Let's dive in. The Alpha is one of the new smaller screen breed that compromises in some specs compared to the flagship devices. And in a move away from the S phones, the back is not removable and there is no SD card but it does have:
- Display: 4.7″ Super AMOLED with 1280 x 720 pixels (320 ppi pixel density)
- Memory: 32GB
- OS: Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
- Processor: Octa-core Exynos
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, EDR, LE, Micro USB, GPS
- Camera: 12MP with superfast autofocus, LED flash, video and secondary 2.1MP camera
Many reviewers dislike TouchWiz because it's too colourful or colourful in an outdated way. This is easily overcome using an alternate launcher and icon packs. If you just want to change the font, Samsung has that covered. I'm happy to see Samsung go away from the Tabbed setup in Setting; it really is easier to simply scroll down through groups.
OEMS really have to set themselves apart with features so let's look at some features unique to the Alpha.
Safety Assistance is set up from the settings menu. You can have up to 4 contact numbers and once it's set up if something happens you press the power button 3 times and a series of messages sent to the contacts. Map location, a front and rear camera shot and short audio clip. This works best if the emergency contacts are using cell phones (and you're in an area with cell phone coverage).
Private mode is a specific use for user accounts where you can put media files for personal viewing only. This is not the same as KNOX which has a comprehesive array of tools from a secure store.
Multi-window is included and this is where Samsung prioritizes its apps over Google apps. When multi-window first came out the first app would be in a pop up if accessed from the multiwindow slider. With KitKat pop up windows stopped and with the Alpha you put the apps onto a template. I think the it's of limited use because of screen size.
Google's version of Android is front and center, for the powered by android start up screen to the embedded Google search bar and folder of Google apps on the homescreen so all the features of KitKat are included within the TouchWiz skin. All in all the Alpha is a compelling device. My only concern is the home button. It's a lot more raised than the home button on the S4 (last model without the finger print scanner) I've found the home button on my Tab S 8.4 has gotten a little more "clicky" with use - something that just hasn't happened with my S4. Doesn't affect the responsiveness of the button but something to keep in mind.
If you are thinking of upgrading, I've include a short video comparison between the S4 and the Alpha so you can see for yourself some general performance.