As we look forward to the highly-anticipated launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4, it’s difficult to imagine that the company’s meteoric rise in the Android world occurred over a span of just three years!
Three years ago saw the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S, at a time when Apple was racing ahead of the competition in the smartphone arena (in the US), Nokia was holding on to the number one position because of its popularity in emerging markets, and the Blackberry was still the only device used in enterprise.
Today, we take a look back at where it all started, how things progressed, and what the future has in store for Samsung with the launch of the Galaxy S4.
Samsung Galaxy S – A Humble Beginning
The Samsung Galaxy S, announced in March 2010, was Samsung’s first foray into the US smartphone market. While the company did have a few other Android releases before this, the Galaxy S was the first serious attempt by the company to take on the iPhone, and take a piece of the Android pie that, at the time, was dominated by HTC and Motorola.
The Samsung Galaxy S definitely stood out in a crowd, featuring a beautiful and vibrant 4-inch Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display, and a 1Ghz ARM Hummingbird processor, a top of the line processor back then. The smartphone was well-received in tech circles, and achieved more than decent sales figures of around 24 million worldwide, while becoming one of the highest selling smartphone in markets such as India in 2010.
Unfortunately, the device fell short in the one market it hoped to make its biggest impact in, the US. Samsung was a relatively new entrant, and the terms of the device release were dictated by the network carriers. This led to the launch of several variants, such as the Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile), Captivate (AT&T), Epic 4G with a QWERTY slide-out keyboard (Sprint), Fascinate (Verizon, and Mesmerize (US Cellular). Each version featured the same internals and software as the Galaxy S, with some changes to “define” each device.
Samsung Galaxy S2 – Climbing to the Top
With the Galaxy S2, Samsung managed to wrestle some control back from US network carriers, with AT&T and T-Mobile keeping the name, and only Sprint calling the device the Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch, which was later changed to Galaxy S2 4G. All variants had their fair share of differences though, with all US versions featuring 4-capacitive buttons, as opposed to the physical home button found on the international version.
The AT&T version featured NFC capabilities, with a later release, the Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, also featuring LTE integration. The T-Mobile and Sprint variants included a larger 4.5-inch display with the former also featuring a 1.5 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor (instead of the 1.2Ghz Samsung Exynos processor) for better compatibility with T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network.
The Samsung Galaxy S2 received rave reviews across the board, topping an amazing 2011 by receiving the Smartphone of the Year award at last year’s Mobile World Congress’ Global Mobile Awards. With HTC and Motorola floundering, and companies like LG still finding its footing, the Galaxy S2 helped Samsung race ahead of the competition, taking over as the best Android device manufacturer in 2011.
Samsung has definitely paid attention to the success of the Galaxy S2, with the device, which first released with Android 2.3 Gingerbread on-board, now receiving official updates to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This attention ensured that the Galaxy S2 is still one of the most popular Android devices around.
Samsung Galaxy S3 – Planting the Flag
If you thought the sales figures of the Galaxy S2 were impressive, be prepared to have your mind blown! Samsung decided to skip major tech shows for the announcement of the Galaxy S3, instead holding its own “Unpacked” event in London on May 3, 2012. Samsung received over 9 million pre-orders for the Galaxy S3 two weeks after the unveiling, and sold over 10 million devices in less than 3 months, making it one of the fastest selling gadgets in history.
Current sales figures are at 40 million, and the accompanying price drop related to the launch of the Galaxy S4 means that that the Galaxy S3 is still going to still be one of the best-selling devices this year as well.
Taking complete control from US network carriers, the device launched in the US under the Galaxy S3 branding, and featured no differences across variants available from different networks. It also enjoyed one of the most successful US launches, with every major network carrier offering the Galaxy S3. The major difference between the US and international variant was that the US version was powered by a 1.5 Ghz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor for its LTE integration, as well as 2GB RAM on-board, as opposed to the international version which boasted a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor and 1GB of RAM.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 received positive reviews as well, with most reviewers praising its perfect blend of software features (S-Voice, Smart Stay, and more), processing speed, and display, giving the device an edge over the competition which included the HTC One X and the iPhone 4S. Samsung also achieved what it set out to do back in 2010, with the Galaxy S3 being labelled an iPhone killer. The device once again helped Samsung receive the Smartphone of the Year award at this year’s MWC Global Mobile Awards, and helped the company increase its market share in almost every major mobile market around the world.
If there’s one thing Samsung knows how to do, it’s marketing! Samsung outspend every other device manufacturer in 2012, and has already gone out of its way to advertise the upcoming launch of the Galaxy S4. But things are seemingly different this time around. The competition has stepped up its game, with some truly great releases on offer from Sony, with the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL, and HTC, with the HTC One. The OEM scene, which initially included just HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, has also evolved over the last year or so, with companies like LG, Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, and others all making waves in the Android smartphone world.
But Samsung is making changes as well. Samsung has now begun aggressively pushing its devices as SAFE (Samsung for Enterprise), which opens up a whole new market for the company. And by no stretch of the imagination is the Galaxy S4 going to be a bad device. We’ll have to wait and see whether the device will gain the same popularity as the Galaxy S3, or surpass it. Luckily, there are just hours to go!