Samsung just made the (heavily leaked) Galaxy S22, S22+, and S22 Ultra, and the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, two high-end flagship devices from a company at the peak of its powers, official. The same Samsung that released three premium smartphones last year that were celebrated for being well-designed, functional, and most importantly fun. Two of those phones were even foldables!
But the Samsung of 10 years ago isn’t the same Samsung we have today. So take a break from another day of big phone and tablet news, and cast your mind back to the launch of another Samsung flagship — the Galaxy S3 — and the introduction of the S Pebble. The stone-shaped accessory sure was a weird accessory, even for Samsung. I miss weird Samsung now that the company’s most powerful (and expensive) Galaxy S is really just a Galaxy Note by a different name.
You like iPods, right?— The Galaxy S3 was the 2012 Android phone designed to rival Apple’s iPhone 4S in terms of processing power, design, and display quality (recall when 720p screens used to be high-end?), but I’ll always remember it for one of its accessories, the clip-on MP3 player called the Samsung S Pebble.
The basic idea of the S Pebble is still a bit confounding. While the rounded, rock-inspired design calls to mind something like Apple’s iPod shuffle in terms of simplicity, it naturally had some weird Samsung quirks. The biggest was that it plugged directly into the S3 via a cable when you wanted to transfer music. Forgoing desktop software and the larger hard drive you probably already stored most of your music on, the S Pebble was announced as only being able to sync to your phone.
Samsung pitched this as a sort of substitute for taking your expensive new device for potentially dangerous outdoor activities. Rather than endanger the S3, you could take any of the music you purchased on it running (or mountaineering, as Samsung press images single out) without worry thanks to a tiny 32 x 43 x 13mm plastic rock.
Why the clip-on MP3 player had to look like a real-life pebble is easily explained away by Samsung’s “Inspired by nature” design philosophy at the time. The same thinking that birthed the S Pebble made TouchWiz filled with water motifs and plinky sound effects. Everyone in 2012 was having a wild time.
A new Muse — When the S Pebble finally launched at the end of 2012 it had a new name — the Samsung Muse — and could sync with your computer. Reviews seem to suggest it was a fine iPod shuffle alternative, if only really useful for Samsung diehards. That’s an arrangement the company has continued to this day with wearables like the Galaxy Watch 4, a smartwatch that technically works with any Android phone, but only if you’re deeply committed to the company’s apps and services.
I don’t bring up the Muse née S Pebble to ask for a return to that younger, odder version of Samsung. (Though I think standalone MP3 players are primed for a comeback.) I just like to remind myself that any time I find something unusual in a new Samsung product — like how the cameras are laid out on the S22 Ultra — it could be a lot more strange.
Samsung just doesn’t do weird like it used to.