Samsung Galaxy (Korean: 삼성 갤럭시, stylised as SΛMSUNG Galaxy since 2015 (except Japan where it omits the Samsung branding), previously stylised as Samsung GALAXY; abbreviated as SG) is a series of computing and mobile computing devices that are designed, manufactured and marketed by Samsung Electronics. The product line includes the Samsung Galaxy S series of high-end smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Tab series of tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Note series of tablets and phablets with the added functionality of a stylus, the foldable Samsung Galaxy Z series, and smartwatches including the first version of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, with later versions dropping the Galaxy branding, until the release of the Samsung Galaxy Watch in 2018.
Samsung Galaxy devices use the Android operating system produced by Google, with a custom user interface called One UI (with previous versions being known as Samsung Experience and TouchWiz). However, the Galaxy TabPro S is the first Galaxy-branded Windows 10 device that was announced in CES 2016. The Galaxy Watch is the first Galaxy-branded smartwatch since the release of later iterations of the Gear smartwatch from 2014 to 2017.
In 2020 Samsung added the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2-in-1 laptop running Chrome OS to the Galaxy branding lineup.The follow-on Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 was released in 2021.
For many folks out there, the Samsung Galaxy S series isn’t just a family of Android phones — they are synonymous with the entirety of Android itself. Ask around and you’ll likely find someone you know who will refer to any Android device as a “Galaxy,” even if it’s not made by Samsung. That’s how prevalent the Galaxy S series really is.
Samsung didn’t make the Samsung Galaxy S series the biggest name in Android overnight. It gradually gained steam with the line before it took off with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. That latter phone is still the best-selling Android phone of all time. Since then, Samsung has refined — and completely obliterated — its formula for Galaxy S phones. But the company’s status as the number one name in Android still holds strong.
In 2020, Samsung took the Galaxy S line to new heights with a new naming scheme, a new ultra-premium variant, and new features within the Galaxy S20 series. Most recently, the Galaxy S22 series merged together with the defunct Galaxy Note series. With all this in mind, we thought we’d go over the history of the Samsung Galaxy S line from its humble beginnings all the way through to today.
In March of 2010, Samsung officially unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S, the very first entry in the new “S” line. Previously, in 2009, the company had launched the Samsung Galaxy, its very first phone powered by Android.
The Galaxy S was, at the time, one of the most powerful phones on the market. Its graphical processing power outmatched any other Android phone. It even trounced the iPhone 3G, which was the most recent Apple phone available at the time. This raw power coupled with an attractive design and slim form-factor pushed the Galaxy S to over 25 million units sold.
However, the Galaxy S suffered greatly from a very confusing release lineup. All in all, there were over two dozen variants of the Galaxy S smartphone. Some had different processors, different designs, and even different operating systems. This was incredibly different from Apple’s strategy, which was to release one phone with little variation globally.
Ultimately, though, the Galaxy S was a huge hit for Samsung. It wasn’t long before the company was hard at work at a follow-up.
In hindsight, Samsung’s decision to release over two dozen variants of the original Galaxy S phone seems like a poor one. However, it worked out for the company. The phone was a huge success. In response, Samsung essentially doubled down for the 2011 entry in the series, the Samsung Galaxy S2.
With the S2, not only were there different versions of the device around the globe, but even the three supported major wireless carriers in the United States got completely different devices with different designs and even different names. It was incredibly confusing.
As such, it’s difficult to talk about the Galaxy S2 as one device. For example, the global version of the S2 featured a large home button at the bottom with two capacitive buttons flanking it on either side, similar to the original Galaxy S. Meanwhile, North American versions such as the AT&T variant (shown in the image above) feature four capacitive buttons in a row. The Sprint variant didn’t have an NFC chip while all other US variants did, and the T-Mobile variant had a unique processor (the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3). The AT&T variant even had a significantly smaller display as compared to the Sprint and T-Mobile versions. It was madness.
Luckily for Samsung, all this confusion didn’t hurt its overall bottom line. The Galaxy S2 sold even better than the original Samsung Galaxy S, clocking in at over 40 million units sold. The company had clearly struck gold with its Galaxy S line, which it would prove in spades with the next two entries in the series.
With Samsung overtaking Apple in smartphone sales in 2011 based largely on the success of the Galaxy S2, all eyes were on Samsung in 2012 as it prepared to launch the new entry in the series. Little did anyone know that the Galaxy S3 would go on to sell 70 million units, making it the second-best-selling Android smartphone of all time. In fact, the only Android phone that sold more units than this one was another Galaxy S phone (which we’ll get to in a minute).
