, microsd and water proofing

  • jack

    they’re just waiting for apple’s guidance with iphone 6.. as they always do. golden phone? fingerprint?

  • gmaninvan

    Now next step. Get rid of that stupid physical home button and get on the same page with the rest of the android universe

    • namesib

      No thanks.

    • Richard Sequeira

      How about a way to turn on or off on-screen buttons?

      • gmaninvan

        You just described the OnePlusone

        • Richard Sequeira

          No, I just simple described a simple command that Android has.

          • gmaninvan

            Really? I mean I am aware that the OS is capable of it but there is currently only one device that allows this….. The oneplusone

  • leo98918

    I love the design, like the post says, it’s Galaxy S2 (SGH-i777)like. And honestly to this day, I feel like that was the best design/form factor, minus the bump on the bottom rear for the “speaker”. Other than that, it was great. I see only two things that need to change, battery and SD Card. If those are fixed, Sammy has a winner!

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    Bit Gary, didn’t they say it won’t have a limited release? I heard 150 countries

  • Tyrone_83

    Samsung is accused of copying Apple.? Why does Apple always get brought up in this.

  • Tiago Aguiar

    No Full HD screen for that money? Come on, that’s joke…
    And that battery? The LG L90 has a 2540mah battery! Come on!

  • Jesus

    …Guys i don’t think it’s meant to excite us android enthusiasts; it’s targeted for iPhone users, and the general public, who don’t know much about phones.

    Premium feel and material, small size, and thinness + Samsung = winning over iphone customers in my book

  • f-lip

    i like it because Samsung needed a style update, sure its not super original, but its a new shape.
    The Super Amoled screen looks great and the size (4.7″) is just big enough to browse comfortably on the internet and use it with just one hand.
    Personally the biggest Pros i see in the specs are the thinness and lightness, i only carry my (s3) on the pocket and the fact that its thin and light is the reason i didnt change it yet. This Alpha comes at almost same size but with upgraded specs wich is what i need right now.
    As a comparison to the new iphone, i think the OS will make people choose witch one they wanna use.

  • s2weden2000

    looks nothing like the aijphoney…

  • thartist

    It’s mystery, yet with a very clear end.
    It’s a very obvious but dark attempt at stealing the thunder from the iphone 6, copying it as much as possible yet trying to do something new for Samsung… Except that they didn’t introduce it as a plan for a design theme at all, and it costs a bucket of money, and… It’s a big wtf, and a very wasted opportunity to trace an ongoing route to enthuse analysts and buyers.
    Add it all up and it doesn’t make a bit of sense.

  • Havoktek

    Not impressed at all….Just a ploy and I like Samsung but I think there at the point of saying…”The people will buy anything” They could have went all in over even better…But they half assed it.

  • The-Sailor-Man

    The good thing here is, that at last the menial apple propaganda with this article, admit, that iphone6 could be compared only with mid-range Samsung phones.
    Well…When they smell aluminium, that turns them on, and they are getting wet. Could travel even to Russia to TOUCH IT. iPathetic.
    ROTFL.

  • Sanne

    In which countries came the Samsung Galaxy Alpha out? In Holland?