Samsung has finally bowed to the demands of critics and produced a new Android phone made of metal. The Samsung Galaxy Alpha incorporates a metal frame into a look reminiscent of both an iPhone and the company’s first big hit, the Galaxy S2.
The Alpha is in other respects disappointingly mid-range, reduced in almost every respect from the Galaxy S5. The display, then, measures 4.7 inches and is only 720p, there’s an octa-core processor consisting of 1.8GHz and 1.3GHz quad-core CPUs, and a 12MP camera on board.
Perhaps more significantly, the battery has been reduced to just 1860mAh capacity, a full 1000mAh lower than the S5 and smaller still than that on the class leading LG G3. This smaller size will have been necessary to fit into the tiny 6.7mm thick frame.
This dedication to form ahead of function is a major change for Samsung, and may not fully satiate its critics. The company has been having a difficult time of late, with declining profits caused by lower than expected demand for its S5 and S4 smartphones.
While there are many reasons for this that are out of Samsung’s control—the maturing smartphone market, the end of the specs race, and the rise of the Chinese manufacturers able to produce high-spec devices at low prices—many have pegged Samsung’s lack of focus on design, either in hardware or software, as an important factor that is making its devices less appealing to consumers.
Indeed, you could argue that Samsung Mobile lacks a clear focus at all. HTC has thrown itself at industrial design, winning plaudits if not massive sales success; Motorola has redefined the budget end of the market with high quality devices like the company’s biggest selling smartphone the Moto G; and LG has taken over Samsung’s traditional role of going all out on specs.
Samsung, meanwhile, has continued producing a device for every conceivable part of the market, but is increasingly unable of competing in any of the areas its competitors are targeting. The Galaxy Alpha appears to be the first sign of the company addressing its problems. And bigger devices are on their way.
The forthcoming Galaxy Note 4, which will be unveiled at IFA in Berlin at the start of September, will be the new flagship phone from the company, with leaked images suggested a similar design language. This includes the square corners that were a trademark of the Galaxy S2, while the edges are undoubtedly informed by the design of recent iPhones.
Rob Kerr, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, sees the Alpha as a pre-emptive strike on the iPhone 6. “There is now an iPhone 6 killer on the scene, even before Apple’s looming launch”, he says. “The new Samsung Galaxy Alpha is clearly going head to head, spec for spec, toe for toe, with the upcoming iPhone 6. Time will tell if the metal frame that has the look of an iPhone, and the thinness of the 5S, is enough to steal away attention from the next gen Apple handset.”
The Galaxy Alpha will be available in September, with pricing yet to be set.
Update: EE has confirmed it will be ranging the Galaxy Alpha in the UK.
Full Samsung Galaxy Alpha specs
Network: LTE Cat.6 (300/50Mbps)
Display: 4.7” HD Super AMOLED (1280 x 720)
AP: Octa Core (Quad 1.8GHz + Quad 1.3GHz)
OS: Android 4.4.4 (KitKat)
Camera: 12MP (rear) + 2.1MP (front)
Video: UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) @30fps
Additional features: Ultra Power Saving Mode, Download Booster, Quick Connect, Private Mode, Google Mobile Service, Chrome, Drive, Photos, Gmail, Google, Google+, Google Settings, Hangouts, Maps, Play Books, Play Games, Play Newsstand, Play Movie & TV, Play Music, Play Store, Voice Search, YouTube
Connectivity: WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac HT80, MIMO(2×2), Bluetooth®: 4.0 BLE / ANT+, USB: USB 2.0, NFC