Friday, 20 February 2015

Samsung Galaxy Alpha hands-on: Note 4 metal design in small compelling form factor

Samsung will be holding its next Unpacked event on 1 March and it's likely we will see the Galaxy S6. Rumors indicate Samsung will use metal, similar to what we see on the Note 4 and Note Edge.
The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has a fit and finish similar to the Note Edge, but in a much more pocketable size. I hope we see some of the design elements from the Galaxy Alpha on the next core Samsung Galaxy smartphone, especially after using a Galaxy Alpha for the last week.

Hardware

I've heard good things about the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and have seen it in pictures, but I was not at all prepared for how compact it turned out to be. It's smaller than my Sony Xperia Z3 and just a bit longer than my extremely pocketable 2013 Moto X.

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The metal frame of the Note 4 impressed me late last year so I was very pleased to see this same design feature on the Galaxy Alpha, even including the beefed up corners. The shiny chamfered edges on the white model give it a high class look as well.

The back is fully removable and provides access to the replaceable battery and nanoSIM card slot. There is no microSD card slot for expanded storage, but the device does come with 32GB of integrated memory that should meet the needs of most people.
Specifications of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha include a 4.7 inch 720x1280 Super AMOLED display, 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, 12 megapixel camera, 2.1 megapixel front facing camera, and 1860 mAh battery. Dimensions of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha are 5.23 x 2.58 x 0.26 inches and 4.03 ounces.
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The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has specs nearly matching other flagship devices, but in a form factor we no longer see from manufacturers. The heart rate monitor is missing from the back, there is no microSD card slot, and the display has a lower resolution than current flagships. These are all trade-offs I am on board with and the form factor just can't be beat.
My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S5, but after I showed her the Galaxy Alpha she wanted to replace the S5 with the Alpha. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Alpha is not available on T-Mobile.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha runs Android 4.4.4 at this time, but should get a Lollipop update in the near future. TouchWiz has been pared down considerable so you get an experience similar to the Note 4 and Note Edge.
Unfortunately, AT&T has quite a few carrier apps preloaded on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. These include myAT&T, AT&T Locker, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Live, AT&T Mail, AT&T Mobile Locate, Mobile Hotspot, Mobile TV, and more.

Experiences and final thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha has a 720x1280 display, but at 4.7 inches it still looks fantastic. The device is extremely responsive and I never saw any slowdown or lag while using the Galaxy Alpha.

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I can't say enough about the design and form factor. Once you hold it, you may have a tough time going back to a 5+ inch display device with marginally better specs. The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is definitely a device for your shirt pocket or front pants pocket. If you purchase a Samsung Galaxy Alpha from AT&T, currently available for free with AT&T Next, $49.99 with a standard two-year contract, and $612.99 with no annual contract. AT&T is also offering a special bundle on the Samsung Tab 4 8.0. You can get this compelling table for free when you add it to your Samsung Galaxy order and sign up for a two year plan. The two year data plan requires that you pay $14.99 per month for shared data access.