Bringin’ Back the Flip Phone: Samsung’s Galaxy Golden

I remember back a few years ago when I had a Motorola Razr touchscreen cell phone. It had the flip phone design, but came with a dual-screen capability that let me perform operations on the front screen but use the back of the screen later to make phone calls, send text messages, and so on. I loved that old Motorola – until one day, water damage got ahold of it and took my precious Motorola away. The last Motorola I owned, then, was a return to durability: a waterproof Motorola phone that had the one-sided screen for cell phone operations (called the Motorola Quantico).

Despite the world of smartphones in which we live, Samsung understands that not everyone wants the contemporary, smartphone look and feel to their cell phones. Some people, such as me, grew up in a time when there were no smartphones – and we learned how to manage without them. While it seems that there is always a new smartphone popping up around every corner, we still live in a world where many adults have yet to turn in their flip phone and embrace what seems to be a new wave of consumer electronics. It’s alright; if you like your flip phone style, be prepared to be amazed.

Samsung Electronics, the beast of the Android world and the major rival thorn in Apple’s side, is “bringin’ back the flip phone.” That’s right – Samsung has a hybrid phone (flip phone/ smartphone) model in the works known as the Galaxy Golden. The Galaxy Golden comes with the following features and specs:

  • Dual AMOLED display (3.7 inches for both?)
  • 800 x 480 screen resolution
  • 4G LTE connectivity
  • Dual-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • USB port
  • Micro-SIM card slot
  • GPS
  • 2GB RAM
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Galaxy Folder to Sell As Galaxy Golden

As for the features, there still seems to be some shroud of mystery to them, although we know some juicy details. First, it seems that only one of the dual screens will be 3.7 inches wide, although it seems silly that the second screen would not have the same screen width as the first one. After all, why would Samsung name it the “Galaxy Golden” if a folder does not have equal sides (in this case, screens)? Samsung may actually be toying with the idea of a wider screen, although it seems to be set on 3.7 inches for now.

The 3.7-inch displays provide a rather small viewing area for a device, but this is a flip phone (not a full-fledged smartphone). If you want to get an idea in your mind of the size of the Galaxy Golden dual screens, keep in mind that the width of the screens is slightly larger than the iPhone 4S display (3.7 inches vs. 3.5 inches, respectively). Although the 3.7-inch screens appear to make this device a low-end one, Apple has shown with the iPhone 4S and earlier that small screens do not necessarily a low-end device make.

The display will also feature AMOLED (active-matrix-organic-light-emitting-diode) screens, not super AMOLED displays as are most Samsung smartphone screens. AMOLED screens are better at conserving battery life and energy when compared with LCD screens. The fact that Samsung wants to use an AMOLED screen shows that this flip phone/smartphone hybrid is not meant to be a high-end device such as the Note 2 or GS4, but rather, a middle-of-the-road device that features some high-end specs and some low-end ones. The AMOLED screen is a lower-end feature than Samsung’s super AMOLED, Galaxy device screens.

Another testimony to the Galaxy Golden as a mid-range device pertains to the screen resolution: contra the 1280 x 720 screen resolution of the GS3 (and the full HD, 1920 x 1080 screen resolution of the GS4 and the waterproof, GS4 Active), the Galaxy Golden screen resolution will only sit at 800 x 480. It is clear that, since this is a flip phone, the emphasis on features will likely exclude the display. The screen resolution and thus, video recording, stretches back to a time earlier than 2012 (say, 2010 or 2011).

The processor in the Galaxy Golden is reminiscent of 2011, considering that it will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (dual-core) processor instead of a Snapdragon 800, quad-core processor (which is characteristic of 2013). You don’t need a quad-core processor, however, on a flip phone – so this shouldn’t be a surprise. It does come with physical buttons and a USB port, however, which is something that even my Motorola Razr touchscreen cell phone had back a few years ago, so Samsung will at least keep you up to date with its top-tier flip phone.

Where Samsung’s Galaxy Golden contributes to what once was a thriving flip phone field is in the area of 4G LTE connectivity and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. How many flip phones do you know of that are concerned with a thriving, new OS update and 4G LTE? In fact, I purchased my first smartphone (the Galaxy S3) just one year ago last month.

At the time, I had grown up in the era of flip phones and thought they were sleek and stylish. I had never heard of a smartphone, and shocked my carrier representative when she realized I was 27 and had never owned a smartphone in my entire life – even through college! At the time, I purchased my new Samsung smartphone because I was convinced that you couldn’t have LTE connectivity without a modern smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Folder Revives the Flip Phone (1)

Samsung is aware that there is a group of individuals in the world who have the same misconception about LTE connectivity – which points to the market to which Samsung is aiming its Galaxy Golden device. There are many individuals who are either struggling financially or are in their 40s and 50s who want a more modern cell phone than they’ve had in their lives, but dread learning an entirely new phone and believe they would “get lost” in a contemporary smartphone. For this group, Samsung is doing the unthinkable: providing a familiar design and screen while giving them Android and top-of-the-line connectivity.  The 2GB RAM is also a 2013 specification that is sure to please some tech enthusiasts.

