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12 interesting Samsung facts about its history
One of the mobile world kings, Samsung, has built itself into a massive mobile and electronics empire, though its story starts much earlier — in 1938. Over the years, the company has evolved significantly, bringing innovation into countless markets going well beyond just mobile and electronics.
Its story is interesting, full of both highs and lows. Let’s explore some of the more interesting facts about this Korean giant.
Right from its founding, Lee Byung-chul believed 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.”
This was a pretty bold claim for a trading company of forty employees dealing in locally grown produce and the creation of noodles. Since then, Samsung’s found its way into a lot more than just noodle-making, which leads us to another interesting fact.
1. How many people does Samsung employ?
While some of you may already know this, the Korean company is way more than just an electronics and mobile producer. The Samsung Group has 59 unlisted companies and 19 listed, all with their primary listings on the Korean exchange. These companies range from construction to financial services, shipbuilding, and even medical industries. Samsung Electronics, alone, employs over 267,000 people as of 2020, across 80 different countries, including Korea.
Another fun fact: Samsung’s construction division built the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai (pictured above), the tallest building in the world (as of this writing) at 2,722 feet.
2. How much of South Korea’s GDP comes from Samsung?
We have already mentioned how many companies and how many employees are part of the Samsung Group. All those subsidiaries and workers mean the company takes up a massive amount of the total GDP of its home country, South Korea. In 2017, CNN reported the total resources of the Samsung Group made up about 15% of the country’s GDP. Over 20% of its market value is based on various Samsung Group companies on the Korean Stock Exchange. Most of that comes from just one company, Samsung Electronics.
3. What were Samsung Electronics’ first products?
The first electronics product ever produced by Samsung was a black and white TV in 1970. The company expanded a great deal in the following decades, 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 sold terribly.
4. How many times has Samsung’s logo changed?
While the Samsung logo changed a few times before the 70s, it stayed pretty consistent after this. It has significantly changed only three times. The current logo came to be in 2005. As you can see above, there have been seven logos since Samsung’s inception. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Related: The best Android logo makers
5. When did Samsung Electronics come to be?
While Samsung has been involved with electronics and the mobile industry for many decades now, in 1993, Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee (above) pushed forward a new management philosophy encouraging product quality as one of its core tenets. He encouraged his staff to “change everything except for their family.” To further promote this notion, Samsung’s Human Resource Development Center created new training and development courses to help with this professional growth.
6. When did it really take off?
Saying you’re going to focus on quality and taking that all-important step across the threshold are often two different things, and they indeed were for Samsung. In 1995, Kun-hee Lee would reportedly find himself frustrated with the quality of his products and the company’s lack of change. 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 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 witnessed 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” truly began, marked by rapid growth and global success, which has only continued to gain momentum in the decades to follow.
Samsung fans can thank Lee and his board, and their willingness to perform an extreme drop test, for the products they enjoy today. Since that day, they’ve certainly created a number of firsts in the electronic industry.
7. What was the first CDMA phone?
The Samsung SCH-100 was released in 1996, making it the first phone to utilize CDMA technology. Being the first to use a standard many see as restrictive and inferior to GSM probably isn’t much to brag about now. At the time, CDMA was a new technology and — 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.
8. What was the first watch phone?
Some Gear family variants have allowed you to text or even make calls without tethering your phone, but the watch phone market began much earlier in 1999. Samsung was the first pioneer, and one of the only ones since, to build a watch that doubled as a phone — dubbed the Samsung SPH-WP10.
This unique watch phone could not only tell time, but also make phone calls for up to 90 minutes. After that, the battery was 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 for navigating around the menu. 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 smartwatch-making days began long before the Gear family.
9. When did Samsung release its first smartphone?
Samsung may not be the first to make a smartphone, but it was one of the first players to truly get aggressive about the market, introducing the first “PDA phone” with a color display in the U.S. market in 2001. Called the SPH-i300, this bad boy was designed for Sprint’s network and ran on Palm OS, with all the functions of a standard PDA, with the added bonus of making calls.
So yes, the SPH-i300 can be considered Samsung’s first go at making “a smartphone” for the U.S. market. Wow, things sure have changed a lot since then.
10. What is Samsung’s top-selling phone?
Samsung’s top-selling mobile phone of all time may not be what you think it is. It’s actually the Samsung E1110, a feature phone from 2009. By the time production of the phone ended in 2012, Samsung had sold a whopping 150 million units. That makes this device the 6th best-selling mobile phone of all time.
11. What is Samsung’s best-selling Android phone?
The second-best-selling Samsung phone is the Galaxy S4 (actually tied with the Galaxy S3), with 70 million total sales. It’s the best-selling smartphone of all time, and the best-selling Android-based phone of all time.
12. Did it have a chance to buy Android?
Speaking of Android phones, Samsung had a chance to purchase the startup responsible for the operating system — and passed.
In his book, Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, author Fred Vogelstein wrote about how back in late 2004, Android’s founders were looking for money to keep their startup going. All of Android’s eight-team members flew to South Korea to meet with 20 of Samsung’s executives. The Android team showed the assembled Samsung executives their plans for an OS designed for mobile phones.
However, according to quotes from Android co-founder Andy Rubin, the immediate response from Samsung’s team following the presentation was complete silence. Rubin then said the Samsung team expressed disbelief that this small startup would be able to make this kind of operating system. Rubin added: “They laughed me out of the boardroom.”
Just two weeks later, in early 2005, Rubin and the Android team made their pitch to Google, which decided to acquire the startup for $50 million. The rest is history, as Google and the Android team developed the OS and officially launched it in October 2008. You must wonder what would have happened to Android if Samsung’s team stopped laughing and bought the startup. Perhaps it would be Samsung dominating the mobile OS business, not Google.
Whether you’re a Samsung fan or not, the company has an interesting past. It has gone through a fair share of successes and failures. What do you think is the most interesting thing about Samsung? Any interesting facts we missed? Please share them with us in the comments below.