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Excited for the Samsung Galaxy Alpha? Is this the premium handset you’ve been waiting for?

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is rumored to be arriving sometime in early to mid-August. For this week's Friday Debate, we discuss the Alpha and whether or not this is the premium Samsung handset we've been hoping for.
By
August 1, 2014
samsung-galaxy-alpha

Recently there have been a lot of rumors regarding the Galaxy Alpha, which is believed to be a new Samsung handset that features a metal frame with a plastic cover on the back. Unlike most of Samsung’s recent devices, the Galaxy Alpha has a modest 4.8-inch 720p display but fairly high-end specs when it comes to processor, RAM and storage.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is expected to arrive sometime this month, but is it everything that we’ve been dreaming of when it comes to a Samsung phone with a “premium” build? For this week’s Friday Debate we discuss the Alpha and whether it is enough to please those looking for a premium experience from the Samsung bran.

What do you think of the device, based on the rumor mill? Is Samsung right to focus on a smaller size screen for its metal-framed smartphone, or would they have been better off going with a device that is more similar to the GS5 or even the Note in terms of size? Is a metal frame enough to win folks over, or should Samsung have introduced more dramatic changes like an all-metal design or the removal of its famous hardware keys?

Be sure to check out our take on the situation, vote in the poll and then join in the conversation in the comment section below.

Robert Triggs

Based on the results of our polls over the past week, there certainly seems to be a healthy appetite for more compact phones with premium hardware, and the Galaxy Alpha looks like Samsung’s best attempt at such a phone in a long time.

Personally, I agree. Portability and a discrete form factor are still a very desirable features in a smartphone. Especially if it comes in a nicely built case.

I have to admit, the rumors of a 720p display are a little on the disappointing side, as mid-tier devices have been stuck at this screen resolution for a little while. As the Alpha is pushing 5 inches rather than sitting closer to 4, I’d really like to see Samsung include a 1080p AMOLED panel in this handset. It could have been a major selling point, but perhaps Samsung is more concerned about battery life.

The rest of the rumored specs are quite good. A high-end Exynos 5433, 2GB RAM, plenty of internal storage, and a 12 megapixel rear camera are all great specs, but they are not quite going to put the handset in the very top-tier these days.

The Galaxy Alpha still looks to be missing Samsung’s flagship camera and display technologies, which are probably the company’s two best self-designed components right now. I still don’t see why Samsung can’t keep the majority of the hardware the same as the Galaxy S5, bar the screen obviously, and just stick it in a smaller case. Mainboards and components are highly modular these days.

Ending on a positive note, the Galaxy Alpha is a big step in the right direction for premium “compact” handsets, especially when you compare it to the half-baked “mini” variants that Samsung has put out in the past. I’m looking forward to it.

Jonathan Feist

It is fun to watch the smartphone-size pendulum swing, I love that we now consider a 4.8-inch device to be a ‘smaller’ phone.

Now that that is out of my system, I like what I am seeing in the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Let me be up front and say that I do not think I will ever purchase this device, but I like what it stands for and where Samsung may be going with it.

Continuing to be frank about this, the Alpha feels a lot like a Moto X with a super upgrade to the processor. Perhaps it is this feeling, and my appreciation for what Motorola has accomplished with the Moto G and Moto X, that attracts me to the Alpha.

There is no doubt that watching that Exynos 5433 blow through 40K plus on the benchmarks makes you want this device. But then I remember that this is the natural progression of things. It is 40K benchmarks today, 50K by the end of the year(?). Point is, regardless the phone size and how we categorize it, the newest chipsets have to get out there eventually.

It has been said that it is probably time for Samsung to shake things up a bit. We accuse them of creating at least one device in every form factor and throwing them against the wall to see what sticks. I want to imagine that they have an idea what consumers want now, and the Galaxy Alpha is the perfect device at the perfect time to set off in the new direction.

Metal, you say? I care not. Not really, anyway. I do not require metal as a way to distinguish a device as sturdy or premium. If used correctly, I believe plastic is more than capable of providing all of the strength and durability that we need for smartphones. However, I do feel like most Samsung devices are a little light, a little flimsy, perhaps a touch of metal is the way for them to keep their current plastic manufacturing and create that solid device feel that we’ve come to expect thanks to manufacturers like Nokia and Motorola.

Bottom line, faster processors are coming, if the Galaxy Alpha turns out to be the only ‘small’ phone equipped for speed, it may become a hit. However, if phones like the Moto X get a comparable performance bump as well, Alpha will get lost in the shuffle, to be that phone that made a little splash while we were waiting for the Note 4 to drop.

Andrew Grush

I’ll be honest, I don’t buy Samsung smartphones these days and it has little to do with the build material or design choices the Korean giant has made. Simply put, I’m not a fan of TouchWiz and until they slim it down substantially, it’s not for me. I’m also not impressed by their aesthetics, though they aren’t nearly as bad as some would have you believe and it’s not a reason to avoid buying a Samsung handset in my opinion.

When it comes to internal components, however, Samsung’s hardware quality is exceptional, and I’ll be the first to recognize there are a number of folks that genuinely enjoy the TouchWiz experience. For some, the only major roadblock to adoption is that Samsung’s design has become a bit tired and the company’s attempts to switch things up with different plastic textures hasn’t had much affect on this opinion.

So can the metal framed Galaxy Alpha with its small (by 2014 standards) 4.8-inch display win over fans that are looking for a more premium experience? The answer is maybe. For Samsung fans that are sticking to older devices like the Galaxy S2 and S3 because they want something with mid-to-high range specs that isn’t gigantic, the Galaxy Alpha could absolutely impress these users enough to get them to upgrade.

For Apple users that are on the fence about switching to Android? Honestly, I think that these folks would probably still be more swayed by a device like the HTC One M8 or last year’s M7, but I suppose it comes down to pricing. Probably the biggest weakness, in my opinion, is that Samsung kept the plastic back from the GS5. It’s not that keeping a plastic back with a metal frame is a bad idea, it’s just that the GS5’s dimpled look wasn’t well received so you think they would have considered something more akin to the metal-like LG G3 case.

Finally, is the Galaxy Alpha going to impress the average Samsung user, the kind that’s happy with screen sizes and (mostly happy with) build materials? Obviously not, but again, that’s not the target here.

Ultimately I see the Galaxy Alpha as a move that’s not only designed to compete better with Apple and newer ‘premium’ phones in the Android world, but also is meant to appease Samsung (and non-Samsung) users that are looking for a phone that offers decent specs and doesn’t push past the 5-inch mark. So will it succeed? I believe it has a good chance, as long as its pricing and marketing are solid. Bottom-line, the Galaxy Alpha is a step in the right direction, though it doesn’t change my personal opinion that Samsung’s design language is in need of refreshing (front and back) throughout its whole product line.

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