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Multiple rumors point to Samsung releasing a new flagship phone dubbed Galaxy Alpha, that will feature a metal body and a 4.8-inch display.

Galaxy Alpha, the prevailing theory goes, is meant to fight the 4.7-inch iPhone model that Apple is widely expected to release this fall. Apple may also enter phablet territory, with a 5.5-inch iPhone model that will go up against Samsung’s successful Note series.

But there’s one leaked specification that casts doubt over the potential success of the Galaxy Alpha, and now a new source confirms it – supporting Sam Mobile’s recent leak and a user agent profile, a listing on Samsung’s developer console shows that the Galaxy Alpha will feature a 720p (1280 x 720) display.

Samsung is usually known for pushing the envelope of phone specifications, even when the effect on user experience is not worth it. And it’s not just Samsung – we’ve all got used to ever bigger resolutions, more megapixels, and faster processing cores.

In this world of “bigger is better,” it’s strange to see Samsung go back to 720p for a device that’s supposed to be top of the range.

If our clues are correct, the Alpha will actually feature a display that is very similar to the one on the 2012 Galaxy S3, with a pixel density of 306 ppi.

galaxy note 2 vs galaxy s3 display

Note 2 (267 ppi) and Galaxy S3 (306 ppi)

Too little or still good enough?

Is 306 ppi too little for a 2014 flagship? It depends on whom you ask. If you’re used to Full HD, you may balk at going back to less. The same goes if you must have the very best for your money.

However, there are tens of millions of users out there that are perfectly happy with the 326 ppi offered by the iPhone 5s. You know the shtick – Apple’s Retina display is so dense that the average human can’t discern pixels, or so the marketing pitch goes. So perhaps Samsung could get away with using a similar density on a larger screen, which, theoretically, you would hold at a greater distance from your eyes anyway. Motorola has done something similar with the Moto X, and few users ever complained about its 720p display.

Then again, it may be a little too late for Samsung to try its luck with a 306 ppi display on a premium phone. Apple is rumored to go for a resolution of 1704 x 906 on the 4.7-inch iPhone, which translates to a 416 ppi density. Reviews and comparisons will inevitably highlight the difference in the iPhone’s favor, in an ironic turn of tables.

And, in the age of Quad HD, the Alpha’s display will look downright puny compared to other Android flagships.

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Galaxy Alpha

Why?

But why is Samsung taking this risky bet anyway? Without a full picture of the Galaxy Alpha, it’s hard to say, but it may be a cost control measure, a technical issue, or a combination of both.

With the exception of the One (M7), there really aren’t Full HD devices under 5 inches out there; and the M7 is LCD, not AMOLED, which Samsung prefers to use on high-end phones. The aluminum body could bring up the Alpha’s bill of materials, especially since Samsung doesn’t really have experience and infrastructure for building metal phones.

It’s possible that Samsung found it too difficult and expensive to use Full HD on a device that could end up a “limited edition” anyway.

How about you – would you buy the Galaxy Alpha if it had a 720p display?

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