Folks writing articles about phone cameras should really learn a few things about cameras as a prerequisite. Not a single phone on the market today has a "optical zoom" lens. They all have fixed focal length lenses. An optical zoom lens is a lens that has a variable focal length. None of these do.
Phone cameras "zoom" by using digital zoom, 100% of the time. This can be cropping, this can be merging two different camera images and cropping, etc, this can even be using computational photographic techniques like DRIZZLE (Google's Super Res Camera, Samsung's Space Zoom). But there's no optical zoom anywhere.
Okay... Samsung did include an actual optical zoom on a few phones. You get something like this.
Dave, you are mostly right. I think its ok to call it "optical zoom" when a Phone has a set focus length with optically set module at a certain "visual distance" enhancement - e.g. 3X for the S20FE for example.
You are right, in that Samsung switches / blends from one lens to another's image when it crosses the 3x threshold, and continues to digitally crop and attempt to apply post-processing to interpret the crop of the area from the sensor to do a sharpen and resolve detail within that crop.
That being said - I would also highlight for this article that post processing is critical. Having an S20FE in hand, I can echo that the post on a 3X image from the focal length camera intended for that "zoom" factor is heavy handed, struggles to deal with motion (very easy to get edge blurring with even the least motion), and the overall camera performance and activity response is slow.
iPhone 12 using no digital zoom with a better post processing software may actually be ok for "most" users if they dont oversaturate and overprocess like Samsung is doing today, and focuses the performance of the A14 processing on better interpolation than the S20FE, and even S20 main series are doing.
iPhone 11 works well, I would take that camera with no zoom lens over what's built into this s20FE any day.