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Event Coverage

A close look at the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and its new metallic frame

By Sidney Wong - 4 Sep 2014

Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy Alpha

A New Focus on Design

Samsung gave its smartphone portfolio a breath of fresh air with the Galaxy Alpha - the first phone from the company to sport a metallic frame.

For years, Samsung has been coming under intense criticism for using all polycarbonate designs in its flagship mobile devices as competing brands such as ASUS and HTC continued to deliver devices with premium materials and better build quality.

With the recent reports of falling sales and stiffening competition, Samsung knew that it had to appeal the demanding smartphone consumers. One of its strategies involved a new line of Galaxy devices under the "Alpha" brand to take the lead for fresh designs. The 4.7-inch Galaxy Alpha was announced on August 13 and became the first Samsung phone to sport a metallic frame. Following which, some of these design elements found its way to the newly announced Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge devices.

We managed to lay our hands on a prototype unit of the Galaxy Alpha in Berlin during the Samsung Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event. Before we detail our first impressions of the device, we have tabulated the key specs of the Galaxy Alpha and how it fares against the Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone:

Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs the Galaxy S5
  Samsung Galaxy Alpha Samsung Galaxy S5
  Samsung Galaxy Alpha Samsung Galaxy S5
Launch SRP
  • From S$948
  • From S$1068
Operating system
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
Processor
  • Exynos 5 Octa (Quad 1.8GHz + Quad 1.3GHz)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 2GB RAM
  • 2GB RAM
Display
  • 4.7-inch / 1,280 x 720 pixels / Super AMOLED
  • 5.1-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / Super AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: 12-megapixel
  • Front: 2.1-megapixel
  • Rear: 16MP f/2.2, 0.3 second autofocus, LED flash
  • Front: 2.0MP
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO (2x2), Bluetooth 4.0 BLE / ANT+, NFC
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, MIMO, GPS/GLONASS, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, IR LED, micro-USB 2.0 (MHL 2.0), 3.5mm headphone jack
Storage Type
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 16GB/32GB internal storage
  • microSD support up to 128GB
Battery
  • 1,860mAh
  • 2,800mAh
Dimensions
  • 132.4 x 65.5 x 6.7 mm
  • 142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm
Weight
  • 115g
  • 145g

 

Design & Handling 

It's not hard to guess where Samsung got its inspiration for "its fresh approach to design with the Galaxy Alpha". The main (and only) hardware difference seen on the Galaxy Alpha is the metallic frame which has chamfered edges and strips of plastic at the top and bottom. 

The metal sides of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha have slightly flared corners at the top and bottom to improve handling. 

The button placement on the Galaxy Alpha is similar to most Samsung phones; each side of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha houses one hardware control with the Power button located on the right and the volume rocker on the left.

Although the buttons are a little thin, we had no problems accessing them during our hands-on session.

As seen in the two photos above, the metallic frame of the Galaxy Alpha bears some resemblance to the Apple iPhone 5/5S, ASUS PadFone Infinity and HTC One (2013) and is a stark contrast to most Samsung phones where aesthetics are concerned.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha (top) has a different design approach compared to the Galaxy S5 (bottom).  

It is apparent that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha (top) has a more premium look and build compared to the Galaxy S5 (bottom).

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha (left) sports a smaller, 4.7-inch 720p display compared to the 5.1-inch, 1080p display of the Galaxy S5 (right).

Thanks to its 6.7mm thin chassis and lightweight (115g) form factor, the Galaxy Alpha felt very comfortable in our hands. In fact, we felt that the Galaxy Alpha offered the best handling of any Galaxy phone so far. It’s unfortunate that the rear cover is still made of soft touch plastic.

You can remove the back cover easily via the slit located at the top left corner of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. You also can see the heart rate sensor just below the LED flash. 

Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S5 (right), the Galaxy Alpha (left) sports a finer dotted pattern on its rear cover.

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha uses a nano-SIM card slot and is powered by a rather small 1,860mAh battery.

As you can see from the photos thus far, the Galaxy Gear has no memory card slot. Therefore, you have to make do with its 32GB internal storage. It's strange why Samsung could not squeeze a memory card slot into the Galaxy Alpha, but we reckon the company wants to position the Galaxy Alpha as an iPhone alternative for consumers.

 

Software Features

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha runs on Android 4.4.4 KitKat, The interface on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is similar to the recent Galaxy smartphones.

Besides Android 4.4.4 KitKat, the Galaxy Alpha runs on the same TouchWiz interface as the Galaxy S5. As such, you can expect the familiar interface layout and features such as Ultra Power Saving mode, S Health and Private Mode. 

Other Specs

The Galaxy Alpha is driven by an Exynos 5 Octa 5430 processor (Quad 1.8GHz + Quad 1.3GHz) and 2GB RAM. Unlike the Galaxy S5's 16-megapixel rear camera, the Galaxy Alpha is equipped with a 12-megapixel rear camera unit.


Availability and Pricing

We were told by Samsung Mobile Singapore that the Galaxy Alpha will be available next month although pricing is yet to be confirmed. Based on its retail price (€649) in Germany, the Galaxy Alpha could cost as much as S$1,068 (based on currency exchange rates at press time).

Our initial impression of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha is generally positive, but we hope it won't be overpriced.

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