Review: Samsung Alpha Big on Design, Short on Tech

Apple filled a gaping hole in its product lineup with new iPhones boasting larger screens like Samsung's flagship Galaxy smartphones. Now, Samsung is coming out with a smaller phone that looks and feels more like an iPhone.

The new iPhones measure 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches diagonally, up from 4 inches before. Still, that's smaller than the 5.1 inches on the Galaxy S5 and the 5.7 inches on the Galaxy Note 3 and 4 phones.

But even Samsung is stepping back from its recent practice of releasing ever-bigger phones. The new Galaxy Alpha matches the 4.7 inches on the iPhone 6 and has a metal frame like the new iPhones, reflecting Samsung's attempt to mirror Apple's emphasis on design.

Unfortunately, the Alpha falls short in a few ways, including the resolution of its display. Other shortcomings will become apparent as I go through the various features.

The Alpha will be available in the U.S. starting Friday through AT&T. It will cost $200 with a two-year service contract, or $613 without one. The $613 price, which can be paid in installments, is less than the $650 starting price for the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 6. You also get double the storage with the Alpha, but it's still a high price to pay for technology that isn't top of the line.

THE BUILD:

The Alpha's metal frame represents a departure from previous Samsung Galaxy phones, which primarily consisted of polycarbonate plastics.

However, the Alpha still has a plastic back, albeit one that feels smoother and nicer than what's on the S5. You can swap in a spare battery, but can't add a memory card.

What struck me most was how the Alpha feels much like last year's iPhone 5s. The sides are smooth and straight, and the edges are at right angles, like the box for a deck of...

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