When Is a Phone Not a Phone?

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Galaxy NX

When it’s a camera? When it’s a computer?

Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, seems to be going through an identity crisis in search for the answer to this question. Recently they released two new products that are causing people to reflect on the question, “who did they have in mind when they designed this?”

The first product is a decent looking camera that from the front shows its family heritage, the NX system that competes in the mirrorless, interchangeable lens, camera market along side the likes of Panasonic, Olympus, and now Canon and Nikon. The other new product is an updated version of the Galaxy camera that I first wrote about here. So what’s going on?

Galaxy NX TouchscreenThe new camera is the Samsung Galaxy NX. It shares the essential features of the current NX20 including lens mount, sensor and processing engine. But, surprisingly, it is significantly bigger. Turn the camera over to see why—Samsung has grafted a whopping 4.8 inch, 921K touchscreen on the back, covering up the space reserved for buttons and control wheels on the NX20. Pretty well all the camera controls have been relegated to the touch screen—you have to operate this device in a similar way as you do a phone.

Galaxy NX and Galaxy NX20

Caption: Lots of touchscreen and no buttons distinguishes the Galaxy NX (left) from its family member the NX20 (Right)

Images courtesy of www.dpreview.com

The Galaxy NX runs on Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), has built-in WiFi and 4G/3G connectivity. It also has GPS, Bluetooth, NFC (Near-field Communications), and enhanced voice commands. This is a camera the likes of which has not been seen before. It’s a serious picture taking (and making) device with enough computing power and connections to shoot a picture, process it on the spot, annotate it, and send it immediately to anywhere in the world—if you have to do that kind of thing.

Actually, for some people in sales it’s really useful to be able to do that. For situations where a phone camera is not up to the job, the Galaxy NX will fit a niche. Samsung has slipped in separate processors for the Android OS and for the image processing, so things should behave well.

Galaxy Camera

The other announcement from Samsung is an update of the Galaxy Camera which I first reviewed here, and which more resembles a phone. That camera had WiFi and 3G but surprisingly, could not operate as a phone, although that’s been changed for this updated version.

This camera is certainly a step up from the one in a regular smartphone. There is a 16Mp sensor and a 21x optical zoom. Samsung provides photo editing apps but you can use any of the plethora of Android image processing software. These cameras with phones are here in response to users wanting better quality pictures that their smartphone with instant sharing capability. The ability to store images in the Cloud is also provided.

The convergence of phone and camera is not going away. It looks like one winner is Google’s Android, and in the competitive wars with Apple IOS, this could be a game changer.

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