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Is the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom a Viable Product?

There was some debate on the merits of Samsung’s latest announced product, the Galaxy S4 Zoom, the moment people got word that the Korean manufacturer was going for a smaller, telephony-capable variant of its much-maligned Galaxy Camera. Branding issues, aesthetic concerns, and speculation over the device’s actual utility are all part of the discussion. It’s a confusing product, no doubt about it, and the future doesn’t look good for this ambitious cameraphone.

Cameraphones are things of the past

Cameraphones used to be a valid segment in the mobile phone market, back when do-it-all smartphones weren’t the norm and feature phones ruled the day. Sony, then known as Sony Ericsson, really hit the cameraphone concept right out of the ballpark with CyberShot-branded phones that looked good, were pocketable, and had decent camera sensors for superb photography.

Then the smartphone became a point of convergence for practically every task, and now we’re seeing even the lower-end models become more and more powerful, packing in more and more features. They’re also perfect stand-ins for compact cameras, and the emergence of Instagram helped offset even the lowest-quality cameras found on mobile phones today

Where the S4 Zoom comes in

A true cameraphone is missing in the market right now, and we can’t really blame manufacturers for not coming up with a viable product. It’s hard to make compromises; and which one would you really favor—the camera or the phone aspect? There will be sacrifices size, specs, camera sensor, battery life and it seems nigh impossible to come up with a product that many people will like.

If the phone proves to be a very capable snapper that’s what it’s primarily for, after all—then it could sell well. The only way for this cameraphone to have great sales figures is for it to be better than a compact camera in the imaging department; and frankly, it’s hard to see that happening.

There’s something to be said about the 16MP CMOS sensor, the 10x zoom, and the Xenon flash (again, something that used to be a staple on CyberShot-branded feature phones). What’s more, it offers the full smartphone experience by having actual phone capabilities, unlike the bigger Galaxy Camera that had the telephony stripped out. That should appeal to people who want to bring just one device for vacations and such.

Obstacles in the S4 Zoom’s way

At this point, it looks like pricing will be a significant factor in the success of the Galaxy S4 Zoom. It shouldn’t be too far from the price of the S4 Mini if Samsung hopes for it to sell well. Then again, since it has no rivals in the field aside from the so-far-unreleased Nokia ‘true Pureview’ cameraphone, the company can put whatever price tag they want.

Another obstacle would be the lack of phone service providers willing to take on a risky product such as this one. The S3 and S4 were immensely successful because of wide carrier support; the S4 Zoom might not enjoy the same advantage.

Lastly, the S4 Zoom isn’t exactly the pinnacle of industrial design. It has the face and build typical of Samsung’s recent offerings. It doesn’t exactly look good; and when you factor in the bulk, some people could just be turned off altogether.

It just seems like there’s too much going on with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, and the Korean tech company has not shown that it has perfected mobile phone imaging capabilities enough to make this new product as enticing as they make it out to be pre-release. It’s going to be much better than the Galaxy Camera, that’s for sure, what with the more mobile-friendly form factor and the telephone capabilities; but Samsung can’t expect this product to fly off the shelves just because it has an ‘S4’ in its name.

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