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Samsung Galaxy S series: A history of the biggest name in Android
For many folks out there, the Samsung Galaxy S series isn’t just a family of Android phones — they are synonymous with the entirety of Android itself. Ask around, and you’ll likely find someone you know who will refer to any Android device as a “Galaxy,” even if Samsung does not make it. That’s how prevalent the Galaxy S series really is.
Samsung didn’t make the Samsung Galaxy S series the biggest name in Android overnight. It gradually gained steam with the line before it took off with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. Both are still the best-selling Android phones of all time. Since then, Samsung has refined — and completely obliterated — its formula for Galaxy S phones. But the company’s status as the number one name in Android still holds strong.
In 2020, Samsung took the Galaxy S line to new heights with a new naming scheme, a new ultra-premium variant, and new features within the Galaxy S20 series. Most recently, the Galaxy S22 series merged together with the defunct Galaxy Note series. With all this in mind, we thought we’d go over the history of the Samsung Galaxy S line from its humble beginnings all the way through to today.
Editor’s note: We’ll be sticking to the core Galaxy S releases to keep things concise. Over the years, Samsung has released plenty of S series spin-offs (and questionable experiments), but only the core flagships will be represented here.
Samsung Galaxy S: The OG
In March of 2010, Samsung officially unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S, the very first entry in the new “S” line. Previously, in 2009, the company launched the Samsung Galaxy, its very first phone powered by Android.
The Galaxy S was, at the time, one of the most powerful phones on the market. Its graphical processing power outmatched any other Android phone. It even trounced the iPhone 3G, which was the most recent Apple phone available at the time. This raw power, coupled with an attractive design and slim form factor, pushed the Galaxy S to over 25 million units sold.
However, the Galaxy S suffered greatly from a very confusing release lineup. All in all, there were over two dozen variants of the Galaxy S smartphone. Some had different processors, different designs, and even different operating systems. This was incredibly different from Apple’s strategy, which was to release one phone with little variation globally.
Ultimately, though, the Galaxy S was a huge hit for Samsung. It wasn’t long before the company was hard at work with a follow-up.
Samsung Galaxy S fast facts:
- The Galaxy S launched with Android 2.1 Eclair, and its final official update was Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
- The most RAM you could get was 512MB.
- Initially, the phone launched with a Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 800 x 480. However, Super AMOLED panels were in low supply at the time. As a result, Samsung re-released the device with an LCD panel.
- Here are just a small selection of names of different US variants of the device: Galaxy Proclaim, Galaxy S Showcase, Galaxy Vibrant 4G, Galaxy S Captivate, and, most confusingly, Stratosphere.
- In 2010, the phone price was $399, or about $545 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S2: The “more is more” phone
In hindsight, Samsung’s decision to release over two dozen variants of the original Galaxy S phone seems like a poor one. However, it worked out for the company. The phone was a huge success. In response, Samsung essentially doubled down for the 2011 entry in the series, the Samsung Galaxy S2.
With the S2, not only were there different versions of the device around the globe, but even the three supported major wireless carriers in the United States got completely different devices with different designs and even different names. It was incredibly confusing.
As such, it’s difficult to talk about the Galaxy S2 as one device. For example, the global version of the S2 featured a large home button at the bottom with two capacitive buttons flanking it on either side, similar to the original Galaxy S. Meanwhile, North American versions such as the AT&T variant (shown in the image above) feature four capacitive buttons in a row. The Sprint variant didn’t have an NFC chip, while all other US variants did, and the T-Mobile variant had a unique processor (the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3). The AT&T variant even had a significantly smaller display than the Sprint and T-Mobile versions. It was madness.
Luckily for Samsung, all this confusion didn’t hurt its overall bottom line. The Galaxy S2 sold even better than the original Samsung Galaxy S, clocking in at over 40 million units sold. The company had clearly struck gold with its Galaxy S line, which it would prove in spades with the next two entries in the series.
Samsung Galaxy S2 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S2 launched with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and its final official update was Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.
- Samsung sold three million units of the Galaxy S2 in its first 55 days.
- There were variants of the S2 that featured a Qualcomm chipset. This makes them the first Galaxy S phones to have one.
- In the third quarter of 2011, Samsung overtook Apple in smartphone sales for the first time. Samsung claimed 23.8% of the market (Apple had 14.6% during the same period).
