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Samsung Galaxy Smartphones Comparison: S4 vs Active vs Mini vs Zoom

When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4 back in March, I’m fairly certain no one expected the 5-inch phone to be just a first step in a far more complex effort of taking over the mobile world than the S3.

Samsung Galaxy S4

And yet here we are, mere three months later, more confused than ever, looking at the Galaxy S4 “family” that includes five members already, with another one likely on the way. You have your “original” S4 and then the Active, Mini, Zoom, the so-called Google Edition, plus a Snapdragon 800-powered flavor that rumor has it will only see daylight in Korea.

Confusing stuff? I’ll say, especially when looking at Samsung’s past marketing strategy. All these slightly different S4 variants have as their predecessors just one Galaxy S, an S2 and an S3. True, the S3 did get a Mini variation late last year, but the key word there is “late” since Samsung let the GS3 do its thing before unleashing a toned-down flavor.

What exactly is Samsung’s angle with the S4 line? What’s the deal with all these phones? Do they each have a specific target or market niche they want to conquer? All valid questions and hopefully we can find answers together in the following lines.

Samsung Galaxy S4

The point

The original S4 is by all intents and purposes the worthy successor to the S3 at the Android throne, carrying the legacy of the 2012 4.8-incher and setting the tone for next year’s S5. On that note, the thing’s target is pretty obvious – outsell Apple’s future iPhone(s) and each and every Android high-ender.

Galaxy S4

The good

While we’re waiting for the Snapdragon 800 launch bonanza, Snapdragon 600-powered phones remain the top dogs. The S4 is probably the fastest of them all, both in the 600 flavor and with Exynos 5 Octa inside.

There are also 2 gigs of RAM beneath the hood, the 5-inch display is Full HD and therefore crisp and awesome, plus you get Android 4.2 Jelly Bean in the software department.

The bad

S4’s plastic exterior is most definitely its biggest flaw, but reviewers all across the web have declared their dissatisfaction regarding all the new TouchWiz-specific gimmicks, which are either clunky or downright useless.

Galaxy S4 Active

The point

Water and dustproof phones, extremely popular in Asia, were viewed as an oddity in the Western mobile décor until not long ago. But then Sony’s Xperia Z came and more and more people became interested in purchasing “rugged” devices by the day.

Galaxy S4 Active

It thus shouldn’t come as a huge shocker that Samsung wants in on this new market niche. The question is why not make the primary S4 version rugged. There are more than a few possibilities, but I’m guessing Sammy thinks not everyone wants a phone capable of taking a swim. Plus, the S4 Active is to be only made available in the US via AT&T, so maybe this is just part of a deal Samsung has with the carrier.

The good/the bad

The Active is only different from the S4 in a few departments aside from the rugged factor, coming with a more modest 8 MP camera in tow, some extra heft and a slightly different, but equally as crisp display.

Galaxy S4 Mini

The point

The mid-range, budget-friendly market has always been a big focus for Samsung. Understandable, but why dilute the S4 brand with a modest Mini device? It seems illogical, but it isn’t. Risky, yes, but not illogical.

Galaxy S4 Mini

Here’s why – people on a tight budget can often be pickier than those who can afford anything and everything. Hence, they want to feel special, they want to be part of something big and the GS4 brand’s hotness certainly fits the description.

The good

For its price range, the S4 Mini is not exactly a pushover. The Snapdragon 400 CPU is very zippy, there are also 2 gigs of RAM (in the LTE model), Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, plus microSD support and an above average 8 MP rear camera.

The bad

With an HD HTC One Mini looming on the horizon, GS4 Mini’s 960 x 540 pix res panel might feel… well, lame. There’s also a smallish 1,900 mAh battery and just 8 GB of on-board storage (5 GB user available).

Galaxy S4 Zoom

The point

Okay, this one is a bit harder to understand and explain. In a nutshell, it’s an S4 Mini with a very advanced 16 MP camera with Xenon flash and optical zoom. The target audience? Well, that’s the problem, I can’t find it.

Galaxy S4 Zoom

In theory, we’re talking about Android fans passionate about photography. But wouldn’t they be better off with the Galaxy Camera? Not to mention the newly unveiled Galaxy NX. And if you’re not so head over heels over Android, you can always get a Nokia Lumia 928. Or wait a little longer and see what that EOS is all about.

The good/the bad

It’s obvious Zoom’s one and only selling point is that impressive rear snapper. On the flipside, the thing has the exact same flaws as the GS4 Mini, plus, to be quite frank, a bulky figure and overall butt-ugly exterior. Sorry, Samsung, but it’s the truth.

Galaxy S4 Google Edition

Since this is nothing else but a Galaxy S4 with “vanilla” Android (read: stock Jelly Bean), there’s no point in talking too much about it. The target audience is clear (TouchWiz haters unite), but the biggest problem is Samsung is not looking to sell this subsidized and off-contract it’s fairly pricey.

google-galaxy-s4

Snapdragon 800 Galaxy S4

This is not yet officially official, but that’s a mere formality. Expected to be considerably faster than the Snapdragon 600 variant (at least by 30%), the phone is also tipped to come with LTE-Advanced speeds in tow (i.e.: 4G LTE’s follow-up).

The problem is only Korea is to get it, so this is the second S4 device I don’t really understand, alongside the Zoom. Another problem is the Galaxy Note 3 is coming soon and that’s also set to pack a Snapdragon 800 processor, plus a couple of extra goodies compared with the S4. Hmm, any ideas as to what Samsung’s plans are for this sixth S4 family member?

As a matter of fact, if you have anything to say about the Galaxy S4 family, you’re welcome to sound off in the comments section below. Did you purchase any of the devices? Do you understand their “deals” and points? Is Samsung wrong to dilute the S4 brand or is it good that more and more people can have access to this once restrictive line?