back to article This is why we CAN have nice things: Samsung Galaxy Alpha

It must sting Samsung that the criticism most often levelled at the manufacturer is that its flagship Galaxy S devices feel cheap and plasticky. And for once the criticism is not just coming from Apple fans. Samsung Galaxy Alpha Samsung's Galaxy Alpha: looks like all the others in the range at first glance The Galaxy S3, …

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  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    The Xperia Z3 / Z3 Compact seem to be the more relevant devices to compare this to than the iPhone.

    So, do you want waterproofing, an SDCard slot and a very good battery, or do you want a fingerprint scanner and a removable - but only so-so - battery? Samsung's and Sony's varying degrees of Android skinning and bloatware might also be a consideration for some.

    To be honest though, none of current flagship Android phones are bad...even the ones from a year ago, such as the LG G2, can still hold their own in the speed, battery life and camera stakes (and be found for a helluva lot less money)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So, do you want waterproofing, an SDCard slot and a very good battery, or do you want a fingerprint scanner and a removable - but only so-so - battery?

      Unfortunately I want waterproofing, SDCard slot, very good removable battery and a fingerprint scanner on my next phone...Oh and I want it to be thinner and lighter than my current phone with around a 5 inch screen.. Probably asking for too much there. Samsung are probably my only real hope of getting it, but even then after the S5 I won't hold my breath.

      I like the look of the Alpha, but the spec and the features just aren't there to convince me to switch

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        If you're willing to forego a fingerprint sensor AC, the Samsung S5 Active will fit your requirements:

        http://m.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s5_active-review-1093.php

        Waterproof, removable battery, sdcard slot, other crazy Samsung stuff such as a heart rate monitor, barometer, ir sensor, eyeball tracking, kitchen sink etc

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'd hurry up Samsung may not be making phones in a few years the way competition is going from cheaper suppliers at the low end and Apple at the high end - their profits have already plummeted.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Sony: Just say no

      "The Xperia Z3 / Z3 Compact seem to be the more relevant devices to compare this to than the iPhone."

      Except that should you decide to "root" your phone to remove the bloatware (or be audacious enough to install a 3rd party rom), you will find your camera resolution and sensitivity has been utterly trashed and the reason given is "DRM"

      DRM was supposed to prevent unauthorised copying, not interfere with making original works!

      Having said that, the Exynos CPUs need to either die horribly or be properly documented. It's because of lack of documentation that that all the custom rom makers are dropping support for older Samsung devices.

      (A lot of Samsung stuff can only be handled via proprietary binary blobs. I found hooks in Samsung's GPS modules for Carrier IQ. Who knows what else is in there)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sony: Just say no

        "DRM was supposed to prevent unauthorised copying"

        That's what it's still doing. It's stopping users rooting their phones and attempting to use the camera software modules for Sony's superior low light algorithms in other phones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sony: Just say no

          Are you high.....

    3. Paul 135

      Z3 Compact is also cheaper at £350.

      (not so sure that Samsung's Fingerprint scanners work well enough to be considered a plus point either).

    4. N13L5

      don't know how the review arrives at Apple's and HTC's design being better than this :p

      both their mobes have metal framed in plastic, which looks cheap, gimmicky and in the iPhone 6's case downright stupid. Like it was made for the trailer park crowd.

      This Samsung's metal bezel excels with simplicity, functionality and a beautifully machined camfer.

      Its shape strengthens the corners and prevents the phone from slipping out of your hand. The corners also give your hand an immediate indication where you're holding the phone, so you know if the button is gonna be a little higher or a little lower, depending on how you grabbed it.

      People lacking the slightest design background mistaking industrial design for poor personal taste and then writing about it. :p

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've currently got a Galaxy Note 2, contract is up next month.

    I've been thinking about the note 4, but when I actually think aobut it, i'm happy with the note 2, Yes battery life could be better, but as it's replaceable that one is easy enough to sort.

    Camera could be better, but mine is certainly not bad.

    Currently running the latest KitKat, I doubt it'll get official Lollipop treatment, but that's the perfect excuse to try a ROM.

    Maybe i'll wait for the note 5.

    The z3 looks very tempting, but I don't want to go to a smaller screen.

    1. joeW

      If you don't mind extra bulk, check out a ZeroLemon battery for your Note 2. It's essentially three Note 2 batteries stuck together giving ~9000mAh of power - easily enough for three days use, and I've been able to stretch that out to five with light usage.

