Galaxy Alpha: Samsung Puts Pedal to Metal

Having taken criticism for using plastic for its high-end phone casings, Samsung has introduced a sleek new device with a metal frame. Now it's taking criticism for -- what else? -- imitating Apple. "Whether they'd admit it or not, this device takes a number of cues from what the iPhone has been for a number of years already," said tech analyst Ramon Llamas.

Samsung on Wednesday unveiled its long-awaited Galaxy Alpha smartphone featuring a metal frame and a 4.7-inch HD Super AMOLED display.

“We have taken a new approach to smartphone design with the Galaxy Alpha, focusing on sophisticated design techniques and compact construction, while building upon the Galaxy experience,” Samsung spokesperson Ashley Gregory told LinuxInsider.

Despite the device’s new metal frame, solid finish and lightweight design, however, the Galaxy Alpha “still provides users with the same powerful hardware and features they can expect from a flagship Galaxy mobile device, including efficient battery consumption, finger scanner and an advanced camera,” Gregory added.

Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) runs the device, which comes with 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal memory and a 1,860-mAh battery. It also has real-time high-dynamic-range imaging, as well as an ultra-power-saving mode, private mode, the S Health app, and connectivity with the latest Samsung Gear Fit, Gear Live and Gear 2 wearables.

The Galaxy Alpha will be available in early September; depending on the market, color choices will include charcoal black, dazzling white, frosted gold, sleek silver and scuba blue. Pricing has not yet been disclosed.

‘Samsung Could Have Pushed Even More’

“The emphasis here is on style and design — period,” Ramon Llamas, research manager for mobile phones with IDC, told LinuxInsider. “This is a direct response to some of the criticisms leveled at other Galaxy devices that seemed to be cutting corners in terms of materials.”

The Galaxy S III, S4 and even S5 have been criticized for having flimsy backing, Llamas pointed out.

“Meanwhile, the rest of the device was plastic,” he said. “This responds to that and says, ‘here’s our aesthetically pleasing device.'”

Although the Galaxy Alpha does mark a change from Galaxy devices of the past, Samsung “could have pushed even more” on the design front, Llamas maintained, particularly given that the feature set isn’t all that different from those of the other devices.

HTC’s One M8 is a shining example, he said.

“It’s a beautiful device. The chassis is completely made of metal. It’s a little on the heavier side, but not so much that it’s like bench-pressing. It feels great in the hand, with the brushed metal on back, and a lot of folks out there are saying Samsung could have done the same kind of thing, but less expensively,” Llamas observed.

‘A Collision Course’

Also worth noting is that “this is a metal-rimmed device with rounded corners and a flat top and back — what does that sound like?” Llamas quipped.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he pointed out. “Whether they’d admit it or not, this device takes a number of cues from what the iPhone has been for a number of years already.”

As it’s currently positioned, it could be said to be on “a collision course” with the upcoming iPhone 6, which is also expected to sport a 4.7-inch screen, Llamas said.

‘The Anti-Apple’

Of course, while relatively small for Samsung, the 4.7-inch screen size will be pushing the larger-size boundaries for Apple, Wayne Lam, senior telecom electronics analyst at IHS, told LinuxInsider.

That is a result of the two companies’ different approaches to the global smartphone market, which has matured dramatically over the years to include widely varying regional preferences, he said.

Asian countries and many developing nations tend to prefer larger devices, for instance, at least in part because “for a lot of these consumers, it’s the first true computing device they will buy,” Lam explained. European nations, meanwhile, tend to prefer smaller, more compact devices.

Samsung is in many ways “the anti-Apple” in that it tends to cater more to regional tastes, he noted.

“It is an interesting dynamic,” Lam concluded. “It all speaks to the fact that the market has become hypercompetitive.”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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