Six strange Samsung phones that broke the mould
Love them or loathe them, Samsung have produced some of the most iconic Android phones of the last decade. From the photography-focused S4 Zoom to the convex curves of the Galaxy Edge there have been plenty of handsets that have pushed the boundaries of what to expect from a smartphone!
Our Agents have picked out their favourite and most controversial Samsung Galaxy phones to reach the public – and we get to find out just how far Samsung pushed the bar since the launch of the Galaxy range! Read on to find our top picks.
Samsung Galaxy phones which broke the mould
The Galaxy K Zoom (and its predecessor, the S4 Zoom) sought to bridge the gap between smartphones and digital cameras by adding a telescopic optical zoom lens (hence the name) to the back of the handsets.
The key difference between optical zoom and digital zoom is that a digital zoom will simply stretch the middle of your photo and crop the outer edges to make up for the fact that it can't see distant objects very clearly – which can lead to some very blurry photos the more you zoom in. An optical zoom doesn't have this problem – instead it uses lenses similar to a telescope, giving you a really clear image from much further away.
Most top-end smartphones come with excellent cameras, from HTC's UltraPixel phones to Nokia's 41-megapixel Lumia 1020. Even Kodak entered themselves into the smartphone market, with the Kodak Ektra featuring powerful manual settings to help take that perfect picture!
When it comes to taking photos from a distance though, the Galaxy K Zoom is one of the few smartphones up to the challenge.
Samsung's Galaxy Mega is probably the biggest smartphone ever released, with a whopping 6.3" screen size perfectly optimised for mobile use. It's so big, in fact, that many users found it nearly impossible to carry in their pockets!
One of the main benefits of such a large screen is being able to run more than one app on the screen at a time, which the Mega UI does excellently with its Dual View mode – something which is only recently becoming a standard feature in Android.
Most complaints about larger phones are over how awkward they can make it to stretch your hand to reach on-screen buttons and although the Mega UI is designed around making this easier, it's still not great for those of us with small hands.
But the real attraction to the Galaxy Mega is how great it is for browsing photos, and even for watching videos on. Unfortunately, the screen resolution is a little low to support full 1080p video – although it does support 720p, which is what most HDTV is broadcast in!
The most recent device on this list – and Samsung's most recent flagship – the Korean giant really pushed the boundaries of screen size with the S8 and S8+, giving you a large display without making a phone so large you need both hands to hold it.
These handsets also introduced the hidden Home button, which lurks behind the bottom of the display waiting to be pressed. This is certainly a break from the norm for Samsung, who've been one of the few manufacturers to keep the physical home button.
The Galaxy S8 and the S8+ aren't the first curved-edge handsets Samsung has produced – but they are the first to expand the screen across almost the full front of the phone. The result is a truly stunning display, boasting bright colours and a picture that almost seems to stretch off the sides of the S8 completely!
Unfortunately, filling the front of the phone with the screen meant having to move the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone, where it's a little less accessible. Some users found it awkward to stretch their fingers to the new sensor, and often found themselves pressing their fingertips on the camera lens by mistake.
It feels like every few years another manufacturer tries to bridge the gap between smartphones and projectors – from Lenovo's Smart Cast phone to Motorola's attachable projector module for the Moto Z.
Samsung's Galaxy Beam was one of the first smartphones to feature a built-in projector, and could cast an image up to the equivalent size of a 50-inch TV – maybe even bigger in low-light conditions!
A bonus feature of having a projector built into your smartphone is that, at least in the example of the Galaxy Beam, you could turn on your front-facing camera and use it like an overhead projector, as well as being able to simply project whatever's currently on your phone screen.
Unfortunately it's very difficult for a phone projector to shine brightly enough to replace your TV, and any sort of projection takes its toll on your battery life. Samsung actually included two batteries for the Galaxy Beam in the box – so you can afford to drain a battery projecting House of Cards or Minecraft PE onto your wall without fear of having no phone juice left afterwards.
Phone manufacturers have dabbled with two screens on their phones for quite some time, with handsets like the LG V20 or the HTC U Ultra dedicating an area of the phone to act as a 'ticker' that scrolls news and notifications without you needing to open a dedicated app. Even Samsung's Galaxy Edge treated its 'edge' panels as a ticker – although technically it was all part of the same main screen.
One of the first phones to feature this type of second screen was Samsung's Galaxy Continuum, which came out in 2010 – and introduced many early smartphone users to the fad of having two displays on the front of your phone.
Sadly the number of uses for the second display could be counted on one hand, and many questioned its impact on battery life in general.
Placing the second screen at the bottom of the phone also meant the Home and navigation buttons were pushed higher up out of the way of the ticker – which some users found awkward to adjust to. The Galaxy Continuum wasn't the end for dual-screen phones – but some say it should have been!
Samsung's Galaxy Round smartphone is another curved-screen Android handset – but with a few minor differences that make it stand out from the rest of the herd.
Instead of treating the curved edges as a kind of second display, Samsung added hidden shortcuts and features, so you could control your music playlists and photo galleries without needing to turn your screen on!
On par with the Galaxy Note 3 with its hardware specifications, the Galaxy Round almost felt like a proof of concept rather than a serious entry to the smartphone market. In stark contrast to the Galaxy Edge and other curved-edge Samsung phones, the Galaxy Round went in the opposite direction with its edges, opting for a concave curve to the handset.
For a phone like the LG G Flex, this type of curved display works quite well, behaving more like a curved TV designed to wrap the screen around your vision. Instead, Samsung curved their screen straight down the vertical axis, doing little to improve the viewing angle – but making it marginally more comfortable to carry in your pocket, with the phone curving around your leg.
Those are the Samsung Galaxy handsets our Agents found to be the strangest and most groundbreaking of their time. Do you have any suggestions of your own? Do you still have one of these phones in your home? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, or sign up to our newsletter below for more great articles straight to your inbox!