Samsung has a history of experimenting with crazy gadgets and form factors. On Monday night, it announced a new device that tries to merge the benefits of a digital camera with an Android smartphone.
Think of the Galaxy K Zoom as a digital camera strapped to the back of one of Samsung’s Galaxy phones. From the front, it looks a lot like the new Galaxy S5, but with a slightly smaller screen. The 20.7 megapixel camera on the back includes a 10x optical zoom that pops out just like a regular digital camera.
As you’d expect, the phone is very thick and heavy to make room for that camera. There’s also a giant bulge on the back, meaning the phone can’t sit flat on the table.
The Galaxy K Zoom has a bunch of shooting modes too. Some are pointless, like the “Selfie Alarm” that lets you take a selfie using the rear camera. The phone’s software can automatically detect your face and rapidly beeps when it’s about to snap the selfie.
But other modes like object tracking are very useful. You can tell the camera app to follow a moving object so you don’t have to constantly refocus on it.
The Galaxy K Zoom will come in blue, white, and black, just like the Galaxy S5. (No gold version though.)
Samsung will only sell the Galaxy K Zoom in international markets like Asia and Europe. The company launched a similar device called the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom in the U.S. last year, but it was a dud. Samsung says camera phones like these tend to be more popular overseas, so there’s very little chance the Galaxy K Zoom will ever come to the U.S.
At first blush, the Galaxy K Zoom feels pretty gimmicky. It’s not an appealing tradeoff to sacrifice thinness and design for a really nice camera packed into a bulky smartphone. But the phone does give us a look at how Samsung is thinking about its smartphone cameras. It’s possible some of those features, like object tracking, could make it into Samsung’s mainstream devices.