Too many stars in the 'S4' galaxy dull Samsung's brand

Samsung's five Galaxy S4 models will confuse and disappoint smartphone shoppers.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Would it have been too hard to just call this the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2? Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In just two short months we've seen the debut of five Samsung Galaxy S4 phones: the Samsung Galaxy S4 , the Galaxy S4 Active , the Galaxy S4 Google Edition , the Galaxy S4 Mini , and the Galaxy S4 Zoom . There are already rumors of a sixth, the 6.3-inch Galaxy S4 Mega.

Making matters more confusing is that the phone specs vary, and some Galaxy S4 phones may offer an experience that's quite different from the original top-rated S4's. From my perspective, Samsung is simply muddying its S4 brand name with too many Galaxy S4s.

When I think of a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, I think of what the "S" means. In other words, this line of phones is more powerful and packed with features than other Galaxy model, no-S.

When I see that a phone is a Galaxy S4 phone, I expect that offshoots to the original will have the same look and feel. Not just the form factor and TouchWiz interface, mind you, but the best-in-class performance as well.

I understand that you have to make concessions; a Galaxy S4 Mini, however, should only be smaller and not also less powerful. The same goes for the Galaxy S4 Zoom -- it should boast the same 5-inch display, not one that's nearly an inch smaller.

It seems that Samsung is playing fast and loose with what it means to be a Galaxy S4, and I think that's misleading. Further, it blurs the line between the flagship experience and the midrange stuff found in phones like the Galaxy Victory 4G LTE and Galaxy S Lightray 4G , which do not have all the S4's hardware or software features. Too many models, spread across too many carriers, leads to too much confusion.

On the other hand: A case for a galaxy of Galaxies
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have a phone like the S4 Mini or even the more resilient S4 Active.

Not everyone needs the top-shelf smartphone experience that comes with the Galaxy S, and some people may want a sturdier phone. With a large segment of buyers still switching over from feature phones, a midrange Galaxy offers plenty for first-time smartphone buyers.

Samsung is selling phones around the world to different demographics and regions, and not all of them will see every phone. Some models, such as the Galaxy Mega and dual-SIM Galaxy Core won't even come close to U.S. soil. Each offers a slightly different feature set aimed at a specific audience. However, there still is overlap.

For those buyers who do have more than one Galaxy S4 option, or even three, sales reps who do their jobs well should give customers a clear understanding of each model.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 sales have been very strong, so something's working, right?

Confusion is nothing new
Samsung has a history of confusing customers with an outpouring of phone models. We saw a similar explosion happen with the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus, but to a much lesser extent than this GS4 mess today.

It isn't just Samsung, either. HTC has done the same with last year's plethora of HTC One X spin-offs. Remember how confusing it was to understand the difference between the HTC One X, the One X+ , and the One XL? Then there were the One V and One S .

After sticking with one flagship model in 2013, the HTC One is inching toward potential confusion. Already we have the HTC One Google Edition and a rumored One Mini . And if rumors prove true, the "T6" should be an extra-large take on the same 'One' experience.

LG also introduces disarray in its Optimus line. The past year alone has yielded the Optimus G and the Optimus G Pro . And do you know the differences between the Optimus F3 , F5 , and F7 ?

One solution: Three steps, three names
It's one thing to offer a flagship Galaxy S model accompanied by a handful of midrange devices with silly suffixes. It's an entirely different thing to have a half dozen Galaxy S4 variations and a host of other models.

Instead of so many conflicting versions of the S4 line, I feel Samsung should drop all of the oddball names and create three levels of experience. Keep the Galaxy S line reserved for the upper echelon and lump everything else into two other corresponding pools.

Smaller and lesser powered, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini might be better suited to a different name. Samsung

The smaller, lesser powered line? Call it a Samsung Galaxy Cluster, for example, and you're safe mixing high-end stuff in. As for products like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, I suggest they get new name and start a new line. Would it not make more sense to call this the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2?

Have a rugged smartphone? Great -- keep the Rugby name tied to it and we won't get confused.

Looking at the low-end offerings, I like the Galaxy Core name. The moniker signals the basic smartphone experience and maintains Samsung's overall brand. There's nothing wrong with telling customers that a particular no-contract phone belongs to a Galaxy Core series. If I were Samsung, the answer would be in clarity, not with dozens of overlapping options that only die-hard phone-watchers can keep straight.

I would love to hear your opinion on what Samsung is doing with their Galaxy lines of phones. Does it confuse you at all, or do you find it overwhelming to choose from? What recommendations do you have for Samsung? Please leave your comments and opinions below.

 

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