    2. Cliff

      @AC Note 2

      Sounds like you're in more or less the exact position I'm in. In fact I just umm-ed and ahh-ed long enough on the Note 4 to stay put with the Note 2, and downgraded my contract to month by month rolling SIM deal so I'm not repaying a network handset subsidy that's already repaid :-)

      The other handset I'm umm-ing and ahh-ing about is the Nexus 6 so I can have stock Android - fewer toys than the Note 4 and I think I'd actually miss the pen even though I use it occasionally, but I have a feeling it'll be a good handset.

  3. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

    Whats the point of even having External SD anymore? Its not like you can use it to boost up your crappy, cramped, and limited Storage Space to install even more Apps...

    'Cause... You can't! THANKS GOOGLE!!

    Whats's that Movies and Music? Isn't this what the Cloud was made for? I for One love XBMC (Movies), and Google Music... For umm Music streaming.

    The only thing Internal... Or by that Proxim the External SD is good for is to waste a lot of dead Storage Space in the Device that can, and will likely never be used. Such Apps that managed to make use of the SD Storage. Either Internal or External pre-KitKat, no longer work. Unless One takes the drastic measure of rooting Ones Device. And forgoing any and, all Warranties.

    Makes me kinda sit back, and wonder if the likes of Sandisk and Co. are really just gonna let this happen?

    1. Tapeador
      Stop

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      Your complaint seems to be about not being able to install apps on the internal storage. How many apps do you want? I would have thought your phone's RAM and battery will give up from these extra demands brought about by the hundreds of apps you're talking about many of which will run continuously, long before you've filled the internal app storage capacity.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      "Whats the point of even having External SD anymore? Its not like you can use it to boost up your crappy, cramped, and limited Storage Space to install even more Apps..."

      You can, if you know what you're doing.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

        You can, if you know what you're doing.

        Only by voiding the warranty when you decide to root your Device...

    3. Pristine Audio

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      Whats's that Movies and Music? Isn't this what the Cloud was made for? I for One love XBMC (Movies), and Google Music... For umm Music streaming.

      You're assuming the cloud is everywhere and permanently available. It may be to you but it certainly isn't out here in the sticks where I live in rural France. Or when I'm on a plane. Or if I visit another country and don't want horrendous roaming costs. That's why I stuck a 128GB SD RAM card into my Note 3 and filled it with good music. Google Music is fine for what it is, but it's not comprehensive WRT my musical tastes and sometimes you can find yourself wrestling with it to get it to play what you want. Movies on a phone screen? Not at my age with my eyesight, even on a Note 3! But music, absolutely, yes.

      No way would I buy a phone without a memory slot. The more the merrier.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      'Whats the point of even having External SD anymore? Its not like you can use it to boost up your crappy, cramped, and limited Storage Space to install even more Apps...

      'Cause... You can't! THANKS GOOGLE!!'

      Root and SD fix will take care of that.

      Rooting should not invalidate your warranty in the EU. Directive 1999/44/CE implies that it is up to the seller to prove that rooting was the cause of a fault within the statutory warranty period.

      Use TowelRoot to avoid tripping the Knox flag on many Samsung's

      Triangle Away is your friend when returning a device to stock in the event of a warranty claim.

    5. John Tserkezis

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      "Whats the point of even having External SD anymore?"

      I have a 64Gb card nearly full up with maps, PDFs and other data that is either not suitbable for cloud storage, or I do not want it on cloud storage for security reasons anyway. Soon, I'll be considering one of those newfangled 128G cards too.

      64G phones are rare, or so stupidly expensive it's not worth it, but even if I had one *right now*, I'd be about full up to the brim anyway - so it's not good for me anyway.

      My only option is to use an external card you you say there is no point of.

      Without that slot, I will not be buying that phone, and from the looks of things, I'm not alone with those thoughts.

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

        I have a 64Gb card nearly full up with maps, PDFs and other data that is either not suitbable for cloud storage, or I do not want it on cloud storage for security reasons anyway. Soon, I'll be considering one of those newfangled 128G cards too.

        64G phones are rare, or so stupidly expensive it's not worth it, but even if I had one *right now*, I'd be about full up to the brim anyway - so it's not good for me anyway.

        My only option is to use an external card you you say there is no point of.

        Without that slot, I will not be buying that phone, and from the looks of things, I'm not alone with those thoughts.

        Yes, but or you:

        a) Rooted?

        b) On a stock KitKat (e.g. 4.4 or higher ROM)?

        1. kend1

          Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

          @MichaelHaber

          Sorry you're having problems. I currently own a Samsung S5 Mini (on Verizon) KitKat 4.4.2 not rooted. Have moved apps, downloaded from PlayStore, onto my 8GB microSD. Also loaded 6GB of music from my PC onto the SD card. You can pull the end off the power charging cable to reveal a USB 2 connector. Plug that into the PC(Windows 7) and transfer files directly to the SD card. Cheers!

