Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs iPhone 5s: first look


The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is shaping up as more than just a good-looking smartphone. It is regarded as the company's answer to the phone which Apple is expected to launch in the very near future – the iPhone 6, or whatever it ends up being called. And we'll definitely pit the two against each other as soon as we get the chance, but until then, here's a comparison between the Galaxy Alpha and the iPhone 5s.


At long last, Samsung has crafted a truly premium Galaxy smartphone. The Galaxy Alpha sports a metal frame with chamfered edges, which gives it a nice, solid feel. On the back we find a plastic cover treated to a delicate, cross stitch pattern. Add the fact that the Galaxy Alpha is Samsung's slimmest Android phone to date and you end up with a handset really worthy of attention. But the iPhone 5s does not lag behind. In fact, some might find its premium construction even more appealing. The iPhone's frame and back are made of metal, with glass elements spicing things up. 

When held, the iPhone 5s fits nicely in the palm thanks to its compact size and low weight. The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is a tad bigger, yet still very comfortable to handle and fit into any pocket. 

Fingerprint scanners come embedded in the home buttons of both handsets, but while the one on the iPhone 5s works with only a touch and at any angle, the one on the Alpha reads fingerprints only with a vertical swipe. This could make it somewhat less convenient to use. 

The sensor that you see next to the Galaxy Alpha's camera is actually a heart-rate monitor. Yup, it can be used for pulse measuring, either while exercising, or whenever you feel like it. Naturally, the lack of one on the iPhone 5s isn't too big of a deal as it is something only a small fraction of users would use regularly. 


One of the biggest assets in the Samsung Galaxy Alpha's portfolio is its 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display. It has a resolution of 720 by 1280 pixels, which results in a pixel density of around 312 PPI. On the iPhone 5s we find a significantly smaller, 4-inch LCD display. It is usable, of course, but some might find the Alpha's 4.7-incher much more convenient, especially when the actual size difference between the two phones isn't too major. Folks who go with the iPhone will be enjoying a display resolution of 640 by 1136 pixels, which produces a very similar, 326 PPI pixel density figure. Both screens are in the same category when it comes to detail reproduction – not industry-leading, but still more than enough.

As we already stated, the Galaxy Alpha is equipped with a Super AMOLED display, while the iPhone has an IPS LCD panel. The former is likely to be superior when it comes to contrast and its colors are probably going to "pop out" more, but the latter will probably produce more accurate colors and should be easier to read outdoors. That's what we could deduct after looking at the two screens side by side, but only a proper screen test will show whether that's the case.


Samsung will ship the Galaxy Alpha with Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box – an OS known for its openness, customization flexibility, and huge selection of free applications. Samsung's TouchWiz user interface will be layered on top, adding a ton of goodies, including Multi Window, Ultra Power Saving Mode, S Health, Kid Mode, and much more. The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, will be updated to iOS 8 in the very near future. Apple's OS is simpler, easier to get the hand of, and more reliable as a whole, not to mention the huge selection of high-quality applications available on it. And with the newest iOS update, the platform will become more customizable than ever, with its support for third-party widgets and on-screen keyboards. 

Processor and memory

You'd be wrong if you assume that a phone as design-focused as the Samsung Galaxy Alpha would be underpowered. Under its hood ticks an octa-core Exynos chip comprised of four high-performance, 1.8GHz cores and four power-efficient 1.3GHz cores. 2GB of RAM are also on board for minimal delays while switching between apps. To no surprise, we did not encounter any performance issues during our hands-on time with the Galaxy Alpha. Inside the iPhone 5s we find a 64-bit A7 SoC and 1GB of RAM. Inferior? Well, not really. When it comes to real-world performance, the iPhone delivers a top-notch experience, with no lags and no choppy transitions. 

Neither of the two phones lets you add extra storage as they both lack a microSD card slot. With the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, however, you get a generous 32GB of storage space, while a 32GB iPhone 5s costs $100 more than the 16GB one. 


With the Samsung Galaxy Alpha you get a very promising 12MP camera. It sports one of Samsung's new ISOCELL sensors which support extras like real-time HDR preview and super-fast phase-detection focusing. But we have a feeling that the iPhone 5s will be a worthy rival in the camera department even though it has only 8MP at its disposal. The iPhone's camera takes great images, as we know from experience, and its ease of use would be considered an advantage for many. Plus, the iPhone 5s has a two-tone LED light, which produces more natural light when fired. 


Of course, we can't draw any final conclusions at this time as we have not spent enough time with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. But we're happy with what we've seen so far, and we'd say that Samsung's offering is shaping up as a worthy competitor to Apple's highly-acclaimed smartphone. Choosing a Galaxy Alpha over an iPhone gets you a significantly larger screen, an eye-catching design, and a very promising camera. Still, if you don't demand a screen any larger than the iPhones, you won't be missing out on much.

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