Samsung has kept a history of “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” when it comes to their mobile devices. Almost every single one of their high end smartphones are lightweight, plastic and cheap feeling – but now Samsung is looking to finally step out of the plastic light and invest in much better material. The Galaxy Alpha was announced as Samsung’s first device with an aluminum body – well just around the edges of the phone but hey any metal is great. The device carries lower ended specs than compared to some of their S and Note siblings but Samsung is confident in the release of the Alpha. Looking to target those who want something in between, the Galaxy Alpha is not a powerhouse, but is a very user friendly, stylish and not phablet like device. But was another brand new device in the Alpha worthy of the metal body, or are you still better off with flagship Samsung devices? Let’s find out in my review of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, exclusively for AT&T.
On the hardware side of things, the Galaxy Alpha is sporting a mostly all aluminum design with very nice sharp edges around the device, Gorilla Glass on the front and a very smooth faux leather type texture. The obvious biggest change for Samsung is the addition of Metal. In a smartphone lineup that was all dominated by plastic, Samsung really took their time in the design of the metal edges, as they sharply turn every corner of the phone and feel very nice in the hand. The back plate is a removable piece of thin plastic but with a nice soft texture that isn’t too overbearing like that of the Galaxy S5 or Note 3. Its very smooth which makes it grip better in the hand and even stops the device from sliding on smoother surfaces. Underneath the back plate lies the removable 1860 mAh battery, SIM card tray, and prongs for wireless charging. The Galaxy Alpha comes stock with 32GB of internal memory, and have removed the option of expandable memory.
On the top of the Alpha rests your 3.5mm headphone jack, on the right your power button, left finds home to the volume rocker and on the bottom is your MicroUSB port for charging/syncing and the mono speaker pushed to the bottom right.
A 4.7-inch Super AMOLED 720p display is what you find on the Galaxy Alpha, which would place this device in a more mid-range level in their Galaxy line. Not only is their display mid range, but so are their internals – powering it is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, great for simple use but in our time of smartphones, the 801 is already outdated. This phone isn’t meant to be used as a work horse, but more of just casual everyday use – web browsing, social networking and yes, phone calls. Don’t expect to run higher tense games on this or even multitask like you would on a Galaxy S5.
Android 4.4.4 KitKat is present on the Alpha with no word yet on upgrading to 5.0 Lollipop, but with Samsung TouchWiz on top of it all, it wouldn’t really matter. This is the same exact software found on the Galaxy S5 and Note 3, with of course the removal of more powerful features meant for those larger devices. Though TouchWiz faces the same lag issues we have seen in many years, its quite less on the Alpha. Alpha users do get the luxury of a heart rate sensor on the back, right next to the camera and even Samsung’s fingerprint scanner – which can now be synced with PayPal, but don’t expect to use the Alpha as a universal remote as no IR blaster is present.
The camera is fairly decent, with the Alpha sporting a 12-megapixel camera which works well during the day but shows its flaws in darker situations. The camera does allow for UHD video capture and even provides some simple extra modes such as Dual Camera and Panorama – the addition of HDR would have made this camera more than acceptable. Colors are a bit off in many situations and though well detailed, do come off to be very dull. Indoor shots take a while for the shutter to actually happen and the photo is just covered with a not so sharp grainy texture. The camera will get the job done for an average person but isn’t something were used to seeing compared to the S5 or Note 3.
While the Galaxy Alpha is running exclusively on AT&T’s LTE network, it ran exceptionally well in New York City. Clear crisp calls are heard and the microphones do their best to block ambient noise. The bottom speaker isn’t the loudest but I would love to see Samsung carry over the bottom speaker on other devices rather than the useless back speaker. Battery life is also great with light use. I was able to max out a whole day with average use on the Alpha, and about 8-10 hours on heavy use of emails and social networks.
The Galaxy Alpha is a well mid range device that reaches a certain group. Though the surprise of a metal body was wasted with the release of the Alpha and should’ve been kept hidden until the Note 4 was officially announced. I do understand where Samsung is coming from, with its 4.7 inch display and small footprint, giving an option to Galaxy lovers who might want something smaller, user friendly, and stylish is smart. AT&T is over saturated with great devices and options, giving them this as an exclusive is a tough sell, other carriers like Sprint or even T-Mobile could have benefited a bit more – hell I still think the Alpha could have been a great pre-paid/post-pay off contract device. With already outdated specs in the tech world, if you are in the market for a somewhat mid-range Galaxy device then maybe the Alpha is for you, but best bet would still go after the S5 or later S6.
- Metal Edges
- Small Form Factor
- Addition of Fingerprint & Heart Rate Sensor
- Small Battery
- Low Performance
- AT&T Exclusive