Samsung's latest and phones are and so far, the cameras on the S20 Ultra are performing exceptionally well. According to CNET editor Jessica Dolcourt, on faraway objects "skirts the edge of gimmick," but is impressive nonetheless. But people should take note of the square bump that encases those cameras because the S20 Ultra basically has the chonkiest and ugliest bump ever in the history of mankind.
Look at it.
Look at it from the side.
Have you seen this thing? Of course you have. Someone could be holding it on the moon and you could see it. You don't have to be an aesthete to look at this and see what an affront it is to eyeballs everywhere. It looks as if Samsung hot glue-gunned a domino on the corner of the phone, wiped off its hands and then declared war on all things decent. Samsung heard all that fuss about the iPhone 11 and Pixel 4's unseemly camera bumps and was like, "Screw it, we'll go even bigger."
To the industrial designers and engineers who worked on this: apologies. No doubt you all worked hard. And the Galaxy S20 Ultra's cameras pack so many sensors and mechanics and features that, surely in Samsung's opinion, fully justify that whopper of a camera bump. But let's not forget about Dieter Rams. The legendary industrial designer had 10 principles of good design that have endured for decades, and more than likely the list is pinned on the cubicle wall of a Samsung designer somewhere. No. 10 is "design as little as possible," but it appears that memo was thrown out the window here.
What makes it even worse is that Samsung also decided to emblazon the words "SPACE ZOOM 100X" on the bump. The camera has text on it, people! We barely want company names or logos on our phones, or even FCC ID numbers, which contain actual important information. You'd think it goes without saying that "listing corporate-named branded camera features on the back" is territory device makers also know to avoid. There are telescopes with less signage than this. Why not just leave that area blank? At least then people could write, "This phone belongs to _____. Please return if found and contact (555) 555-555." There's definitely enough room to fit that all in there.
In conclusion, the Ultra's camera bump is grotesque. Other phone-makers, please don't follow suit. Thanks for coming to this talk.
Originally published February 11, 2020.