    6. mike_ul

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      Try streaming movies on the beach. It's not so easy .....

      1. madmalc

        Movies on the beach?

        Why would anyone want to watch a movie at the beach?????

    7. Paw Bokenfohr

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      @ Michael Habel: "Whats's that Movies and Music? Isn't this what the Cloud was made for? I for One love XBMC (Movies), and Google Music... For umm Music streaming."

      Streaming will probably be fine in 10 or 20 years time, but not yet; data is too expensive, service too unreliable, and coverage too patchy at present.

      And that's if you never leave your home country of course - if you do, you try streaming all your music and movies for 2 or 3 weeks while on holiday or away for work - bill "shock" will be an understatement for what you feel when you get home, and that's only if your provider lets you use more than xxMB while you're off network.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really in the post KitKat World.... (Or the shape of things to come?)

      Kit Kat and changing to a 16GB phone with SD card killed the Android for me. All of a sudden apps I liked didn't work. I tried multiple times but could no longer get Droidsound to work.

      That and the fact Android's interface is a bag 'o wank.

  4. Nigel 11

    Battery life-weight trade-off

    Why do the manufacturers feel compelled to make the choice for us? Couldn't they sell the phone with the option of a lighter battery of a heavier one for more hours? Or with two or even three battery pods, so you could change configuration whenever you wanted to? (Like swapping between a CD drive and an extra battery in IBM ThinkPads, some years ago).

    Of course that's only possible if the battery is user-installable.

    1. stucs201

      Re: Battery life-weight trade-off

      Once upon a time some manufacturers did do this, e.g. the ancient Samsung A300 flip phone:

      http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_a300-260.php

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Battery life-weight trade-off

      Samsung ironically used to be one of the best at this. I had one or 2 Samsung Win Mobile smartphones that came with a fat and thin battery and respective cases.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Battery life-weight trade-off

      Someone needs to be brave at the phone companies. Sell a thicker phone but have like much longer battery life.

      That fact that the Galaxy S5 has 1000mAh more battery capacity than the iPhone 6 says a lot about Apple's stupid obsession with thinness.

  5. dogged

    > the most aesthetically pleasing phone ever to leave a Samsung assembly plant in the back of a truck

    Do Samsung usually keep assembly plants in the back of trucks?

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Headmaster

      How else would you construct that sentence:

      ". . . ever to leave in the back of a truck a Samsung assembly plant"? Awkward.

      ". . . ever to leave, in the back of a truck, a Samsung assembly plant"? Even more awkward.

      ". . . ever to leave a Samsung assembly plant, in the back of a truck"? Incorrect use of a dependent clause.

      For anyone with even the minutest grasp of context, the sentence is perfectly clear. You could, I suppose, write "ever to depart a Samsung assembly plant in the back of a truck," but the assiduous pedant will still find a way to misconstrue it.

      1. dogged

        That's no reason not to tease the author about it.

      2. Robin

        "... ever to leave a Samsung assembly plant" ?

  6. Jim84

    Metal/Glass phones

    It is kind of irrelevant what the sides and back of the phone are made of as the first thing anyone does with their iPhone/Glaxay/HTC/Sony is buy a plastic/leather case to protect it from falls and scratches. Sods law says that if you don't you'll inevitably drop it in the first week and will have to spend the next 24 months looking at the chips and scratches.

    I think Nokia had the right idea way back in the day when they were making (plastic) dumbphones, but with the key feature that you could buy another plastic case if the first one got scratched/samaged. They often came in loads of crazy colours and designs.

    I don't think it is beyond Samsung to come up with a version of the galaxy alpha with a somehow removable metal rim, and perhaps a dimpled metal back that is less slippery. When these became chipped and scratched you could then just buy replacements (if it is possible to sell these for not too much).

    The other benefit of this is that it cuts about 1.5mm of plastic case thickness off your device. But the real benefit would be being able to feel the premium material your phone is made out of without living in fear of perma damage.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Metal/Glass phones

      There's no reason anybody should have noticed but Nokia phones still do that. The whole back comes off as a single piece and various after-market options are available, including ordinary replacements, more interesting colours, ones with built-in flip covers and probably more.

      1. Shovel

        Re: Metal/Glass phones

        My Galaxy S2 allowed for different back (thicker battery). Are you saying that 3rd party developers no longer make these accessories for the S4 and up?

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Metal/Glass phones

      "The other benefit of this is that it cuts about 1.5mm of plastic case thickness off your device."

      Metal cases and case bands transmit shocks directly to the internals (and screen), instead of deforming as plastic does.

      End result: all those whizzy metal-cased phones have a far higher rate of screen breakage than plastic cased ones.

