Only one company can compete with Apple, and that’s Samsung. It does so with phones offering a ton of value. The strategy, though, has really matured. Samsung no longer gives you everything you didn’t ask for. All of its unique features and technologies are implemented with actual consumer behavior in mind. Over the years, that’s allowed Samsung to create an ecosystem of its own. If you look at a timeline of its phones, you’ll see how the company got to where it is today.
Check out our list of the best Samsung phones of all-time.
#5: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 — 2014
For a very long time, Samsung didn’t seem to care about the materials used for its phones. Its predecessors boasted plastic and rubber, which are far from premium. But that was standard for flagships at the time. Consumers wanted something premium-feeling like the iPhone yet even up until 2014 Samsung didn’t mind going for the cheaper alternative. Finally, with the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung started taking an interest in the look and feel of its high-end devices.
The Galaxy Note 4 arrived with a faux leather back, and the frame was constructed of aluminum. A presence of metal gave Samsung’s secondary flagship the premium vibe we always wanted.
It featured a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) Super AMOLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a 16MP rear camera, a 3.7 front camera, a 3220mAh battery, a fingerprint scanner, and Android 4.4.4 KitKat upgradeable to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.
Just months after the phone’s release, we’d see the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. Those two raised the bar with glass backs and metal frames. If the Galaxy Note 4 didn’t go over so well, maybe Samsung would’ve gone with something totally different for its 2015 flagship duo. Also, it the Galaxy Note 4’s sibling, the Galaxy Note Edge, that ushered in the era of curved displays. Samsung introduced it on a more mainstream phone with the Galaxy S6 Edge, and then made it common for flagships starting in 2017.
We have to thank the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge for Samsung’s progression in design.
#4: Google Galaxy Nexus — 2011
Google received help from Samsung in 2010 to create the Nexus S. With that phone going over well and the Nexus program beginning to gain traction, Samsung was brought back in 2011. Few phones have ever been nearly as hyped as the Galaxy Nexus. Samsung’s second Nexus phone was leaking left and right, and consumers couldn’t handle the wait. Every day there was a new leak to feed their hunger. Hype peaked when the launch event was delayed due to the death of Steve Jobs in October 2011.
The Galaxy Nexus was the first phone from Google to be flashy. Samsung included its trademark Super AMOLED technology, and the 720p display was also slightly curved. No one ever saw anything like it, especially due to the on-screen navigation buttons. These days, curved displays and on-screen navigation buttons aren’t shocking to see.
It featured a 4.65-inch (1280×720) Super AMOLED display, Texas Instruments’ OMAP 4460 with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 5MP rear camera, a 1.3MP front camera, a 1750mAh or 1850mAh battery, and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgradeable to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.
What made the phone so popular was its availability. Google made an entirely new variant for Verizon. The carrier hadn’t ever sold a Nexus device, but Google felt the nation’s largest carrier should probably be selling its stuff. Things didn’t go too well, though. Although a larger battery was included to combat the power-hunger 4G LTE connectivity, the Galaxy Nexus didn’t run too long on a single charge. And consumers started getting angry as the phone fell behind on software updates. That could be why it took Google five years to bring a Nexus device back to Verizon’s network.
If the Galaxy Nexus taught us anything, it’s that you can never have too much hype. Did the Galaxy Nexus meet expectations? Not completely, but it gave us so much excitement and plenty of firsts. While battery life was abysmal, the phone’s display and speed wowed. Its design, too, was better than everything in the Android space. The mobile industry currently has an overwhelming level of parity, but Samsung created a Nexus phone in 2011 that stood out as the best around.
#3: Samsung Galaxy S8 — 2017
In 2017, Samsung made one of the most beautiful phones in history. The Galaxy S8 is nothing short of stunning. Not only does it have a curved display flowing into the sides, but the top and bottom bezels are almost nonexistent. You can tell that Samsung put everything it had into the design of the Galaxy S8. Its design, however, isn’t all there is to praise.
It featured a 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) Super AMOLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, a 12MP rear camera, a 8MP front camera, a 3000mAh or 3500mAh battery, a fingerprint scanner, and Android 7.0 Nougat.
People have long complained about the software on Samsung’s devices. They say it’s slow, overbearing, and unattractive. The haters were silenced with TouchWiz’s replacement. On the Galaxy S8, the Samsung Experience is clean and fluid. There isn’t a moment when the phone faces sluggishness. That’s because Samsung stripped its software overlay down to the basics, slapped on a fresh coat of paint, and only included things you’ll actually use.
