The Samsung Galaxy Camera is, without a doubt, one of the most inventive, innovative, next-gen pieces of hardware on the market. It hits all the right trends: It’s all about mobile. It’s all about photo-sharing. It’s all about social networking. And it’s really, really good looking. 

But with great capabilities come great expectations – and large price tags. The $500 device is an attempt at all things, one of the true hybrids of the current electronics landscape. That’s a tall order to live up to … so, can it? There’s only one way to find out, and so I’ve forsaken as many connected devices as possible in favor of the I-can-do-it-all Samsung Galaxy Camera. My mission: to find out if it really can do it all.

For taking pictures

Let’s start off with the obvious: The Galaxy Cam can take pictures. In lieu of my Canon Rebel XTI or iPhone 4S, I used the Samsung camera for most of my picture-taking needs. Since I recently reviewed the camera, there weren’t many surprises here. It’s a very decent point-and-shoot with a very engaging and interesting user interface (UI). I actually found it easier to use than most point-and-shoots because the camera’s in-screen, virtual setup made it a breeze to get find what I needed, alter settings, and start shooting.

That said, the convenience factor is missing. I can’t whip out the Galaxy Cam like I would my iPhone, nor do I instinctually take it everywhere with me. The idea is that I should be able to, but that fact that you can’t make actual phone calls with it (although, there are workarounds – we’ll get to that) means that I still need to bring my phone everywhere. So that’s two devices I have to bring with me.

As far as using the Galaxy Cam as my primary camera, it remained as entertaining as I originally found it. Picture quality falls squarely between the two devices I most often use (the previously mentioned Canon Rebel XTI and iPhone 4S), and while I could get higher quality photos or more convenient use out of my other two go-to cameras, the fact that I still thoroughly enjoyed using the Galaxy Cam despite these factors speaks to how great and user friendly it is.

For “phone calls” and texting 

As I mentioned, there’s no real way to make phone calls with the Galaxy Camera. You can make Skype calls (or other chat apps), but it’s a poor substitute and there’s one big, glaring, horrible reason for that: The person using the Galaxy Camera can’t see the video. Unlike most smartphones, there isn’t a second camera on the Galaxy Cam. You have to hold and point the camera at yourself for the duration of the call. You could set it on some surface and play the “am I still in the frame?” game with the person on the other end, of course. Basically, your options are limited and the experience isn’t great.

It’s simply impossible to use this device as a phone. You can use workarounds all day long but the fact remains that people use phones,  not chat apps, to talk.

However, if you’re anything like me, you defer to texting more than talking most of the time. There are really only a handful of people I need or want to talk to on the phone, and everyone I can deal with over SMS.

While you can’t port your phone number to the Galaxy Cam and start messaging away, there are obviously a great many texting apps that can help. Imo.im, Whatsapp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger are just a few examples. Of course, this means you have to defer here to text your contacts … meaning they also have to install and use these apps in order to respond or initiate conversation with you. Which means I did a lot less texting and a lot more prodding of my social circle. Dear friends, please let Facebook Messenger send you push notifications so you actually respond to my damn text messages.

Which, of course, all really just means that I couldn’t depend on the Galaxy Cam for my communication needs.

The device’s touchscreen also isn’t as responsive as I’m used to on my iPhone. It’s fine, and arguably better than most touch-enabled cameras out there, but it’s not inherently built for you to text; it’s built for you to push and prod your settings and for hitting the ever-present “Share” button. Going through to enter your passwords or lengthy messages is not fun and it takes too long. Not too long for a camera, but way too long for texting. You’re not going to like it. You’re going to get your phone back out, and you’re never going to let it go. 

For productivity

The Galaxy Cam did and didn’t work when it came to the most practical purposes. Setting up my Google Calendar was as easy as installing an app, and the same goes for email access and apps like Evernote and Mint. Maybe most of the friction came from the fact that I’ve barely used Android devices before, and the way notifications and alerts work were unfamiliar. However, once I got more used to these functions, I found the system perfectly adequate.

At least, adequate for looking at. Reading emails, checking my calendar, looking through my notes … that was all fine. The Galaxy Cam’s 4.77 inch HD display means your view is super clear and easy to see in a variety of lighting settings. Beyond reviewing, things get complicated in the same way they do with texting. The camera simply isn’t built to be a PDA. Composing emails is a drag, as is instant messaging, as is trying to take notes, as is updating your calendar. Don’t plan to make this thing your personal assistant. You shan’t be pleased – or organized. 

The Galaxy Cam’s 4.77 inch screen with its 1260 x 720 pixel display is clear, crisp, and great for entertainment. Games, social sites, everything: It’s responsive and incredibly fun and easy to use. The large screen actually makes it better for this purpose than my iPhone, and the bulkier body is easier to hold in two hands – it feels a lot like a PSP, actually. Entertainment and photography are where the Galaxy Camera shines. 

Verdict

No, the Samsung Galaxy Camera cannot replace your smartphone. It doesn’t make calls and getting all your friends to get on board with a separate messaging app is a losing game. It needs regular texting. If those gaps in what the Galaxy Cam has to offer were filled, however, I absolutely see myself picking this thing up and using it in place of my iPhone. The all-in-one device is the dream, and this gadget is one step closer to getting us there. But… just not yet. Galaxy Camera, you’re ahead of your time.