Who Is the Galaxy Golden For? Some Personal Reflections

It is disheartening to read some responses to Samsung’s Galaxy Golden. Some individuals (whom I will dare say are younger than me, and I turn 29 in two weeks) seem to believe that flip phones are from another era – an earlier time that should be abandoned to the history books. Read this comment:

“So they’re reviving low resolution displays, QWERTY hardware keyboards, and flip screens. Sounds awful if you ask us” (Cory Gunther, “Samsung Galaxy Golden Android flip phone in the works”).

Why does Samsung’s newest revitalization attempt “sound awful”? Is it because Samsung is reviving old technologies and styles? If this is the case, I think that Cory Gunther has a misconception about technology that makes him revile old phone models. Let me explain.

Gunther, like many other tech writers of today, forget that we live on the cutting edge of the smartphone era. Unlike future generations, we do not have two feet in the smartphone era and live so far away from the flip phone era. Keep in mind that it was just six years ago in 2007 when Apple emerged with its iPhone, and it has only been three years ago since Samsung introduced its first smartphone, the Galaxy S (2010). Android smartphones as a whole have only been in boom for the last 3-4 years, an even smaller amount of time than Apple and the iPhone have been on the market. If you’re older than 3 or 4 years, you are aware of a world in which smartphones did not exist – a world where the flip phone was king.

Turning 29 in two weeks, I can say that I lived in such a world. Even in college from 2002-2006, I owned a Nokia flip phone and a Motorola flip phone after that. For six of the last seven years I’ve been in Masters and then doctoral studies, I owned a flip phone. I just purchased my first smartphone in 2012, which may come as a shock to many.

With this background, then, I can say that flip phones were part of my life for 10 years. From the time I entered college at 18, until one month shy of my 28th birthday, I owned nothing but flip phones and did not have a clue as to what a smartphone, or an iPhone was. I hadn’t even heard of the iPhone in 2007 when it emerged on the market, and I was a university student at the time.

My carrier, US Cellular, is just preparing to add the iPhone to its collection, six years after its entrance on the US market. Maybe my carrier is to blame for my ignorance, but I lived in a world without smartphones and did not feel as if I was missing anything. Maybe it’s a true statement that “you can’t miss what you never had,” but I didn’t miss smartphones. 2007 wasn’t a special year for me, since I was 23 and had gotten over the “I turned 21” stage.

If I am any indication, there are more individuals in the world who, like me, were adults back when the iPhone arrived on the market – and we know what it’s like to live in a world without smartphones. The current smartphone era has many teenagers and young adults spoiled. We look at the current capacitive touch screens on the market and we think that these smartphones are what progress is all about; back in the day, a Samsung, Galaxy Golden-like flip phone was the style of the time. When you factor in the truth that I had never heard of the iPhone until 2012, you can form the type of profile that Samsung has in mind with its Galaxy Golden.

Samsung Electronics wants this phone to be manufactured for the person who may or may not be raised in rural areas in the US and other developing countries (or in a remote, emerging, third-world country and market) where the iPhone has not made an indelible impact, where no one knows what it is, has never heard of it, and doesn’t seem to care otherwise.

After all, have you noticed the smart watch wave that everyone is riding these days? Watches were a symbol of American culture – back in the 1990s – but who really uses a watch nowadays when we have smartphones and tablets? Yet and still, Samsung is looking to produce its own smartwatch (known as the Galaxy Gear) to compete with Apple’s iWatch that should emerge in 2014. Watches are making a comeback, in ways we never thought they would. Isn’t it interesting that Gunther has said nothing in his daily remarks about how “awful-sounding” smart watches are?

I am not out to attack Gunther personally, nor am I out to make Gunther look bad. I do not know Cory’s age, and, if I did, could not rule that he is either on the cutting edge of tech or not. What I can say, however, is that Samsung knows what it’s doing by “bringin’ back the flip phone.” There is a market full of folks older than 30 (close to my age) who loved their old flip phones and want to see a return to an earlier time.

For these individuals, flip phones are a reminiscence symbol, a sign of better times in their lives. When I first entered college, flip phones were at their heyday, and on the way out of the phone market. I was in my first year of grad school when the iPhone emerged – so I can truly say that I had one foot in the flip phone era and one in the smartphone era.

For writers and tech enthusiasts younger than me, I say this: do not knock an old, iconic product because you either 1) don’t like it or 2) don’t understand the appeal. I never understood the value behind the “peace symbol” of the 1970s, nor the bellbottom movement, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still resonate with my parents’ generation.

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