Samsung's flagship lineup, the S series, has been a vehicle for the company's innovation for over a decade. The series has pioneered some of the most revolutionary technologies that contributed to shaping the look and feel of Android devices.
What helped the series rise to fame was not the intensity of its innovations or over-the-top features, but its consistent improvements year after year. Let's take a look back at the evolution of the iconic Galaxy S series.
2010-2012: The First Galaxy S Phone
Being the first of its kind, the Galaxy S had a lot of expectations tied to its name. Fortunately, the device was a big hit and sold above 20 million units. Its Super AMOLED display and 512MB of RAM were considered ahead of their time and the raw power on the device was enough to attract enthusiasts.
Next year, in 2011, the Galaxy S2 launched with Android 2.3 out-the-box which saw Android 4.1.2 as its last upgrade. One variant of the device housed a Qualcomm chipset—the first-ever in a Galaxy S phone. The device sold 40 million units despite its variants having non-uniform features.
Seeing this success, the Galaxy S3 needed to carry that bandwagon further—and it did. Selling 70 million units, the Galaxy S3's sales matched the iPhone 5's sales in 2012. Some variants of the device carried 1GB of RAM while others had 2GB. Despite this confusion, the S3 was a big hit.
2013-2015: Awkward Transitions
In 2013, Samsung took the pebble-shaped S3 and made a ton of new improvements for the S4, like a design refresh, a 13MP rear camera, and ditched the Roman numerals (the S3 was officially the S III). It worked. The Galaxy S4 sold 80 million units—beating the iPhone 5S which sold 52 million units.
In 2014, just when things were starting to go from good to great, Samsung hit a massive bump on the road. The 4K-compatible Galaxy S5 sold just 12 million units in the first three months despite being a fan favorite for a lot of people. To compare, the S4 sold 10 million units in one month; the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sold 10 million units in three days.
By 2015, the S series sort of went through puberty. Samsung ditched the removable plastic back and went for a premium all-glass back with its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. It was the first Samsung flagship to have OIS, slow-motion video, and a special curved-glass front display. Despite all that, the two variants combined sold a total of 45 million units.
2016-2018: Goodbye TouchWiz, Hello One UI
The Galaxy S6 had skipped on the microSD slot and an IP rating for some reason. Fortunately, the Galaxy S7 line brought those features back in 2016 and ditched the (frankly disappointing) TouchWiz UI for “Samsung Experience”. The S7 Edge variant had a bigger 5.5-inch screen and a larger 3600mAh battery.
Combined, the S7 and S7 Edge sold 55 million units—marking a comeback.
The Galaxy S8 had a big problem and it wasn't the S8 itself, but its elder brother the Galaxy Note 7 released the same year, 2017. If you remember, several Galaxy Note 7 devices started spontaneously exploding due to battery issues. Understandably, this caused a lot of prospective buyers to skip on the S8 as well.
Ignoring that, the Galaxy S8 line was a big upgrade in a lot of ways. The front of the device carried a bigger Super AMOLED 5.8-inch screen on the S8 and a 6.2-inch on the S8+. The RAM was extended to a max of 6GB. It was also the first time Samsung replaced the physical home button and capacitive buttons with on-screen keys.
Samsung finally adopted a USB-C port with the S8 line and debuted Bixby—Samsung's native voice assistant which had its own dedicated physical button on the side. But the device had one major problem: its fingerprint sensor was placed beside the rear camera which made it practically unusable as it was too high to reach.
In 2018, Samsung fixed the design problem with the S9 line, added a second rear lens on the S9+, and launched the new One UI skin on top of Android 9.
While the S8 and S8+ sold 41 million units, the S9 and S9+ sold 35.4 million units despite the powerful Snapdragon 845 chip, 256GB of expandable storage, and 4K video @ 60fps capability. The Note 7 incident was clearly still on people's minds.
2019-2021: Next-Gen Samsung Smartphones
For the S10 line, Samsung launched four devices in total in 2019: the vanilla S10, the high-end S10+, the budget-friendly S10e, and the future-proof S10 5G. Clearly, Samsung wanted to cover all price segments this time, and it did, with slightly higher sales than last time with 37 million units sold excluding the S10 5G.
With the S10 line, Samsung debuted a lot of major changes like the design overhaul, the first-ever hole-punch cutout for the front camera (the Infinity-O display), an entry-level offering, improved camera quality, bigger displays on some models, and an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor on all models except the S10e.
Hell, the S10+ even had up to 1TB of internal storage. Alongside all these improvements, the S10 line retained fan-favorite features like the headphone jack and a microSD slot. This was at a time when other manufacturers had already gotten rid of them. Samsung was one of the last companies to keep them.
In 2020, Samsung skipped on the S11 branding and jumped straight to S20 instead. This meant Samsung devices would now align with the year of their launch. The S20 family had four members: the vanilla S20, the high-end S20+, the maxed-out S20 Ultra, and the affordable S20 Fan Edition (FE).
The S10 line was just as hard to recommend as it was easy. On the good side, you had the beastly Snapdragon 865 chip, a 120Hz refresh rate display, 8K video on the Ultra variant, and plenty of RAM, storage, and battery.
On the bad side, you had the removed 3.5mm jack and the crazy price. The vanilla S20 launched for $999. It's no wonder why the S20 FE was more popular with its $699 price.
As expected with that price, the S20 family didn't sell well, and (spoiler alert!) neither did the successor S21 family.
Combined, the S10, S10+, and S10 Ultra sold 28 million sold. In 2021, the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra sold a combined total of 13.5 million units in the first six months despite being cheaper and better than the predecessor.
If you're keeping track, this is the worst performance Samsung has ever seen with the S series—eating away its market share and affecting brand loyalty. This time, it wasn't Samsung's fault, though. We've got a whole article explaining why the Galaxy S21 series failed and how Samsung is trying to bounce back from the hit.
The Series That Shaped Android
For the longest time, Galaxy S phones have been the go-to Android smartphones for a lot of people. This throwback clearly explains why. Samsung managed to bring something new to the market with each generation.
Whether it's thin bezels or curved displays, a punch-hole camera, or premium materials, Samsung has experimented with everything. Some innovations stuck, others didn't. Regardless, the Galaxy S phones acted as an instruction manual for a lot of Android phone manufacturers.
Author: Ayush Jalan
Source: Ayush Jalan.” The History of the Samsung Galaxy S Series: From 2010 to Today”. Retrieved From https://www.makeuseof.com/evolution-of-samsung-galaxy-s-phones/
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