Samsung's Galaxy S 4 Zoom: Wrong place, wrong time

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: June 12, 2013

If you can’t win ‘em over by putting the platform into a camera, why not try slapping the camera onto the platform? As our news hound Alex Wagner reported earlier in the day, the next installment of the Galaxy S 4 line, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Zoom, is officially headed to launch sometime later in the year.  However, after looking at the details, I can’t help but shake that jingle out my head: ‘One of these things is not like the other…’ and consequently feel that the Galaxy S 4 Zoom doesn’t really fit – either in the Galaxy S 4 line or in today’s market.

The device itself seems to have good intentions. The Samsung Galaxy S 4 Zoom will feature a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display (960x540), a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and runs on Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). The more defining features of the device include a 16-megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom and Xenon flash. I’m not going to pretend that I know a whole lot about cameras in general, but I do know that after comparing the specs, the camera on the back of this puppy is definitely better than the digital camera that I currently own. That’s impressive considering it’s tacked onto the back of a smartphone.

However…

If you notice, the specs on the Galaxy S 4 Zoom actually resemble the Galaxy S 4 Mini more than the actual Galaxy S 4 itself. So, you’ve already got a watered down version of the Galaxy S 4 on board, and then you have this honker of a camera tacked on the back of the device. Slap the Galaxy S 4 name on it and you’ve got yourself a… perfectly average hybrid device, with nothing entirely too drool-worthy about it.

It’s not a bad idea in theory. But realistically you have to think about other things that sell people on phones: battery life, size, and physical form. While the actual size of the smartphone is average and pocketable at 4.3-inches, the thickness and weight of the phone is what makes users question just how comfortable the device will be to hold both for general use and for voice calls. It’s also worth mentioning that by taking a smaller form factor, you’re likely losing out on more battery life. However, without the battery size being mentioned in any news articles it’s hard to tell at this point how that aspect will actually play out.

When we get to talking about the actual physical form of the device is where it gets tricky; the optical zoom of the device is what makes it take better quality pictures over your typical digital zoom of regular smartphones. However, with this device also serving as a smartphone, manufacturers like Samsung need to realize that there should be a happy medium to executing the design when dealing with hybrid devices like these.

I feel like hybrid phones like this need to look like and act like a smartphone, but have point-and-shoot camera-like qualities in order to succeed. The Galaxy S 4 Zoom seems to be more of a Galaxy Camera Mini with a bonus phone feature included. If you were looking at photos of the Galaxy S 4 Zoom and didn’t know any better, you’d probably think that’s what the device was anyway – not a continuation of the Galaxy S 4 line.

If you’re going to get involved in smartphone-camera hybrid devices, it seems like this is the year to do it. With the rumored Nokia EOS device with 41-megapixels and Sony’s rumored 20-megapixel Honami device it’s no wonder that Samsung wanted to get in on the action as well. However, I feel that the overall form factor of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Zoom doesn’t live up to modern expectations on what a smartphone/camera hybrid device should look and feel like. The idea was good, but the actual device seems like it needs more refinement in order to provide either A.) Better specs or B.) A slimmer form factor (or both if you really wanted to knock ‘em dead).

However, with neither the Nokia EOS nor the Sony Honami being official, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Zoom may still manage to generate sales from consumers who have been looking for a smartphone/camera hybrid solution.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Zoom? Do you feel like it has a place in the smartphone market today? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!