For far too long Samsung phones have looked and felt cheap compared to their rivals from Apple, Sony and HTC; their fake chrome edges, fake leather backs and, for the Galaxy S5, a rear panel resembling a plaster, left the Korean company is a difficult position.
Samsung phones have brilliant screens, powerful processors, impressive cameras, and loads of innovative features - even the software has improved this year - but the design always let them down. Until now.
With the Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4, Samsung has finally introduced premium feel and design to its phones. First out of the blocks was the Alpha, which has a 4.7-inch screen, a super-slim metal chassis and the same polished, chamfered edges we first saw on the iPhone 5.
It looks and feels fantastic. The screen is the perfect size to be held and used comfortably in one hand, aided by the phone being just 6.7mm thick - noticeably less than the 7.6mm iPhone 5s. Like the iPhone, the Galaxy Alpha feels lighter than your think, tipping the scales at a mere 115g. That’s an indistinguishable 3g more than the iPhone, but the Samsung’s screen’s is 0.7in larger.
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The screen isn’t Full-HD - that means a 720p resolution instead of the full 1080p - but that still means pixel density is over 310 per inch and that’s fine by us. Add in the bring and bold Super AMOLED technology and you have a screen which is vibrant and almost retina-burningly bright.
We’re yet to use the Galaxy Alpha for long enough to stretch the legs of its octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM, but we can’t imagine performance will be an issue here. Storage is 32GB, but there;s no microSD card slot to increase this - a compromise Apple has surely made the public used to having never offered an expandable iPhone.
Another slight cause for concern is the Galaxy Alpha’s battery life; at 1,860mAh the battery is much smaller than the Galaxy S5’s 2,800mAh - we’ll soon have an Alpha in our hands to see if these concerns are justified.
As for the Galaxy Note 4, it may not offer as much exposed metal as the Alpha, but the 5.7-inch phablet still uses some metal in its construction and feels better than ever as a result.
The fake leather back remains but mercifully the stitching has gone, while the metal edge adds to a premium build quality far better than any Note to date. As for the display, the Ultra HD 2560 x 1440 resolution is stunning and, Samsung claims, even better than the LG G3, thanks to the same Super AMOLED technology used by the Alpha. We’ll wait until we have both phones in our hands before declaring a winner, but from our time spent with the Note 4 so far we’d say the LG has a fight on its hands.
This is the dawn of a new design age for Samsung, one which will see it finally compete on an even ground with Apple. The Galaxy Alpha goes on sale in the UK on 10 September - one day after Apple announces the iPhone 6.
And don't forget how important screen size will be; the iPhone 6 is expected to come in two versions with 4.7-inch and 5.5in screens, competing directly with the 4.7in Alpha and 5.7in Note 4.
Things are about to get very interesting.