- In 2011, the price of the phone was $549, or about $725 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S3: The first true ‘iPhone killer’
With Samsung overtaking Apple in smartphone sales in 2011 based largely on the success of the Galaxy S2, all eyes were on Samsung in 2012 as it prepared to launch the new entry in the series. Little did anyone know that the Galaxy S3 would go on to sell 70 million units, making it the second-best-selling Android smartphone of all time. In fact, the only Android phone that sold more units than this one was another Galaxy S phone (which we’ll get to in a minute).
Thankfully, with the Galaxy S3, Samsung started to abandon its strategy of releasing dozens of confusing variants of the device. Sure, it still launched way too many versions of the Galaxy S3, but it wasn’t as problematic and excessive as the Galaxy S2 and original Galaxy S.
With the Galaxy S3, Samsung was finally on even footing with Apple. Remember that the first iPhone came out in 2007, giving the Cupertino company a significant head start in the premium smartphone market as compared to Samsung. But the iPhone 5, Apple’s smartphone that launched the same year as the Galaxy S3, sold about the same amount of units as the S3. This made the Galaxy S3 the first bonafide “iPhone killer.”
In 2012, Samsung posted record-setting profits, thanks mainly to the success of the Galaxy S3. In the years to come, it will be impossible to talk about the best smartphones of all time without mentioning this one.
Samsung Galaxy S3 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S3 launched with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. Its final official update was Android 4.4 KitKat.
- Samsung sold 10 million units of the Galaxy S3 in just 55 days after it became available in stores.
- Some Galaxy S3 units only had 1GB of RAM, while others had 2GB. One variant even had 1.5GB. This and other discrepancies in internal hardware caused a lot of confusion in the custom ROM community, as specific ROMs would only work on specific devices.
- Samsung would have sold even more Galaxy S3 units if it didn’t face a manufacturing problem with a blue colorway. A defect in the production process resulted in Samsung needing to destroy hundreds of thousands of plastic back panels, which caused a shortage in the supply of the popular device.
- In 2012, the price of the phone was $599, or about $775 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S4: The reigning champion
When you talk about the Samsung Galaxy S4, you are talking about a pillar of its industry. From a sales perspective, no other Android phone has even come close to records set by this device. It sold 20 million units in its first two months, which is just insane. As a comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S9 family sold less than that over its entire first year.
Samsung did the smartest thing it could with the Galaxy S4: it simply took the design aesthetic, hardware, and features of the incredibly successful Galaxy S3 and refined them. Aside from being slightly bigger than the Galaxy S3 and with a redesigned home button, the two devices look remarkably similar.
The Galaxy S4 was also, thankfully, the first phone in the Galaxy S line to launch in different countries with similar specs and designs across all of them. Sure, there were still plenty of differences, but you could finally use the word “cohesive” to describe a Galaxy phone line without being laughed out of the room.
The only real downside to the Galaxy S4 was that Samsung went a little too crazy with adding new features. Bloatware was a massive problem for the device, and the company spent more time than it should have on gimmicky features such as Air Gesture, which allows you to scroll through your phone without needing to touch the display physically. The manufacturer would soon abandon this feature and others that debuted with the Galaxy S4.
Samsung Galaxy S4 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S4 launched with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and its final official update was Android 5.0.1 Lollipop.
- Samsung sold 80 million units of the Galaxy S4. It is the best-selling Android phone of all time and the best-selling Samsung phone of all time.
- The Galaxy S4 was the first in the line to ship without an FM radio built-in. Samsung decided to stop including this feature due to people’s increased reliance on online streaming rather than traditional radio.
- At Google I/O 2013, Google and Samsung launched the Google Play Edition of the Galaxy S4. It had an unlockable bootloader and shipped with stock Android. You could buy it right from the Google Play Store.
- In 2013, the price of the phone was $649, or about $830 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S5: The end of an era
Here at Android Authority, our readers love the Samsung Galaxy S5. Just read through the over 230 comments on this post to see how much our readers love this phone, despite it being utterly outdated at this point.
One of the biggest reasons this phone is so popular is because it’s the last of its kind as far as the classic Galaxy S design goes. The S5 is the last in the series to feature a removable plastic backplate, which gave users easy access to the removable battery, among other internals. It’s also the last “durable” phone in the Galaxy S line. Although Samsung would continue to offer Active devices in the Galaxy S line, the Galaxy S5 didn’t really need the distinction (this didn’t stop Samsung from releasing a Galaxy S5 Active, though).
Unfortunately for Samsung, the Galaxy S5 represented a different kind of end: the end of growth. Although the Galaxy S5 was a sales monster by today’s standards, Samsung reportedly sold 40% fewer units of the S5 than it did of the S4. This resulted in a massive drop in market share as well as a management shake-up at Samsung. That’s one of the big reasons why there ends up being such a dramatic shift between the design of the Galaxy S5 and the eventual Galaxy S6.
