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As Samsung launches Galaxy S21 today, here’s a look at the evolution of the Galaxy S series

Here's a look at how the Galaxy S series has changed since the first smartphone in 2010.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi |
Updated: January 14, 2021 8:45:52 pm
Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 launch, evolution of Galaxy S series, best Samsung Galaxy S smartphoneThe Galaxy S21 Ultra will likely gain support for Samsung's S Pen making it the first smartphone outside of the Galaxy Note line to work with the stylus (Image credit: Roland Quandt/Twitter)

If there is one flagship smartphone that can compete against the iPhone, it is the Galaxy S series device. But it took Samsung years to create the same level of buzz around the Galaxy S smartphone, the Android alternative, as the Apple iPhone. More than the marketing muscle, what really helped Samsung is its ability to observe the trends and create premium smartphones accordingly. Today, as Samsung is ready to reveal the Galaxy S21, we take a look at how the Galaxy S series has changed through the years.

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Samsung Galaxy S (2010)

Samsung had been making smartphones for years, but the Galaxy S was the company’s first shot at cracking the high-end market. Announced at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in 2010, the Galaxy S was a true premium phone, a direct competitor to the iPhone 4. The Galaxy S featured a 4-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 800, a 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, a 5MP rear camera, a 1,500mAh battery, and Android 2.1 Eclair.

Samsung Galaxy S II (2011)

In every sense, the Galaxy S II was a step up from its predecessor. It was ridiculously thin and had an industrial design. Not to forget, the Galaxy S II was the fastest Android smartphone of its time. The phone had a larger 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display but retained the resolution at 480 x 800 with Corning Gorilla Glass protection. It was powered by an Exynos 4210 dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, and up to 32GB storage, 8MP rear camera, a 1,650mAh battery, and Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread. The Galaxy S II proved to be a global success, as the company managed to sell 20 million units in less than a year.

Samsung Galaxy S III (2012)

The Galaxy S III was the first ‘Galaxy’ smartphone that changed Samsung’s fortunes in the handset market. The phone had everything one would expect from a flagship smartphone, including a larger 4.8-inch display AMOLED with HD resolution and 4G LTE. The phone came at a time when Nokia had already lost its market pull, and Apple was struggling to innovate. All of these factors benefited Samsung, establishing the South Korean giant closer to replace Nokia as the world’s biggest phone maker.

Samsung Galaxy S4 (2013)

Although the Galaxy S4 was a hit device, the phone failed to impress critics. The reason: the Galaxy S4 went too far with the features that people never wanted. Those hand gestures and floating touch made the Galaxy S4 gimmicky, though buyers’ appreciated the performance of the phone. The Galaxy S4 came with a 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen, a 13MP rear camera, a 2MP front-facing camera, and a 2,600mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy S5 (2014)

The Galaxy S5 came at a critical time when Apple started to bounce back. The iPhone 5s was well received, and its successor, the iPhone 6/6 Plus, shattered all sales records. Despite the monumental success of the iPhone 6 series, the Galaxy S5 held well on its own. Samsung had included everything to stand out the Galaxy S5 from the competition, a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED Full HD display, Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, IP67 water and dust resistance, and swipe-based fingerprint reader. The Galaxy S5 was fast and it also featured superior cameras. However, the Galaxy S5’s design language raised many questions, as the cheap-feeling plastic designs started to look stale.

Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge Plus (2015)

The arrival of the Galaxy S6, especially the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, marked a turnaround in Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup. The Galaxy S6 was the first Galaxy S smartphone to be constructed out of metal and glass, giving Samsung an edge over its Android rivals. The Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, the one with the curved Edge screen and a slightly larger 2,600mAh battery, went on to become an even bigger hit. The success of the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus even surprised Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge Plus (2016)

The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge Plus transformed Samsung into a tech behemoth. For the first time, it appeared as if Samsung was not challenging Apple but the entire smartphone industry. Its expertise in the display tech was out in the wild with the superior AMOLED display and a new type of curved-edge screen. But the Galaxy S7 series got praised from all corners; critics especially liked the camera performance of its phones, a recognition previously reserved for smartphones from either Apple or HTC.

Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus (2017)

The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus both had powerful hardware, a feature that helped Samsung to beat its competitors. Both were the best Android smartphones of their time, but it felt like the Galaxy Note 8 was mostly a Galaxy S8 Plus with a stylus and 2x optical zoom lens. For the first time, critics started noting the similarities between the Galaxy S series and the Galaxy Note lineup.

Samsung Galaxy S9/S9 Plus (2018)

The launch of the Galaxy S9 series wasn’t anything monumental, but it did bring one big change. For the first time, Samsung started differentiating between two flagship smartphones in the Galaxy S series. Both the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus had a lot of notable differences other than the physical size. With the Galaxy S9 Plus, Samsung really wanted to go after a segment that values a bigger display and a bigger battery. The Galaxy S9 series was clearly aimed at the Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

Samsung Galaxy S10/S10 Plus/S10e (2019)

The Galaxy S10 range was Samsung’s biggest upgrade in years. They also cost more than their predecessors, but Samsung was after a new set of diverse customers. The Galaxy S10e, the cheaper option, was more exciting out of the bunch. In a way, the Galaxy S10e alongside the iPhone XR started a conversation around the “affordable flagships”. And the strategy worked – at least, in parts. While Samsung did make an attempt to offer a flagship smartphone experience at a lower price, the Galaxy S10e didn’t get the praise it deserved.

Samsung Galaxy S20/S20 Plus/S20Ultra/S20 FE (2020)

Let’s talk about an overhaul. For the first time, Samsung offered four variants of the Galaxy S20. All four phones lived up to the promise, though the Galaxy S20 Ultra was a bit controversial for being too similar to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. This started a debate on social media about whether Samsung should merge the Galaxy S and Note series. Only Samsung knows the answer but the company has recently indicated that it plans to bring some features of the Galaxy Note to other smartphones. Should Samsung let the Galaxy Note die? We shall soon get the answer.

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