ⓘ Samsung Galaxy Alpha


ⓘ Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Samsung Galaxy Alpha is an Android smartphone produced by Samsung Electronics. Unveiled on 13 August 2014, the device was released in September 2014. A high-end device, the Galaxy Alpha is Samsungs first Android-powered smartphone to incorporate a metallic frame, although the remainder of its physical appearance still resembles previous models such as the Galaxy S5. It also incorporates Samsungs new Exynos 5430 system-on-chip, which is the first mobile system-on-chip to use a 20 nanometer manufacturing process.

The Galaxy Alpha received mixed reviews; although praised for its higher quality build and design in comparison to earlier products, the device was panned for its modest specifications in comparison to its flagship counterpart, the Galaxy S5, and for being priced too high for what they considered to be a "mid-range" smartphone.


1. Development

Samsung has historically been criticized for its continued use of low-quality polycarbonate materials on its flagship smartphone products, even as its competitors have made phones utilizing higher quality plastics or unibody aluminium frames. Despite these issues with build quality, Samsung has still been considered the most dominant Android OEM. However, in July 2014, the company reported its lowest profits in over two years, and a drop in market share from 32.3% to 25.2% over the past year. The loss in market share was attributed primarily to growing competition from vendors such as HTC and LG, and similarly increased competition in the low and mid-range markets from vendors such as Huawei and Motorola who is currently in the process of being sold by Google to Lenovo.

In early-June 2014, images leaked of an upcoming Samsung phone tentatively known as the "Galaxy F", shown alongside a Galaxy S5: it incorporated a metallic frame, thinner bezels around the screen than the S5, and was to allegedly include a quad HD display, Snapdragon 805 system-on-chip, along with the heart rate sensor and water/dust-proofing from the S5. On June 18, 2014, Samsung would unveil an LTE-Advanced version of the S5 with a quad HD display, exclusively for release in South Korea. A Samsung representative stated it had "no plans" to release this device globally.

In late July 2014, further images leaked of the rumored device, now identified as the "Galaxy Alpha"; the device depicted was now a mid-range device positioned below the S5, incorporating a metallic frame, a 720p 4.7 in 119 mm display similar to the Galaxy S III, and no expandable storage. On July 31, 2014, Kim Hyun-joon, senior vice president of Samsungs mobile business, told investors that the company was planning to release a major new device incorporating "new materials" by the end of 2014. Critics interpreted his statement as signs that the company was planning to make a metal smartphone, but that it could also be a new entry in the Galaxy Note series.

On August 13, 2014, Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy Alpha. Samsung Electronics CEO JK Shin explained that the Alpha was "built and designed based on the specific desires of the consumer market." The company stated that the Galaxy Alpha would mark a "new design approach" for Samsungs products, and that elements from the Alpha could appear on future Samsung models. Later in 2014, Samsung would unveil the low-end and mid-range Galaxy A3 and A5, which featured slim builds and a similar metal design. The Galaxy S6 would fully realize Samsungs new design direction, utilizing a unibody metal frame and glass backing.


2. Specifications

The Galaxy Alphas overall design is an evolution upon that of the Galaxy S5, incorporating a chamferred metal frame and a dimpled, plastic rear cover. With a thickness of 6.7 mm 0.26 inAt the time, the Galaxy Alpha was the companys thinnest smartphone.

International models of the Alpha utilize an octa-core, Exynos 5430 system-on-chip; consisting of a bank of four 1.8 GHz Cortex-A15 cores, and four 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 cores. The Exynos 5430 is the first ever mobile system-on-chip to use a 20 nanometer HKMG manufacturing process. The international model was the first device to incorporate Intels XMM7260 modem for category 6 LTE Advanced support. U.S. models include a 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor instead; both models will include 2 GB of RAM.

The Galaxy Alpha features a PenTile 720p 4.7 in 120 mm Super AMOLED display, and also incorporates a 12 megapixel rear-facing camera, fingerprint and heart rate sensors, and removable 1860 mAh battery. The device includes 32 GB of non-expandable storage, and runs Android 4.4.4 "KitKat" but can be upgraded to Android 5.0.2 "Lollipop" with Samsungs TouchWiz software suite.


3. Reception

While praising Samsungs decision to begin manufacturing a smartphone that incorporates actual metal in its design, critics noted that despite its "premium" appearance, the internal specifications of the Galaxy Alpha were "mid-range" in comparison to the S5, with particular emphasis placed on the devices smaller, lower-resolution screen, the replacement of its USB 3.0 port with a USB 2.0 port, and its smaller battery. However, Ars Technica noted that the lower screen resolution could offset the lower capacity of the devices battery, and ExtremeTech also noted that the smaller battery would make the device lighter, and the lower resolution of the display could improve the responsiveness of Samsungs Android distribution. In conclusion, the Alpha was considered by ExtremeTech to be "a hedge against several troubling trends for the world’s largest smartphone maker", believing that its slimmer build and higher quality design were an attempt to compete against the then-upcoming iPhone 6, which features a 4.7 inch display.

Engadget described the Galaxy Alpha as Samsungs "most beautiful phone yet", praising its design for being "simple, yet elegant; minimal, yet profuse". Its overall performance was considered to be up to par with the Galaxy S5, and its display was described as being "acceptable" for its class. However, the Galaxy Alpha was criticized for being too expensive for its class, concluding that "the only reason youd want to pick this over the Galaxy S5, which is available for a similar price, is that you prefer a smaller size or more solid build. But even then, this design isnt a one-and-done; youll be able to get the same fit and finish on the Note 4 and Note Edge albeit with larger screens."