In hindsight, the drop in sales for the Galaxy S5 wasn’t entirely Samsung’s fault. The smartphone boom of the early 2010s was on the decline. There were fewer people around who were buying their first smartphone at this point. The company should have done a better job anticipating this.
Samsung Galaxy S5 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S5 launched with Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Its final official update was Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.
- A bug in some Galaxy S5 units (particularly those sold through Verizon) caused the camera to fail and then cease functioning. Samsung eventually affirmed the issue and allowed users to get a free replacement device.
- The majority of Galaxy S5 units came with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor. This was the first time an 800-series processor was included with a Galaxy S device. Going forward, every phone in this family (and the Galaxy Note family) would come with an 800-series variant.
- The Galaxy S5 was also the first phone in the line with a fingerprint sensor. However, critics said the sensor was inconsistent, especially when compared to the competition (most notably Apple, which included a fingerprint sensor for the first time on its iPhone 5S, released in the prior year).
- In 2014, the price of the phone was $649, or about $815 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge: The awkward transitions
With the disappointing sales of the Galaxy S5, Samsung needed to reinvent the line. Not only did it give the Galaxy S design a dramatic overhaul in 2015 with the Galaxy S6, but it also did something it had never done before: release two different models. It eventually even dropped a third model later in 2015.
Let’s start with the design. In an effort to make the Galaxy S line look and feel more premium, Samsung abandoned the removable plastic backing of previous phones and went with an all-glass back. Additionally, the S6 featured a metal unibody chassis, which further emphasized Samsung’s high-end ambitions.
Not content to stop there, Samsung simultaneously introduced a different variant: the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. This device looked very similar to the normal Galaxy S6 but featured curved glass on either side of the display. Samsung had previously tested this idea with the Galaxy Note Edge, which featured curved glass on just the right side of the display.
These phones both came out in March of 2015. Later, in August, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. This would represent the first “Plus” model in the Galaxy S family (even though a new Plus model wouldn’t come for two more years). As expected, the S6 Edge Plus was essentially a bigger version of the regular S6 Edge.
Samsung never revealed a final tally of how many Galaxy S6 phones it sold. However, most analysts agree that the phone didn’t sell as well as the Galaxy S5. Samsung even felt the need to lower the retail pricing of the S6 and S6 Edge only a few months after they launched. This is why, unfortunately, the Galaxy S6 will forever be seen as an awkward transition device. Thankfully, things get better for Samsung the following year.
Samsung Galaxy S6 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S6 launched with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. Its final official update was Android 7.0 Nougat.
- For some reason, even with the new all-glass design of the Galaxy S6, both the S6 and the S6 Edge were not water-resistant. This was strange because the Galaxy S5 was rated at IP67 for both water and dust. The Galaxy S6 Edge Plus also wasn’t IP certified, but Samsung did incorporate water resistance.
- Samsung Pay also debuted at the launch of the Galaxy S6. However, it was the middle of 2015 before it was actually available for the public to use on the new line of smartphones.
- Due to the new all-glass design of the Galaxy S6, Samsung removed the ability for users to upgrade their internal storage through the use of microSD cards as well as swap out batteries. Thankfully, the former would make a comeback the following year, but the latter hasn’t been back since.
- In 2015, the Galaxy S6 was $649, or about $815 in 2023 dollars. The price of the Galaxy S6 Edge was $749, or about $940 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge: The last of their kind
With the Galaxy S6 family, Samsung made a few mistakes. First, it took away the microSD slot and didn’t incorporate any IP certification. It introduced an Edge variant that cost $100 more than the regular variant but didn’t really justify that price hike. It also released a bigger variant of the S6, but not until August when it launched the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
With the Samsung Galaxy S7 line, the company fixed many of those problems. Rather than launch two devices of the same size at the same time, it made the Galaxy S7 Edge slightly bigger than the Galaxy S7 — not quite earning a “Plus” moniker, but at least the size difference would help justify the increase in cost. It also brought back the microSD card slot and earned an IP68 certification for all the devices in the S7 line.
It kept the all-glass design of the S6, though. Samsung also kept the front panel design that had carried on since the very beginning: the Samsung logo at the top and a physical home button at the bottom. However, this would be the end of this trend, as the next phone in the line would do away for good with the iconic Galaxy S look.
By fixing most of the issues of the Galaxy S6 (the removable battery never did make a comeback), Samsung was able to turn the tide as far as smartphone sales go. Combined, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge shipped about 55 million units, which is actually pretty good when you consider the best-selling Android phone of all time shipped 80 million units.