Thankfully, with the Galaxy S3, Samsung started to abandon its strategy of releasing dozens of confusing variants of the device. Sure, it still launched way too many versions of the Galaxy S3, but it wasn’t as problematic and excessive as the Galaxy S2 and original Galaxy S.
With the Galaxy S3, Samsung was finally on even footing with Apple. Remember that the first iPhone came out in 2007, giving the Cupertino company a significant head start in the premium smartphone market as compared to Samsung. But the iPhone 5, Apple’s smartphone that launched the same year as the Galaxy S3, sold about the same amount of units as the S3. This made the Galaxy S3 the first bonafide “iPhone killer.”
In 2012, Samsung posted record-setting profits, thanks largely to the success of the Galaxy S3. In the years to come, it will be impossible to talk about the best smartphones of all time without mentioning this one.
When you talk about the Samsung Galaxy S4, you are talking about a pillar of its industry. From a sales perspective, no other Android phone has even come close to records set by this device. It sold 20 million units in its first two months, which is just insane. As a comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S9 family sold less than that over its entire first year.
Samsung did the smartest thing it could with the Galaxy S4: it simply took the design aesthetic, hardware, and features of the incredibly successful Galaxy S3 and refined them. In fact, aside from being slightly bigger than the Galaxy S3 and with a redesigned home button, the two devices look remarkably similar.
The Galaxy S4 was also, thankfully, the first phone in the Galaxy S line to launch in different countries with similar specs and designs across all of them. Sure, there were still plenty of differences, but you could finally use the word “cohesive” to describe a Galaxy phone line without being laughed out of the room.
The only real downside to the Galaxy S4 was that Samsung went a little too crazy with adding new features. Bloatware was a huge problem for the device, and the company spent more time than it should have on gimmicky features such as Air Gesture, which allows you to scroll through your phone without needing to physically touch the display. Samsung would soon abandon this feature and others that debuted with the Galaxy S4.
Here at Android Authority, our readers love the Samsung Galaxy S5. Just read through the over 230 comments on this post to see how much our readers love this phone, despite it being completely outdated at this point.
One of the biggest reasons this phone is so popular is because it’s the last of its kind as far as the classic Galaxy S design goes. The S5 is the last in the series to feature a plastic removable backplate, which gave users easy access to the removable battery, among other internals. It’s also the last “durable” phone in the Galaxy S line. Although Samsung would continue to offer Active devices in the Galaxy S line, the Galaxy S5 didn’t really need the distinction (this didn’t stop Samsung from releasing a Galaxy S5 Active, though).
Unfortunately for Samsung, the Galaxy S5 represented a different kind of end: the end of growth. Although the Galaxy S5 was a sales monster by today’s standards, Samsung reportedly sold 40% fewer units of the S5 than it did of the S4. This resulted in a massive drop in market share as well as a management shake-up at Samsung. That’s one of the big reasons why there ends up being such a dramatic shift between the design of the Galaxy S5 and the eventual Galaxy S6.
In hindsight, the drop in sales for the Galaxy S5 wasn’t entirely Samsung’s fault. The smartphone boom of the early 2010s was on the decline. There were simply fewer people around who were buying their first smartphone at this point. Samsung should have done a better job anticipating this.
With the disappointing sales of the Galaxy S5, Samsung needed to reinvent the line. Not only did it give the Galaxy S design a dramatic overhaul in 2015 with the Galaxy S6, but it also did something it had never done before: release two different models. It eventually even dropped a third model later in 2015.
Let’s start with the design. In an effort to make the Galaxy S line look and feel more premium, Samsung abandoned the removable plastic backing of previous phones and went with an all-glass back. Additionally, the S6 featured a unibody chassis made of metal which further emphasized Samsung’s high-end ambitions.
Not content to stop there, Samsung simultaneously introduced a different variant: the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. This device looked very similar to the normal Galaxy S6 but featured curved glass on either side of the display. Samsung had previously tested this idea with the Galaxy Note Edge, which featured curved glass on just the right side of the display.
These phones both came out in March of 2015. Later, in August, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. This would represent the first “Plus” model in the Galaxy S family (even though a new Plus model wouldn’t come for two more years). As one would expect, the S6 Edge Plus was essentially a bigger version of the regular S6 Edge.
Samsung never revealed a final tally of how many Galaxy S6 phones it sold. However, most analysts agree that the phone didn’t sell as well as the Galaxy S5. Samsung even felt the need to lower the retail pricing of the S6 and S6 Edge only a few months after they launched. This is why, unfortunately, the Galaxy S6 will forever be seen as an awkward transition device. Thankfully, things get better for Samsung the following year.
