One of the great kings of the mobile world, Samsung has built itself into a massive mobile and electronics empire, though its story actually starts much earlier. How much earlier? 1938, actually. Throughout those years the company has evolved significantly, and has brought innovation into countless markets, going well beyond just mobile and electronics.
Samsung’s story is an interesting one, full of both highs and lows. In this feature we aim to explore some of the more interesting facts about this Korean giant. So let’s jump right in!
Samsung was destined for greatness from day one, or at least its founder thought so.
Right from its founding, Lee Byung-chul believed that his new company was the start of something much bigger. The company’s name choice reflected this ambition. Built from the Korean words sam (three) and sung (stars), the tri-star symbol (三星) is said to culturally represent something “big, numerous and powerful”.
At it’s founding, this was a pretty bold claim from a company that was nothing more than a trading company of forty employees that dealt in locally grown produce and in the creation of noodles. Since then, Samsung has certainly found its way into a lot more than just noodle-making, which leads us into another interesting fact.
Samsung is made up of around 80 companies and employees over 370,000 people.
While some of you may already know this, Samsung is way more than just an electronics and mobile producer. The Samsung Group has 59 unlisted companies and 19 listed, all of which have their primary listings on the Korea exchange. These companies range from constructions to financial services, ship building, and even medical. As mentioned above, the company’s combined efforts employ over 370,000 people, and across 80 countries different countries, including Korea.
Another fun fact, Samsung’s construction division built the Burj Khalifa (pictured above), which is the tallest building in the world.
Samsung’s electronic ambitions began in 1970 with a black and white TV, mobile began in 1986 with a car phone.
The first electronics product every produced by Samsung was a black and white TV in 1970. The company expanded a great deal in the decades to follow, and in 1986 entered into the mobile game with a car phone. While Samsung’s early TV efforts were fairly well received, the first car phone from the company was poorly received and had terrible sales as a result.
Since the founding of Samsung Electronics, Samsung’s logo has only changed three times.
While the Samsung logo changed a few times prior to the 70s, after this, it pretty much stayed constant, changing only three times until the current logo was settled on in 1993. If it isn’t broke, why fix it?
Samsung Electronics, as we know it, really began with a major philosophy shift in 1993.
While Samsung has been involved with electronics and the mobile industry for many decades now, it was in 1993 that Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee (seen above) pushed forward a new management philosophy which encouraged product quality as one of its core tenets. In fact, he encouraged his staff to “change everything except for their family”, and in order to further promote this notion, Samsung’s Human Resource Development Center created new training and development courses to help with this professional growth.
But it didn’t truly sink in until 1995…
Saying you’re going to focus on quality and taking that all important step across a threshold are often two different things, and they certainly were for Samsung. In 1995, Kun-hee Lee would reportedly find himself frustrated with the quality of his products and with the lack of change in this direction. To drive his point home, numerous phones were stacked up high, joined by televisions, fax machines, and other gear. Lee and his board of directors then proceeded to destroy each and one of these products, even going so far as to break the cases and screens using heavy hammers.
As the story goes, Lee made sure around 2000 employees were to witness this. That day, more than $50 million worth of hardware was destroyed, and a new Samsung was finally born. Following this, the era of ‘new management’ would truly begin and was marked by quick growth and global success, something that has only continued to gain momentum in the decades to follow.
So Samsung fans, you can thank Lee, his board, and their willingness to perform an extreme drop test for the products you enjoy today. And since that day, they’ve certainly created a number of firsts in the electronic industry.
First CDMA phone
The Samsung SCH-100 was released back in 1996, making it the very first phone to utilize CDMA technology. In retrospect, being the first to use a standard that many see as restrictive and inferior to GSM probably isn’t much of a bragging right today, but at the time, CDMA was a new technology and – in the days before fast 4G/LTE technologies – actually had some real advantages over GSM.
This might not be the case anymore, but Samsung still deserves some props for its willingness to try a new standard.
First watch phone
Yes, the Gear family has had variants that have allowed you to text or even make calls without needing to tether your phone, but the watch phone market actually begins much earlier – back in 1999. Samsung was the first pioneer, and one of the only ones since, to build a watch that also doubled as a phone. This bad boy was dubbed the Samsung SPH-WP10.
This unique watch phone could not only tell time, it also could make phone calls for up to 90 minutes. After that, the battery would be depleted and you’d have to run over to a charger. The screen was of the back-lit monochrome LCD variety, and there were physical buttons navigating around the mnu. There were even voice commands for dialing your contacts – fancy.
Not surprisingly, the almost pip-boy looking device didn’t find commercial success, but it is interesting to know that Samsung’s smart watch making days actually begin long before the Gear family.
Samsung was one of the first to jump into the smartphone game, long before Android and iOS
Samsung may not be the first to make a smartphone by any means, but they were one of the first players to truly get aggressive about the market and introduced the first “PDA phone” with a color display in the US market in 2001. Called the SPH-i300, this bad boy was designed for Sprint’s network and ran on Palm OS and had all the functions of a normal PDA, with the added bonus of making calls.
So yes, the SPH-i300 can basically be considered Samsung’s first go at making a ‘a smartphone’ for the US market. Wow, thing sure have changed a lot since then.
The marketing costs to keep this ship afloat is beyond staggering
The key to a winning product? Quality, right? Well, that certainly helps but in reality, marketing is often just as – if not more – important. You can have the greatest product ever, but if no one ever learns about it, it really won’t matter. In order to keep Samsung on the public’s radar, Samsung spends a ton of dough, much more than anyone else out there.
How much we talking about? In 2013, it was around $4 billion for advertising, and the costs have likely gotten higher, not lower. That’s in addition to another $5 billion spent in ‘general marketing’.
Whether you’re a Samsung fan or not, it’s pretty clear that Samsung has an interesting past and has had its fair share of successes and failures, which have led it to where it is today. What do you think is the most interesting thing about Samsung covered above? Any other interesting facts we missed out on? Share them with us in the comments below.