The display on the Galaxy S8 is near out of this world. Samsung makes the best displays. Period. Your eyes are just mesmerized by the curved, Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S8. It’s sharp, but more importantly, it’s deep and vibrant in color. Blacks are extremely deep, and whites glow as they should. Other colors pop brilliantly. Samsung also provides different modes for the display so you get a viewing experience optimized for your eyes.
Photography hasn’t been a problem on Samsung’s phones. Still, the Galaxy S8 raised the bar. The Dual Pixel sensor takes in more light than most; therefore, the phone can pull off masterful shots during the day or at night. It’s also able to capture precise moments due to the Dual Pixel sensor. The Galaxy S8’s camera can focus almost as quick as the human eye and with great clarity.
Considering the beauty of the Galaxy S8 in every sense, the company’s future is bright. Samsung knows exactly what we want and keeps delivering.
#2: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 — 2013
Remember when phones were small? They were really small, to be honest. It took a long time to exceed 4-inches for a display, and then all of a sudden Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note in 2011. The world was shocked by its 5.3-inch screen, but Samsung managed to sell millions of units in one year. So the Galaxy Note series stayed alive. The Galaxy Note II went bigger, having a display measuring 5.5 inches. Consumers weren’t turned off, and Samsung felt justified in going to 5.7 inches for the Galaxy Note 3.
It featured a 5.7-inch Full HD (1920×1080) Super AMOLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 with 3GB of RAM, up to 64GB of internal storage, a 13MP rear camera, a 2MP front camera, a 3200mAh battery, and Android 4.3 Jelly Bean upgradeable to Android 5.0 Lollipop.
The Galaxy Note 3 normalized big phones. Everyone viewed the phone as Samsung’s second flagship of the year and not a novelty to gain attention. The details now mattered because an increasing number of people were flocking to the Galaxy Note series for the bigger screen and the stylus. Samsung swapped out the plastic back for faux leather, and the frame was made of a metal-looking plastic. The Galaxy Note 3 came across as a get-things-done phone rather than a just-a-funny-idea phone.
Within a month, Samsung sold 5 million units of the Galaxy Note 3. Another 5 million units were sold in two months. Somehow the company managed to keep sales high for the Galaxy Note 3 despite the Galaxy S4 breaking records following its release months earlier. The combination of the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 confirmed to the entire mobile world that two flagships released every year is a sustainable (and very successfully) business model.
#1: Samsung Galaxy S III — 2012
The Galaxy S III put Samsung on the map. Before it, the company was known in the mobile industry but didn’t receive nearly as much as attention as it would in 2012 and beyond. Its two predecessors were harmed by the involvement of carriers. The Galaxy S had different names between carriers, and the Galaxy S II had different release dates between them. Samsung then understood the success attainable if it just sold the Galaxy S III across all major carriers and around the world under the same name. Marketing one phone allowed Samsung and its partners to assemble a big-budget push.
It featured a 4.8-inch (1280×720) Super AMOLED display, Samsung’s Exynos 4412 with 1GB of RAM, up to 64GB of internal storage, a 8MP rear camera, a 1.9MP front camera, a 2100mAh battery, and Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgradeable to Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.
The phone was certainly no slouch. Samsung included expensive components that couldn’t be found elsewhere, and the software really drew people in. Samsung created its own suite of apps to exist alongside Google’s. Among the unique services was S Voice, a competitor to Apple’s Siri. Consumers were blown away by Siri, but not all of them wanted to buy an iPhone. The Galaxy S III, thanks to S Voice, became a must-buy.
What gave rise to Samsung and the Galaxy S III wasn’t the phone’s specifications or software, though. It was a massive advertising campaign that gained momentum heading into the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Samsung was an official sponsor of the event watched by hundreds of millions of people globally. So nearly every commercial break, at least in the United States, included an ad for the Galaxy S III. Prior to the Olympics, Samsung was already seeing a strong response to its ads taking shots at Apple and the iPhone. Running countless ads during the Olympics just added more fuel to a blazing fire.
Samsung’s Galaxy S III beat the iPhone 4s in multiple quarters as the world’s best-selling phone. By the end of 2012, the company managed to sell 40 million units. Look no further if you’re trying to understand when the war between Samsung and Apple truly started. The Galaxy S III dethroned the iPhone in many consumers minds, and ever since the two companies have been battling for supremacy.