Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Galaxy F, Galaxy Alpha and the mystery of the premium Galaxy S5

Just what's going on with Samsung's secretive smartphone?

It probably won't look like this.

We'll admit it, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha (or should that be the Galaxy F? Or the Galaxy S5 Prime?) has left us confused.

Normally when rumours of a new phone appear they quickly start to line up even if they're not always entirely accurate, but with the Galaxy Alpha it's not only gone through at least three different names but there's also a whole heap of conflicting leaks and rumours.

So which ones are right? Is Samsung really going to launch a premium version of the Galaxy S5? Or will it be more of a Galaxy S5 lite? Will there be more than one handset? Does it even exist at all or is Samsung just pranking us?

We don't have the answers to any of those questions, but we're going to put our analysis hats on and try and puzzle some out.

The S5 killer

Initial rumours largely pointed to a superphone that would prove more powerful and better built than the
Galaxy S5. These included talk of a slightly larger 5.2-inch Quad HD screen, an all-metal chassis and a super-slim 6mm thick build.

And that's before we even look inside the phone, which according to some rumours is going to be powered by a either a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor or an octa-core Exynos 5433 processor, coupled with 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 420 GPU, all of which are upgrades on what the Galaxy S5 has.

This was an exciting idea but it was always a slightly suspect one. Samsung has traditionally released just one flagship a year, or two if you count the Note range, but that's aimed at a different audience.

With a 5.2-inch screen this would clearly be aimed at the same market as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the rumoured upgrades are substantial enough for it to be considered a true successor, rather than just a tweaked version.

It's possible that Samsung could switch to releasing two flagships each year, much like Sony does, but an upgrade that big after just six months or so doesn't seem likely.

We wouldn't totally count it out as the Galaxy S5 slightly underperformed, so Samsung may be trying to make up for that sooner rather than later, plus with a Quad HD screen it would be able to stand up to the LG G3, but it still seems like too much too soon to us.

The iPhone 6 alternative

Next came a new set of rumours painting it more as an alternative to the iPhone 6. Three key things pointed in that direction. Firstly there's the rumoured release date, which has gradually slipped and currently the most likely one is September, which funnily enough is also when we expect to see the iPhone 6.
We also heard new screen size rumours, suggesting that rather than it being 5.2 inches it would in fact be 4.7 inches, which is the same size as one of the iPhone 6 models is expected to be. As for the 5.5-inch model, well Samsung already has the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 to counter that.

Finally there's the enduring rumour that it would have a premium metal build. There are any number of reasons that Samsung would want to ditch plastic for metal, it's certainly seen its handsets criticised for their cheap appearance for a long time now and even other Android rivals have overtaken it in that sense.

But Apple in particular is known for delivering stylish, high end products, so if Samsung wants to go after the iPhone crowd it will need to create a similarly premium device and coating it in metal would be a good start.

This is a set of rumours that we have more faith in. If any manufacturer has the muscle to take on Apple it's
Samsung so we'd never rule it out, plus creating an iPhone 6 alternative doesn't require quite such a hefty upgrade as the initial rumours suggested. A 4.7-inch display is never likely to be QHD, so Samsung can stick with a 1080p screen.

The Galaxy S5 lite

Another possibility is that far from being a superphone, the Galaxy Alpha will actually be a pared back version of the Samsung Galaxy S5. The possibility of a smaller screen already points in that direction and other rumours suggest there might not be a microSD card slot. Taking things out is hardly the sign of an upgrade.

Add to the that the fact that the latest shots we've seen of the phone show it with a metal band rather than a full metal body and it doesn't look quite as premium as we were once expecting either, though it would still be an improvement on the Galaxy S5, which makes the concept of it being a lower end alternative problematic.

Multiple phones

Of course with conflicting rumours flying around there's always a chance that they're all or at least mostly all true but that they're simply talking about two or three different handsets.
The fact that we've actually seen images of at least two different designs adds credibility to that concept and Samsung has been known to flood the market with phones in the past.
We'd say this is unlikely though. Fake images often pop up before a phone's announced and there aren't any rumours that really claim there's more than one mystery handset in the works.
Plus while at least three names have popped up they all seem to be referring to the same thing so the market isn't likely going to get any more muddled, but it's always a possibility.

Our take

With all that in mind we're still leaning towards saying that the Alpha, F and Prime are all one and the same and that Samsung is most likely positioning it as an iPhone 6 alternative.ng it as an iPhone 6 alternative.

In which case we'd expect similar or possibly slightly higher end specs to the Galaxy S5 and a more premium build, but with a smaller screen. To get a little more specific the recent shots of the metal edged but plastic backed handset certainly look convincing, so we're going to back them as the likely look.
Then we'd expect it to have a 4.7 inch 1080p display and we'll go out on a limb and say a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM. Samsung's already stuck 3GB in the Note 3, so that wouldn't be such a surprise and the Galaxy S5 is already 2.5GHz, this would just be pushing it up to a slightly newer processor.
While it would work as an iPhone 6 foil it could also be seen as a Galaxy S5 alternative. No better (or not much better anyway), no worse, just different.


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