Samsung Is Finally Learning How to do Smartphone Families
One of my biggest pet peeves with smartphones has been their branding. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s all a bit like a car showroom: some models have lovely, flowery names without the slightest hint of a descriptive element, where others bog their names down with overly-descriptive initialisms – instead of GT and 4WD we have HD and LTE. In recent years, I’ve had the feeling that things were slowly getting better, with phone names trending towards a happy medium between those extremes. Most recently, some of Samsung’s models caught my eye as a prime example of really doing naming right.
I’m talking about the Galaxy S 4 and its kin. Perhaps I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, as these models have yet to be formally announced, but recent evidence has me feeling moderately confident that we’ll soon be reading the launch announcements for the GS4 Mini, GS4 Active, and GS4 Zoom.
That right there is some fantastic branding. As Joe Smartphone Buyer, I know that the Galaxy S 4 is a top-tier handset, and with just a glance I can form some basic opinions about the rest of the family. Mini is more than descriptive enough on its own, and Zoom pretty clearly has something to do with a focus on camera features. I’ll admit that I didn’t know quite what to make of the GS4 Active when the name popped up months ago, but then again I didn’t even know if it was a smartphone at the time, and it could well had been a smartwatch or something similar. Armed with the knowledge that it’s a phone, I might not jump right to waterproofing, but the idea that it should be a ruggedized, durable phone still comes through.
Let’s back up for a moment and look at why this Samsung lineup is such a nice change of pace. It wasn’t that many years ago when Samsung couldn’t even come up with cohesive branding for its flagship devices. Just look at all the variants of the Galaxy S: with names like the Galaxy Vibrant or Epic 4G, they told customers next to nothing about what to expect. Ultimately, they’re only useful if you’ve been paying close attention to the company’s marketing.
That trend of names that didn’t really tell us much continued even when Samsung could keep them focused around one brand. Take the Galaxy S Plus and Galaxy S Advance, for example; those are some horrible names. Clearly, they’re both supposed to be improvements over the original Galaxy S, but that knowledge only raises a number of new questions: just which capabilities have been enhanced? Is Plus better than Advance or vice-versa? And if these are significant upgrades from the Galaxy S, why is neither simply the Galaxy S II?
Doing Things Right
Now, I’ve given the Galaxy S X Mini line a lot of flack in the past due to the fact that these phones have often had hardware so far removed from their namesakes that I felt the Mini designation was inappropriate. This time around doesn’t look like it will be that different – we still might not get an HD screen – but from what rumors and leaks have indicated, it could be a lot closer. One key factor could be that it gets an Exynos 5 Dual; that may not end up being the case, but if it is true, just having that current-gen SoC might be enough to make the phone worthy of the GS4 in its name.
Similarly, we’re still unsure just how the Active and Zoom will be outfitted, but honestly, I’m not convinced users will care if the specs are a little south of the GS4. They’ll still get a phone with the look of the GS4, as well as key GS4 software features.
I really hope these GS4 models all end up launching like rumored, and that we see this trend continue with the Galaxy S 5; maybe Samsung might even branch out a little and expand the family: the GS5 Power with a Maxx-sized battery or the six-inch GS5 Jumbo instead of Samsung’s separate Mega offerings. Smartphones are confusing enough for plenty of people. Anything like this that manufacturers can do to make it easier to connect with models and choose between different options is a big win for consumers.