    3. Pristine Audio

      Re: Metal/Glass phones

      Get a Samsung S-View cover. Replaces the back with a leather-type cover that opens like a book (turning the screen on as it does), looks smart, and protects the phone. I don't particularly care for the plastic backs on Samsung phones, but I've not used one since I got mine. Brilliant idea!

      1. Down not across

        Re: Metal/Glass phones

        Get a Samsung S-View cover. Replaces the back with a leather-type cover that opens like a book (turning the screen on as it does), looks smart, and protects the phone. I don't particularly care for the plastic backs on Samsung phones, but I've not used one since I got mine. Brilliant idea!

        Indeed. An unfortunate fall killed screen on my S2. When I replaced it with S4 I thought might as well offer it bit of extra protection. Almost got the S-View cover, but stumbled across SlimArmor View at fairly equivalent price and it is brilliant. Yes bit bulkier but offers superb protection.

        Some of the bulkier (ie. dirt cheap) USB cables don't quite fit with the phone in the case.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why does Samsung struggle to make a premium-looking device? Why always the cheap plastic? If they really have to use something plastic-like, see what Nokia has managed. It doesn't have to be horrible.

    I know not everyone wants to buy into the world of Apple - that's fine, understood - but the iPhone is just far more of an upscale device for very similar money. Samsung really needs to do better here.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Why does Samsung struggle to make a premium-looking device? "

      Why do people equate "metal" with "premium" ?

      Apart from my other point about metal cases (increased fragility), they also have major antenna issues resulting in lower sensitivity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Why does Samsung struggle to make a premium-looking device? "

        Why do people equate "metal" with "premium" ?

        Think of anything you can buy in a metal version or a plastic version. And which is more expensive? Which is the premium product? The metal one of course. Every time.

        I can't believe I had to write that...

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          "Think of anything you can buy in a metal version or a plastic version. And which is more expensive? Which is the premium product? The metal one of course. Every time.

          I can't believe I had to write that..."

          You mean like cars? Metal cars versus carbon-fibre ones?

          1. Duffy Moon

            Exactly. I would like a carbon fibre case and a sapphire screen on my next phone.

            Also, if they could work out a way of getting it to turn like a cat while falling so as to never land on the screen, then that would be cool.

          2. Monty Cantsin

            "You mean like cars? Metal cars versus carbon-fibre ones?"

            Carbon-fibre isn't plastic.

            I can't believe I had to write that...

            1. tony2heads
              Boffin

              @Monty Cantsin

              You mean Carbon fibre–reinforced polymer? As in a carbonized Polyacrylonitrile in an epoxy resin?

              Sounds like plastic to me.

        2. Tim Bates

          >Think of anything you can buy in a metal version or a plastic version.

          Like a garden shed?

          >And which is more expensive?

          The plastic one. Near double the price ($AU460 vs $979)...

          In this case, the "premium" priced product is the plastic one.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Gold is worth more than plastic. Would you want a plastic watch or a nice gold or silver one?

    2. robin thakur 1

      I tend to think that Samsung's phone sales have given them an inflated impression of themselves over the last couple of years and a tendency to rest on their laurels while piling endless bloat onto their devices and seeming to spend almost nothing on designers (or they just don't hire the right people) Samsung have simply remained the same, while everybody else has caught up or passed them.

      People only really bought Galaxy phones because they were a viable cheaper alternative to the iPhone early on, they were the only real Phablet game in town and because Samsung spend more than anybody else on marketing. Now there are better AND cheaper alternatives, like the Nexus and the cheaper chinese Apple clones like Xiaomi which actually do realise that the look and feel of devices is actually far more important than the specs to the vast majority of people. Instead of admitting that they got something wrong, Samsung instead say that the market is weak. This is the same market that is buying iPhone 6 Pluses faster than they can be made. The problem is not the market. Samsung's audience for phones either don't have a lot of money or don't want to spend it on Samsung's devices.

      Nobody wants to feel ripped off or mocked and the Galaxy S5 does not look, feel or perform like a flagship product and especially not a premium answer to any iPhone. Out of the box, without any tweaking, the phone is slow and the camera is, I would almost say broken, by its implementation of IS. This Alpha is even less impressive, simply because this is Samsung very vocally going 'all-out' to quell it's critics and ending up with a plastic-backed lemon. Despite being available for many weeks I have yet to see anybody walking around with one of these.

      Samsung mobile will decline until they drop their prices or innovate something which people find genuinely useful or that just plain work reliably. Everybody with > a galaxy S4 uses 'Air-Scrolling' every day don't they?

  8. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

    How many

    Broken iPhone screens do you see compared with Galaxy screens?

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