With the Galaxy S6 family, Samsung had made a few mistakes. First, it took away the microSD slot and didn’t incorporate any IP certification. It introduced an Edge variant that cost $100 more than the regular variant but didn’t really justify that price hike. It also released a bigger variant of the S6, but not until August when it launched the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
With the Samsung Galaxy S7 line, the company fixed a lot of those problems. Rather than launch two devices of the same size at the same time, it made the Galaxy S7 Edge slightly bigger than the Galaxy S7 — not quite earning a “Plus” moniker, but at least the size difference would help justify the increase in cost. It also brought back the microSD card slot and earned an IP68 certification for all the devices in the S7 line.
It kept the all-glass design of the S6, though. Samsung also kept the front panel design that had carried on since the very beginning: the Samsung logo at the top and a physical home button at the bottom. This would be the end of this trend, however, as the next phone in the line would do away for good with the iconic Galaxy S look.
By fixing most of the issues of the Galaxy S6 (the removable battery never did make a comeback), Samsung was able to turn the tide as far as smartphone sales go. Combined, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge shipped about 55 million units, which is actually pretty good when you consider the best-selling Android phone of all time shipped 80 million units.
In 2017, Samsung was in a bad spot. Despite the success of the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy Note 7 — launched in August of 2016 — had a very serious problem of sometimes exploding. Even though the Galaxy S7 line had fixed the problems of the S6 line and sold really well, Samsung was now on (literal) damage control at the start of 2017.
As such, the Samsung Galaxy S8 line had the deck stacked against it from the beginning. Even if that hadn’t been the case, though, Samsung still made a big mistake with the S8 line that caused it to receive negative press, which was moving the fingerprint sensor to the back of the device.
To be clear, moving the fingerprint sensor to the back wasn’t a bad idea in itself. But Samsung opted to put the sensor next to the rear camera lens, offset from the middle. Not only was this too high up the back of the device for comfortable use but it caused people to mistakenly place their finger on the camera lens rather than the sensor itself. It was just a bad call all around.
Thankfully, Samsung did make a bunch of other really good decisions with the Galaxy S8 family. It abandoned the Edge branding (finally) and simply launched two devices: the Galaxy S8 and the larger Galaxy S8 Plus. The Plus moniker made more sense from a marketing perspective (the device is bigger with some more stuff) and Samsung’s price hike for the model was easier to explain to consumers.
By moving the fingerprint sensor to the back, the Galaxy S8 became the first Galaxy S phone to not have a home button at the bottom of the display. This was a bold (but necessary) move and the phone looked great with its neat-and-trim bezels.
Samsung never released official sales numbers for the S8 line, but industry analysts are in agreement that they didn’t sell quite as well as the Galaxy S7 line. It’s not clear if the Note 7 disaster or the bad reviews related to the fingerprint sensor were to blame, but the Galaxy S8’s lack of runaway success probably gave Samsung a bit of a scare.
As it did in 2016 with the Galaxy S7, in 2018 Samsung needed to fix the mistakes it had made with the Galaxy S8. With the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, Samsung fixed the biggest pain point of the S8 family: the placement of the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Now, the sensor was more towards the middle of the back and centered as it should be.
Samsung also, for the first time ever in the Galaxy S line, added a second rear camera lens to the back of the Galaxy S9 Plus (the vanilla Galaxy S9 still had a single sensor). It also made the top and bottom display bezels significantly smaller as well as offering the usual processing upgrades.
However, no matter how you sliced it, the Galaxy S9 looked a lot like the Galaxy S8. Overall, the Galaxy S9 ended up being more about iterative fixing rather than any kind of sweeping change. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (as we saw with the Galaxy S4), but smartphone buyers wouldn’t be too keen to line up around the block for a phone that cost more than last year’s while looking about the same. Thankfully, Samsung lowered the starting prices for the S9 family as compared to the S8 family, making 2018 one of the very few years that’s ever happened.
The one thing Samsung did improve upon with the Galaxy S9 family was the camera. The addition of a second lens on the Galaxy S9 Plus brought the Galaxy S line up-to-date with the competition. However, primary competitor (at the time) Huawei launched the P20 Pro shortly after Samsung launched the Galaxy S9, and Huawei’s device had a whopping three camera lenses. Our review of the P20 Pro was even subtitled “the Galaxy S9 killer.”
