In March of 2013, Samsung unveiled its newest smartphone: the Samsung Galaxy S4. After the runaway success of the Galaxy S3 from the prior year, Samsung had high hopes for the new flagship. Little did it know that the Galaxy S4 would go on to be not only its best-selling smartphone of all time, but the best-selling phone of Android’s entire history, with sales in excess of 80 million units.
Since the Galaxy S4 was the peak, sales have obviously been lower for all models since. The Galaxy S5 only sold around 40 million units over its entire run. The Galaxy S9 series sold around 32 million units, while the Galaxy S10 series sold slightly better with 36 million units.
However, the Samsung Galaxy S20 line is faring very badly in comparison to all its predecessors. According to industry estimates, the phone line is only selling at about 80% of the Galaxy S10 line’s sales at this point, and it’s doing particularly bad here in the US where it’s estimated that the entire line has barely broken the one million mark.
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Without any hyperbole, the Samsung Galaxy S line is the crown jewel of the Android world. There are still plenty of people who refer to Android phones as “Galaxies,” regardless of which company actually made the phone. The knee-jerk reaction to hearing that the flagship device of Android itself is not doing well anymore might be to say that Android as a whole is not doing well.
However, that’s not really true. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S line slowly fading away might be a good thing overall. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a good thing for Samsung, but maybe it’s time for a change.
The Samsung Galaxy S line’s star is fading
We could argue for hours about whether or not the Samsung Galaxy S20 is a better phone than the Galaxy S10. In fact, there are probably plenty of people reading this who think the Galaxy S5 is better than any Samsung phone ever made, or that the Galaxy Note 9 blows any Galaxy S phone out of the water.
However, what can’t be argued is that the Samsung Galaxy S line just isn’t as relevant as it once was. The sales numbers discussed in the previous section make it clear that people just aren’t buying Galaxy S phones like they once did. You can also check out industry trends and see that there are plenty of other Android OEMs that are growing in size (Xiaomi, OnePlus, Realme) while Samsung is, unfortunately, shrinking.
Samsung is still top dog in the Android world, but its status as number one is by no means assured.
Ultimately, the Samsung Galaxy S line represents an old approach to Android phones. A lot of Android consumers aren’t looking for the one-size-fits-all approach of the Galaxy S line, in which Samsung throws in everything but the kitchen sink and then charges astronomical prices for it. Nowadays, consumers appear to be looking for powerful phones that master the basics, excel at specific things, and don’t break the bank. Gaming phones are a perfect example of this, as is the success of the Google Pixel 3a and the excitement surrounding the possibilities of foldable phones.
The stunning sales achievement of the Galaxy S4 was seven years ago, which is an eon in the smartphone world. The Samsung Galaxy S line can’t be filled with phones trying to duplicate the success of a seven-years-old phone, but that appears to be Samsung’s basic strategy. The company needs to be looking forward, not backward.
However, it is important to keep in mind that Samsung is still the number one smartphone manufacturer globally. It might be down, but it is far from out.
It’s too early to draw any conclusions
I didn’t write this article to try to convince you that Samsung is failing. I also don’t want to make it seem like I don’t like the Samsung Galaxy S line. All I want to do here is get a discussion started about the king of Android’s apparent struggles and what that could mean for us, the Android fans.
I think that a lot of good could come from this. I think that the Samsung Galaxy S line has done very well as Android’s crown jewel, but no one can stay at the top forever. It reminds me of the famous line from The Dark Knight: you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Maybe Samsung is starting to become the villain (metaphorically speaking).
We can't say much for certain right now, but we can say that even the mightiest of kings eventually fall.
As I said earlier, that’s bad news for Samsung, without a doubt. But the company is at the forefront of the just-beginning foldable market and has had its first success there with the well-received Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. It also is making some astounding phones in its Galaxy A line, which (to me) represents where the Android world is going. Samsung is going to be just fine, even if the Galaxy S line were to completely crash and burn.
Frankly, I’m excited about what could take the place of the Samsung Galaxy S line. Years ago, I would have said OnePlus could take its place, but I think the OnePlus 8 series is going to be seen as a big stumbling point for the company from a historical perspective (but that’s a whole other article). Maybe Xiaomi or one of its subsidiaries will finally come to the US and bring with it a fresh outlook on what an Android phone can be. Who knows, maybe the rumored mid-range Google Pixel 5 will finally make the Pixel line the crown jewel of Android.
The bottom line is that the sluggish sales of the Samsung Galaxy S line won’t destroy Android by any stretch of the imagination. Change can be messy and painful, but it almost always ends up being good in the end.