Almost every handset announced since the launch of the first iPhone back in 2007 has been referred to as the “iPhone killer” or “iPhone copycat” at some point but mostly these claims are unfounded. In the case of the Galaxy Alpha however, Samsung have delivered a handset that shares many hallmarks with Apple’s latest iPhone 6 but exactly how close are these two handsets?
The iPhone 6 follows Apple’s past design philosophy but is the second largest iPhone ever made (surpassed only by its bigger sibling the iPhone 6 Plus). The front is dominated by a 4.7 inch LED-backlit Retina Display with 750 x 1334 pixels resolution (which equates to approximately 326 pixels per inch density).
In comparison, the Galaxy Alpha also has a 4.7 inch display with 720 x 1280 pixesl resolutions which is roughly 312 pixels per inch density. The key difference between the two however is that the Galaxy Alpha sports a Super AMOLED pentile display – whilst the Super AMOLED technology is market leading, the use of a pentile display detracts away from the quality but despite this, the Galaxy Alpha display appears better than the iPhone 6.
The Galaxy Alpha was announced in August and released in September whilst the iPhone 6 was announced after the Alpha in September (and also released in September around the same time as the Alpha). Despite appearing before the iPhone, the similarities between the Galaxy Alpha and Apple’s latest smartphone are uncanny.
These are none more so than in the size – the Galaxy Alpha is slightly shorter (132.4 mm vs 138.1 mm), slightly narrower (65.5 mm vs 67 mm) and slightly thinner than the iPhone 6 (6.7 mm vs 6.9 mm). Although the Galaxy Alpha is smaller, the iPhone 6 is actually much nicer to use in the hand as the rounded corners (versus chamfered edges on the Alpha) make it more ergonomically pleasing to use.
The key differences between the two handsets are evident when considering the software and the power units. The iPhone 6 is powered by a dual-core 1.4GHz processor with quad-core PowerVR GX6450 graphics along with 1GB RAM whilst the Galaxy Alpha is powered by an octa-core Exynos 5 processor (made up by quad-core 1.8GHz and quad-core 1.3GHz processors) with 2GB RAM.
Another similarity that surprising is the lack of expandable storage – whilst Apple has never adopted the mantra of allowing expandable storage for its iOS range, the Galaxy range has usually featured microSD expansion. However, the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t feature a microSD card slot (despite the removable back cover) which means you’re limited to just the 32GB storage (the iPhone 6 comes in 16GB, 64GB or 128GB storage options). 32GB storage is more than capable of many users but if you need more, you’ll have to use a cloud storage solution or remove content from your handset as it fills up.
On paper, the iPhone 6 is slower and features less RAM than the Alpha so the overall experience should be much smoother on the Galaxy Alpha but this is one area where Apple’s vertical integration of the supply chain and optimisation of the software come to the forte. Despite running the latest (at the time of launch) Android 4.4.4 KitKat platform with Samsung’s own TouchWiz interface on top, the Galaxy Alpha performance does stutter with considerable lag especially when running multiple applications and resource intensive tasks.
In comparison, the iPhone 6 running iOS 8 is noticeably smoother than the Galaxy Alpha (even when running multiple applications and tasks) and only shows signs of lag when running more than 20 applications in the background (the Galaxy Alpha shows signs of lag with about 5-6 apps open in the background).
Indeed the benchmark results images above shows that whilst the quad-core Galaxy Alpha does perform well, it is surpassed in most tests by Apple’s dual-core iPhone 6. What is rather interesting is the Geekbench 3 Multi-Core benchmark which tests the CPU, Power and Efficiency of a handset. As you can see from our testing, this is one benchmark test where the double cores of the iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) are surpassed by the raw performance offered by faster quad-core processors.
On the back the Galaxy Alpha sports a 12MP camera with autofocus, LED flash and software features such as dual camera, panorama and HDR. In comparison, the iPhone 6 sports an updated 8MP iSight camera with 1.5µm pixel size, 1/3″ sensor size and software features such as simultaneous video and photo capture, HDR and panorama mode.
The iPhone 6 comes with the ability to capture Full HD 1080p video at 60 frames per second (fps) and super slow motion 720p HD video at 240fps whilst in comparison the Galaxy Alpha features 1080p video at 60fps, 720p slo-mo video at 120fps and the highlight is the 4K Ultra HD video at 30fps.
On paper the iPhone 6 has better performance in low light (thanks to the larger pixel size and dual LED true-tone flash) whilst both handsets should be evenly matched in daylight (the larger pixel size on the iPhone 6 negating the larger sensor on the Galaxy Alpha). In actual usage we found that the iPhone 6 seems to have more depth to the image and definitely focuses quicker than the Galaxy Alpha but the Alpha has colours that are a little more vibrant (the images above are samples from the iPhone 6 on the left and Galaxy Alpha on the right at 100% crop).
Another area where the handsets differ is the build and specifically, the removable back cover on the Galaxy Alpha. Whilst the iPhone 6 features a unibody that houses a non-removable 1810mAh battery, the Galaxy Alpha sports a removable back cover and removable 1860mAh battery.
On paper, the Galaxy Alpha has longer standby time but shorter talk-time than the iPhone 6 but in practice, we found that the Galaxy Alpha battery definitely leaves a lot to be desired. Whilst the iPhone 6 is capable of lasting a full day with medium usage, the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy Alpha draws a lot of power and as a result, the Alpha struggles to last more than 10-14 hours of medium usage before needing a full recharge.
Overall there’s a lot of similarities between the Galaxy Alpha and the Apple iPhone 6 but there’s also a few differences. The key difference is that in a bid to match the specifications of the iPhone 6 as closely as possible, Samsung have removed some of the reasons the Galaxy range stand out from the competition. In particular, the Galaxy range usually feature large batteries but the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t and they normally feature expandable storage but the Galaxy Alpha doesn’t.
The Apple iPhone 6 is widely available throughout the UK but does come with a much higher price than the Galaxy Alpha which limited in its availability. The former is available from £539 for the base 16GB model whilst the Galaxy Alpha costs less at around £400. Whilst the Galaxy Alpha is already seemingly end-of-life, the iPhone 6 will be one of Apple’s hero devices for the next 8 months or so and is guaranteed software updates for at least a few years unlike the Alpha that could be left by the wayside.
Here’s a full gallery of handset comparison photos: