• Sun. Jun 4th, 2023

Flashback: the Samsung Galaxy Beam put a cinema in your pocket with its built-in projector


Jun 6, 2021

While fitting a tablet with a 7” or 8” screen in your pocket used to be unthinkable, foldable phones make it possible these days. But can foldable phones fit a 50” screen in your pocket? That would have to be some crazy origami design.

Yet a clever little phone from 2010 managed to do just that – the Samsung I8520 Galaxy Beam had a built-in DLP projector that could indeed create a 50” image on the wall. The room would have to be very, very dark and the image quality wasn’t the best, but it was possible.

The Samsung I8520 Galaxy Beam

This is because the pico-projector could only manage to output 15 lumens. Of course, if you pushed the phone closer to the wall, you could sacrifice image size for brightness. Seeing how a built-in projector is not a standard feature today, you can guess that this idea didn’t catch on.

Samsung I8520 Galaxy Beam

Makers try things out. In the early days, phones couldn’t play music – you had to bring a Walkman or a CD player for that. But MP3 capabilities started appearing in phones in the 90s and they proved popular enough to stick around.

The same happened with cameras – they were once stand-alone devices, then some were phone add-ons, until finally the first camera phones started appearing on the market. Built-in music players and cameras proved to be winning features. But a built-in projector?

Well, it wasn’t an instant hit, but a couple of years later Samsung gave it another shot with the I8530 Galaxy Beam. Compared to the original, it had a slightly larger display (4.0” vs. 3.7”), though it dropped the Super AMOLED in favor of an LCD. It also had a dual-core processor, so it was better at multimedia tasks, and a slightly larger 2,000 mAh battery, which could last 3 hours with the projector on.

Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam

Even today a built-in projector sounds like an alluring idea. The entertainment possibilities are obvious – especially now that many of us haven’t seen the inside of a cinema in over a year. Of course, the Beam launched in 2010 and back then watching Netflix on your phone wasn’t as common, so finding something to watch was a bit of a hassle.

So you could connect a gamepad and do some big-screen gaming instead. If it ran on Android, it was going to work with the Beam – its projector simply mirrored the image on the display.

Always having a projector handy was good for business too. The phone came with a document viewer and you could use the touchscreen to scribble annotations while you were going through your presentation.

The projector popup menu • The Quick Pad

There was even a tool that allowed the phone to send the feed from its 8MP camera to the projector, forming a sort of overhead projector.

The dedicated projector app gives you additional options • Ambience mode • Briefing (alarm) mode

A couple of years later came the last hurrah – the Galaxy Beam2. This one had a slightly larger screen (4.66” LCD) and double the CPU cores again, also the battery was bumped up to 2,600 mAh, but at this point it was clear that the idea wasn’t viable.

Samsung Galaxy Beam2

By the way, the Beam wasn’t Samsung’s first phone with a built-in pico-projector – that was the Samsung i7410 from 2009. However, it was a low-powered featurephone, which limited what you could do with the projector.

Pico-projectors exist today as separate devices. Some of them run Android directly, others let you use a cable or wireless screen mirroring to get the image from your phone on the wall.

The Sony Xperia Touch was an interesting take on the concept – as you can tell from the name, it had an IR sensor that could “see” your fingers thus creating a touch screen up to 23” in size. You can see it in action in our video review. It was cool, but it has been four years and there’s no version 2 in sight.

We leave you with this infographic from 2012 that shows all the cool ways you can use a phone with a built-in projector:

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