Samsung has been churning out some interesting devices – but in doing so is ruining its flagship handset.
It's a conundrum many brands face: do you try to create loads of recognisable ranges of products, or do you get everything to revolve around one key product?
It's a strategy that works both ways: for every iPad, there's an HTC Desire. Sometimes moniker-linking products together can really help the sale of an otherwise anonymous device, and other times it can dilute the effect of the hero product.
That seems to be what Samsung is doing with the Galaxy S4. While we can see the logic in releasing a Galaxy S4 Mini (want the brand but can't afford the phone? Do we have a deal for you!) but doing it so soon after launching the main S4 means cannibalising sales; at least with the Galaxy S3 Mini many months had passed before Samsung got its shrink-ray out.
Too many cooks...
But now we've got not only the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, but also the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active (for the rugged, athletic members of the human race) and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom (for, erm, those that like chunky phones and really, really need a decent camera around at all times). And we haven't even mentioned the S4 Nexus...
Imagine walking into your local phone emporium and being greeted with all of these options at once. You might be drawn instantly to the main S4, but then your eye will fall on the cheaper model. "Do I really need to spend all that money when I can get most of the features for less?" you might muse.
Then your hand will brush the rugged Galaxy S4 Active – instantly taken by its tough exterior, you'll think "Oh, is the 'normal' S4 not that strong then? Maybe I should go for this one just in case… even though it doesn't have that awesome AMOLED screen."
And you'll be confused once more. And then, in the middle of all the confusion and umming / ahhing, you'll notice the Galaxy S4 Zoom. Before dismissing it as you've realised you've already got a camera and that's one hefty beast.
More isn't always better
Sure, more options can be great. Samsung will obviously point to the fact it's always offered choice, and it's now the number one smartphone manufacturer, with robust sales in all segments of the market, and this is just a continuation of that policy.
But really, these should be products in their own segment. The Mini should be a W or an Ace, the Active an Xcover and the Zoom… well, just a camera. Using the Galaxy S4 name reduces the lustre of the main brand, and that's something you can't put a price on.
Well, you can: Samsung's stocks tumbled recently when analysts predicted that sales of the S4 were set to come in under estimates, pointing to the lower margin products obviously bringing in less cash, as well as the dilution of the brand caused by multiple S4 models.
I'm sure Samsung will still sell bucketloads of Galaxy S4 device, in the same way Apple is shifting record numbers of iPhone 5 units despite a general indifference from many Apple fans at the new device.
But long term, Samsung needs to make sure it preserves the hero status of its key products. Make them something consumers yearn for, not offering them halfway-house versions of the same thing.