David Zax

A View from David Zax

The Galaxy Beam: 15 Lumens and a Lot of Cheese

Samsung’s projector smartphone is cool. Its ads are unbearable.

  • February 29, 2012

The concept of a smartphone with a built-in projector is not new. But its implementation has been lacking, which is why it’s exciting to see Samsung put out what seems a worthy new entrant in this emerging field.

Here’s a quick run-down on the Galaxy Beam, in video form:

And for the textually oriented, the Galaxy Beam is a projector smartphone debuting at the Mobile World Congress. Its most important spec is its 15-lumens projector, bright enough to cast a 50-inch wide image. The device’s other specs aren’t anything to project home about–Android 2.3 Gingerbred, a 1GHz dual-core processor, a 4-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, 8GB of storage, etc.–but it’s still a basically decent, functional smartphone.

And it has a projector! One that works pretty well, apparently! As Samsung puts it, with a somewhat terrifying use of the word depend, “For young users who depend on constant, immediate socializing of digital content and entertainment, GALAXY Beam introduces a new way of sharing.” Samsung’s full of other ideas of how to use the device: students sharing videos, businessmen sharing presentations, and so on. I’d add that the device would appear to enable new kinds of party games or visual/conceptual art installations. For the first time, I can imagine that if handheld projectors became commonplace, Halloween haunted houses would probably be the first industry to be disrupted.

But to all these projected uses (get it?), Samsung had to go and add another one:

The spot is cheesier than Pizza Hut. Gizmodo’s Michael Hession is about right when he sums up one’s reflexive gastrointestinal reaction to the ad. (And what if she said no?)

It’s one of two new ads for the device, actually. The second one seems vaguely like something out of a deleted scene from Teletubbies.

All of which is a shame, because I’m being genuine when I say that the Galaxy Beam seems like a true step up for the nascent field of smartphone projection (one in which Samsung has actually been a leader for about three years now). But it stands to reason that if your product’s main selling point is its cool new visual capacities, and if it’s targeted largely at hip young people, that you’d do best to have your YouTube spot drive home the sense of possibility associated with your project.

Microsoft, with its ad on the “Kinect Effect,” has done the best job at this. Redmond’s budget was, I’m sure, much higher. But tone is a variable almost independent of production value, and whatever its budget, Galaxy missed an opportunity to strike the appropriate one in promoting its genuinely cool new product.

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