Galaxy Alpha: are you not entertained?

August 15, 2014
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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.

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