Posted by Chris Martin 14 August 2014
Samsung finally goes metal but the Galaxy Alpha makes no sense
I've been banging on about poor plastic build quality in Samsung reviews for years now and the firm has finally launched a device which, in its own words, has "real metal". That device is the Galaxy Alpha and while it's great to see Samsung taking action, the new smartphone is something of an odd ball which doesn't make sense.
The smartphone market is generally split into three categories: budget, mid-range and high-end. They are possibly known as other things particularly at the expensive end like premium or top-end. It's normally pretty easy to place a new smartphone into one of those pigeon holes but the Galaxy Alpha fits two in different ways. Watch: 9 Apple-bashing Samsung ads that'll either make you angry or make you smug.
The easiest way to do it is by price and going by this measure, the Galaxy Alpha is a high-end smartphone at around £500. Yes, it has that metal design which we've all been waiting for but at this price, it's more than the Galaxy S5 which, as you probably know, is Samsung's flagship smartphone.
We're used to Samsung pumping out devices in all shapes, sizes, colours, prices and specs but with this handset it is really competing against itself. It really only makes sense for vendors to have one top-end device, hence the term 'flagship'.
The higher price is partly because the Galaxy S5 cost has dropped since it's been on the market for a few months, but Samsung needs to take this into account when launching a new smartphone.
You get what you pay for? No?
You might think that paying more money means you'll get everything which the Galaxy S5 offers but with a more premium design and build quality. This would have made sense – a Galaxy S5 Prime type branding - but it simply (and strangely) isn't the case. For whatever reasons, the Galaxy Alpha is both better and worse than its sibling.
Of course, the metal on offer is a nice lure (I like shiny things as much as the next man) - although it's worth pointing out that it's limited to the edge like the Lumia 930 so the rear cover is still plastic. But there are a couple of advantages of the Alpha over the GS5. Is has a better processor in the form of a Exynos 5 octa-core chip and double the amount of standard storage at 32GB.
Unfortunately, that's where Samsung stopped and decided to downgrade everything else.
The Galaxy Alpha has a 4.7in screen with a 720p resolution - now a resolution common on smartphones as cheap as £100 like the Moto G. It retains the Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor but so does the Galaxy S5 mini so that's no big deal.
What's strange, is the choice to drop the microSD card slot (something which Samsung usual offers without fail) and the IR blaster. Furthermore, it's not IP67 dust and waterproof rated like the Galaxy S5 so that's another downgrade.
Last but not least are a lower capacity battery (not so bad considering the lower screen res) and a downgraded camera from 16Mp to 12Mp with the loss of features like phase detection autofocus and dual-tone LED flash.
Don't get me wrong, it's great to see Samsung using some 'real' metal on a smartphone but with its higher price tag and largely downgraded specifications, the Galaxy Alpha really makes no sense and competes against the firm's existing flagship handset.
iPhone 6 rival?
Perhaps I've got it all wrong and the Galaxy Alpha is in fact an iPhone 6 rival, as many are pegging it, (4.7in screen, metal design and September launch) but if this is the real reason for the device then Samsung is going down big time.