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus proved that Samsung couldn’t rest on its laurels anymore. The devices sold well enough, but not as well as the Galaxy S8, which, of course, didn’t sell as well as the Galaxy S7. Samsung needed to put some real innovation in its next Galaxy S device if it wanted to stop the bleeding.
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus proved something to Samsung: if it released iterative upgrade smartphones that looked and functioned a lot like last year’s model, sales would suffer. The company must have heard this loud and clear because it basically threw out the rule book in 2019 with the launch of the Galaxy S10 family.
For the first time ever, there would be a whopping four devices in the S10 family. The primary two would remain the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus. But Samsung also launched a new high-end model called the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G as well as an entry-level model called the Samsung Galaxy S10e. Each model had the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, but differing build materials, cameras, and internal specs. This would allow each device to hit different price points, anywhere from $749 at the low end all the way to $1,399 at the high.
In addition to these new models, Samsung revamped the entire design aesthetic of the Galaxy S family. For the first time, it used punch-hole cutouts on the display to house the front-facing camera sensors. This, combined with the inclusion of in-display fingerprint sensors (or, in the case of the Galaxy S10e, a side-mounted sensor), allowed for the front of the phone to be nearly all display.
On the back, even the cheapest variant of the lot had two rear-facing camera sensors. The Galaxy S10 5G had three sensors plus a ToF sensor, making it a photography beast.
Even with all these upgrades, Samsung still kept true to its roots: every phone in the line had a headphone jack, microSD card support, and an IP rating against water and dust. In a way, the Galaxy S10 family represents the apex of the Galaxy S line, including nearly everything fans love about the phones.
Nearly all accounts support the idea that Samsung sold more of the S10 family than it did the S9 family.
If you noticed a big jump in numbers there, don’t be alarmed! Samsung skipped 11 and went straight to 20. This locks the series’ number with the year in which it launched.
With the Galaxy S10 family, Samsung tried to give budget-minded shoppers a good option with the Galaxy S10e. However, with the Galaxy S20 family, the company took things in the opposite direction. It eliminated the “e” model and introduced a much more premium variant known as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
This change made it so, at first, the minimum amount of money a buyer would need to get a Galaxy S20 phone was $999. It was a big risk to take. Unfortunately for Samsung, it didn’t pay off, as Galaxy S20 sales were disappointing.
Still, the phones in the line were pretty awesome. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset assured that every phone would be 5G capable, not to mention blazing fast. Tons of RAM, multiple rear camera lenses, expandable storage, and most of the classic Galaxy S elements were all there.
However, one big thing was missing: the headphone jack. No phone in the Galaxy S20 line features the much-loved port, representing the first time that’s ever happened.
Late in 2020, Samsung threw budget shoppers a bone with the Galaxy S20 FE, which stands for “Fan Edition.” This cheaper version of the Galaxy S20 acts almost like a Galaxy S20e. And you know what, we absolutely loved it.
David Imel / Android Authority
Samsung’s move to make the Galaxy S20 line a strictly premium experience didn’t work out so well. Granted, the company didn’t have a crystal ball to give a warning that a global pandemic was on the way. Regardless, it’s not easy to sell $1,000+ smartphones at a time when people are out of work and struggling just to pay their bills.
With the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, the company rectified that problem. It slashed $200 off the entry prices for each of the three phones in the line. This made the Galaxy S21 much more affordable at $799.
The phones also continued to deliver the quality that Samsung fans expect. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is still a specs beast. All of the phones still have premium camera systems, and the overall design aesthetic took a major jump as compared to the Galaxy S20 family.
Of course, some things had to go to make up for that $200 loss on each phone sold. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus lost their 1440p displays, and the Galaxy S21 landed with a plastic back. All of the phones lost microSD card support and Samsung sold the phones with no chargers in the box.
Will the Galaxy S21 family turn the tables on Samsung’s big mistakes from 2020? Time will tell.
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
In 2020, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the Galaxy Note line’s swan song. The company skipped launching a Galaxy Note in 2021, and the launch of the Galaxy S22 line essentially cemented its end.
We say that because the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is more like a Note phone than a Galaxy S phone. It has the boxy shape of a Note, an S Pen, a slot to store the S Pen, and a few other Note hallmarks. We don’t know if we’ll ever see a Galaxy Note phone again, but this is basically a Note by another name.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus are pretty much unchanged from 2021, at least as far as designs go. Inside, the phones have the usual upgrades including a faster processor, better cameras, and a few other hardware and software tweaks.
Most notably, Samsung didn’t change the pricing for the phones. They each cost just as much as their comparable models in the Galaxy S21 series.
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