By Taylor Martin | June 21, 2013 7:00 AM
Branding is more important than many people give it credit for. And if you have ever doubted its power or influence, look no further than Samsung for proof that branding does matter.
Every Android phone Samsung releases these days bears the Galaxy branding. Every Windows device bears the ATIV branding. Between them, the flagship devices each use the S moniker (i.e.: ATIV S and Galaxy S 4). The Note line signifies any device with an S Pen. The Tab moniker is used to categorize high-end tablets without S Pens. And there are at least a dozen other branding terms Samsung uses for various things.
You can look at the name of a Samsung and tell exactly what it is.
No, wait. I take that back.
You used to be able to look a Samsung device’s name and tell what it was. Samsung’s naming convention wasn’t necessarily the best, but it was easy to tell which devices were related and why they were related, solely by reading the names.
Recently, however, Samsung has succumbed to the unfortunate side of marketing – name and brand association.
If there are three cameras on a retail shelf – one Nikon, one Cannon, and one from a manufacturer you’ve never heard of – for the same price with exact same specs, you’ll likely pick the brand you’re most familiar with. I buy specific brands of bread, butter, underwear, pens, and other household items because they’re what I’ve used my entire life. Those specific products are from brands I’m familiar with. It’s innate; most of the time, I don’t even look at or consider other brands, regardless of price or quality.
It’s this very phenomenon that Samsung hopes to bank on with the buzz around the Galaxy S 4 … or “that new Galaxy” to the rest of the world. Most people who have stepped foot into a wireless store in the past three months have at least heard of the Galaxy S 4. Even if they refer to it as “the Galaxy,” they know exactly what it is and approximately what it looks like. They’ve heard great things about it.
Rightly so. Currently, it’s the most well-rounded, balanced smartphone money can buy. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect for everyone. Maybe you find it too big. Enter Galaxy S 4 mini. Or maybe it’s not rugged enough for your dangerous lifestyle. Enter Galaxy S 4 Active. Or maybe you
like taking pictures of far away objects and simply walking closer is just too hard prefer a great camera, a decent phone, and don’t like carrying more than one device. Enter Galaxy S 4 Zoom.
There are now four Galaxy S 4 models and counting, yet none of them really have all that much in common – except for the name, of course.
To start, the real Galaxy S 4 has a 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display, 2GB RAM, a 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset, 13-megapixel camera, a 2,600mAh battery, and either 16, 32, or 64GB of built-in storage. With the exception of display resolution on the Galaxy S 4 mini and the camera sensor size on the Galaxy S 4 Zoom, all four devices should have roughly the same specifications. But they don’t.
In fact, the Galaxy S 4 mini is, in every way, a mid-range device. It’s more like the Galaxy S III than the Galaxy S 4. It has a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display, 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 chip, 1.5GB RAM (or 2GB with the LTE model), 8GB fixed storage, an 8-megapixel camera, and a 1,900mAh battery. The Galaxy S 4 Active comes with: a 5-inch 1080p TFT LCD display, 2GB RAM, only 16GB of inbuilt storage, an 8-megapixel camera, the same 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chip, and a 2,600mAh battery. And the Galaxy S 4 Zoom features a 4.3-inch qHD display, 8GB storage, 1.5GB RAM, 16-megapixel camera, 1.5GHz dual-core A9 processor, and a 2,330mAh battery.
Point being, Samsung is sullying the entire Galaxy S 4 brand with devices that aren’t anything close to the Galaxy S 4. The Active is, by and large, the closest. But it’s not quite a flagship device.
Samsung’s branding used to make sense. The S in Galaxy S signified top notch quality, the best of the best. Now it can honestly mean anything. The Galaxy S 4 mini is not a high-end flagship. It’s a mid-tier phone, just like every other smartphone smaller than 4.5-inches these days. The Galaxy S 4 Zoom isn’t a high-end device either; it’s only a 10x optical zoom lens bolted on the back of a Galaxy S 4 mini.
Other than brand recognition and an attempt to blur the lines between the quality of various devices, why else would Samsung include “Galaxy S 4″ in their names? “Oh, look! It’s a smaller, cheaper Galaxy S 4! It must be the same phone, only smaller!”
Think about it from another perspective. There have been no other Actives or Zooms. There was a Galaxy S III mini and a Galaxy S II mini, but neither of those were comparable to their larger siblings and instead were low-end or mid-range renditions of a device that sort of locked similar.
Samsung, stop. You make enough devices as-is. But if you’re going to create a dozen variations of every flagship you make, you might as well go the extra mile and at least attempt to make them remotely similar beyond outward appearance. When you don’t, it’s confusing, makes absolutely no sense, and destroys the half-decent branding you once had. And to anyone who has an inkling about phones and specs, it’s shameful.
Just … stop.