Seeing as how Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF)has used brute-force marketing and copycat designs to become the largest smartphone vendor in the world by volume, it hardly deserves a hero. At the same time, it seems to need one at the moment: The company just posted its lowest profit in two years as its mobile division hit a wall.
Rumors about a metal "Galaxy Alpha" phone have persisted for quite some time. The Galaxy Alpha could be the hero that Samsung needs.
A tale of two Galaxies
Samsung mobile exec Kim Hyun-Joon has confirmed that the South Korean conglomerate plans on launching two new high-end smartphones within the next six months in an effort to escalate its competition with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Considering Apple's relatively solid performance recently and Samsung's modest earnings figures, the U.S. company seems to be beating its rival in the high end of the market.
Kim said one of the new high-end models would sport a larger display, with the other using "new materials." Those comments likely refer to the rumored Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4.
Speaking of Alpha
SamMobile reported yesterday that Samsung could unveil the Galaxy Alpha on Aug. 13. That would allow Samsung to beat Apple to market with this year's flagship phone, since Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 6 in September.
The site also exclusively obtained leaked images of the Galaxy Alpha (shown above). The device is expected to sport a 4.8-inch display and Samsung's own Exynos processor in certain variants. However, Samsung may only be partially using metal to bolster build quality. The leaked images suggest that Samsung has metal on the sides of the device, while otherwise retaining the faux leather that is used on the Galaxy S5.
The Korea Times reported that Samsung plans on unveiling the Galaxy Note 4 on Sept. 3 ahead of the IFA trade show in Berlin, one of Europe's most important tech exhibits. The Note 4 is expected to continue the trend toward larger displays, featuring a 5.7-inch OLED screen. A similar metal frame may also be included on the device.
If Apple does indeed release the anticipated 5.5-inch iPhone, the device would directly compete with the Galaxy Note 4. This would mark the first time that Apple and Samsung would go head-to-head in the phablet market.
Fighting back against Apple
Much of Samsung's success in the smartphone market in recent years has been in leading the phablet trend. Samsung was among the first and most aggressive proponents of large displays, and consumers' preferences have followed, particularly in emerging markets.
That's why Samsung should be especially concerned with Apple's expected entry into the market for larger displays. After standing pat with a 4-inch display in the iPhone 5s and 5c last year, the company is widely expected to release 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models this year. That would meaningfully expand Apple's addressable market, and what's good for Apple is typically bad for Samsung.
Samsung has also faced criticism for years over its choice of materials. The company's excessive use of cheap plastic in high-end devices has been a point of contention. Those design choices also directly contrast with Apple's approach, as the Mac maker uses high-quality materials and advanced manufacturing processes in its flagship devices.
Meanwhile, Samsung is also losing market share on the low end to low-cost Chinese vendors that are willing to compete aggressively on price while offering respectable technical specifications. Kim also said that Samsung would be releasing new models in this market segment.