Samsung has a weird, and to me slightly irritating, inclination that is bordering on habit: pushing products into hybrid scenarios that are doing just fine where they are. As someone who likes to have a camera, a tablet and a phone as separate devices (because, well I use them at different times for different things), I am continually baffled by the choice to shoehorn them into each other. I’m also disappointed that consumers are rewarding this, and Samsung is at it again with the Galaxy S4 Zoom.
The first time I saw Samsung blur the lines of tech products was in October of 2011, when they introduced their “phablet” the Note. They appealed to those of us who missed our Palm Pilots by bringing back the stylus and wowed consumers with a huge 5.3-inch screen. This movement to a bigger phone is a complete 180 from their path back in 2007, when they released the preposterously small Samsung Juke. Around that time most of us were laughing at the “future” that Zoolander presented to us, with a phone so small it could be held with two fingers. After the success of the iPhone, mobile phone developers about-faced and moved back to bigger screens that were better able to show the breadth of media options that were coming to us through faster wireless networks. But just like the Juke was downright silly because it was too small, the Note is preposterous because it is too big. It’s like Samsung, through consumer purchasing patterns, doesn’t know when to hit the brakes on a concept.
Though the sizes of the phones are now starkly different, the idea behind the cascading direction of their development is identical: they’re just taking fads and trends and rolling with them, like that guy you know who takes a really funny joke and kills it by taking it just one step too far.
Samsung is a publicly traded company, and as a company they really focus mainly on the bottom line to appease shareholders and increase company value. The only real reason for big companies to offer consumer cool features or shiny toys is because they intend for those products to increase profits. It is from this system where we get weird concepts that may or may not impress us. On the bright side, it helps innovation and pushes us along. It makes everyone and everything around it better in an attempt to keep up. On the down side, we often get products that just innovate for the sake of innovation, like the absolutely stupid idea of the Sony Tablet P, a folding tablet that just makes no sense at all. It’s a two sided coin, but in theory consumers should only be rewarding the good ideas. That doesn’t happen in practice, however because let’s be honest, many consumers have no idea what they want. They have to be told what they want through commercials and misinformation.
This was never a good idea.
When Samsung first announced the Note, it was harangued by tech bloggers and snarked at by many as a dumb, almost-a-tablet-not-quite-a-phone Frankenstein, sentiments I actually agreed with. However, lured by a big pretty screen that reminded them of their home televisions, consumers shocked those bloggers (and myself) when Samsung sold over 10 million of them worldwide. The sales of the Note II have been rather impressive as well, and recently it looks like they were good enough to bring on a third iteration of the phablet, as Note 3 images are surfacing.
I wouldn’t be bothered by this turn of events if the Note actually solved a problem or made things better. In their advertising, Samsung latches on to specific experiences where what the Note does will make life better for people. But the truth of the matter is that life isn’t better because of the Note. Are you drawing plans, making charts or sketching drawings on your Note? No, you’re browsing blogs, shopping for clothes and watching YouTube videos, the same things you do on any other phone. Sure, you can do those things that Samsung advertises, but very few actually do. It’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist, and that’s my issue. None of us needs a 5-inch screen to watch YouTube videos while walking to work. But Samsung has convinced us we do, and as consumers we, apparently, fell for it.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom announced recently follows the same strategy of the Note and plays to uneducated consumers who are under the false impression that megapixels and expensive cameras make for great photos just like the Note convinced them that a bigger screen and a stylus would make them better employees or would make sharing photos with friends more fun. How many times do we have to disprove this before it sticks? When normal people on the street can’t tell the difference between a photo taken on a Hasselblad H4D and an iPhone 5, it means that there isn’t really a problem with a cell phone camera. When beautiful photos can be captured across the nation from a wildlife photographer shooting only with a mobile phone or when an iPhone 3GS can start a viral video that proves expensive cameras don’t define fashion photography, it means that it’s not about the tech but about the person holding the camera. We don't need a camera shoved together with a phone.
Selling talent or knowledge is not as profitable as metal, glass and plastic (and it certainly requires more effort on the part of the consumer), so what we get are commercials that lie to us about a camera’s capabilities and bizarre combinations of a phone and a camera that boast impressive specs to uninformed masses who are just going to take selfies and photos at the bar on a Friday night anyway. Lots of numbers, fancy words and shiny metal parts... They're selling gilded turds to magpies with ADD. We don’t need these products, but we have been convinced otherwise. It doesn't help that consumers don't want to work for anything, including knowledge. We want to just be handed everything, and that mindset is ripe for exploitation.
There isn’t a problem, but consumers have been deceived into believing one exists. This isn’t the case for all their products but when it comes to their mobile division, Samsung exploits consumer insecurity, ignorance and laziness. We aren’t going to advance if this keeps happening. In my opinion, we will only regress until we are inundated with meaningless tech (or at least until a new fad sends us spiraling in a totally different direction).