Samsung Galaxy S7 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S7 launched with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Its final official update was Android 8.0 Oreo.
- The IR blaster is a feature lost from the Galaxy S7 line that’s never made a comeback. This enabled you to use your smartphone as a universal remote control for your TV. Samsung had also left the IR blaster out of the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, but it was still present on the S6 and S6 Edge.
- Strangely, the Galaxy S7 line kept the already outdated micro-USB port for charging and data transfer. By this point, many other Android phones had already moved on to the USB-C standard, so it’s not clear why Samsung felt the need to hold on to micro-USB.
- To coincide with the 2016 Summer Olympics, Samsung released special editions of the Galaxy S7 Edge with a blue colorway and color accents based on the design of the Olympic rings. Nearly every Olympic athlete participating in the games that year got a Galaxy S7 Edge to keep.
- In 2016, the price of the Galaxy S7 was $669, or about $830 in 2023 dollars. The cost of the Galaxy S7 Edge was $769, or about $950 adjusted for inflation.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus: The big mistake
In 2017, Samsung was in a bad spot. Despite the success of the Galaxy S7, the Galaxy Note 7 — launched in August of 2016 — had a very serious problem of sometimes exploding. Even though the Galaxy S7 line had fixed the problems of the S6 line and sold really well, Samsung was now on (literal) damage control at the start of 2017.
As such, the Samsung Galaxy S8 line had the deck stacked against it from the beginning. Even if that hadn’t been the case, though, Samsung still made a big mistake with the S8 line that caused it to receive negative press, which was moving the fingerprint sensor to the back of the device.
To be clear, moving the fingerprint sensor to the back wasn’t a bad idea in itself. But Samsung opted to put the sensor next to the rear camera lens, offset from the middle. Not only was this too high up the back of the device for comfortable use, but it caused people to mistakenly place their finger on the camera lens rather than the sensor itself. It was just a bad call all around.
Thankfully, Samsung made many other really good decisions with the Galaxy S8 family. It abandoned the Edge branding (finally) and launched two devices: the Galaxy S8 and the larger Galaxy S8 Plus. The Plus moniker made more sense from a marketing perspective (the device is bigger with some more stuff), and Samsung’s price hike for the model was easier to explain to consumers.
By moving the fingerprint sensor to the back, the Galaxy S8 became the first Galaxy S phone to not have a home button at the bottom of the display. This was a bold (but necessary) move, and the phone looked great with its neat-and-trim bezels.
Samsung never released official sales numbers for the S8 line, but industry analysts are in agreement that they didn’t sell quite as well as the Galaxy S7 line. It’s unclear if the Note 7 disaster or the bad reviews related to the fingerprint sensor were to blame, but the Galaxy S8’s lack of runaway success probably gave Samsung a bit of a scare.
Samsung Galaxy S8 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S8 launched with Android 7.0 Nougat. Its final official update was Android 9 Pie.
- The Galaxy S8 was the first commercial smartphone to launch with Bluetooth 5.0 support. Although we’ve seen Bluetooth 5.2 launch since then, this is still the primary Bluetooth standard on modern smartphones.
- Samsung also introduced its voice assistant Bixby alongside the Galaxy S8 family. This competitor of Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa would be easily accessible on the Galaxy S8 through the new Bixby hardware button. The inclusion of the button was a divisive move.
- After the release of the phones, a video went viral that showed how a photograph could fool the facial recognition software on the Galaxy S8 line. Samsung’s response to the video was to say that facial recognition should not be used as a secure biometric solution.
- In 2017, the price of the Galaxy S8 was $749, or about $905 in 2023 dollars. The price of the Galaxy S8 Plus was $849, or about $1,030 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus: The big fix
As it did in 2016 with the Galaxy S7, in 2018 Samsung needed to fix its mistakes with the Galaxy S8. With the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, Samsung fixed the biggest pain point of the S8 family: the placement of the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Now, the sensor was more towards the middle of the back and centered as it should be.
For the first time ever in the Galaxy S line, Samsung also added a second rear camera lens to the back of the Galaxy S9 Plus (the vanilla Galaxy S9 still had a single sensor). It also made the top and bottom display bezels significantly smaller as well as offering the usual processing upgrades.
However, no matter how you sliced it, the Galaxy S9 looked much like the Galaxy S8. Overall, the Galaxy S9 ended up being more about iterative fixing rather than any sweeping change. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (as we saw with the Galaxy S4), but smartphone buyers wouldn’t be too keen to line up around the block for a phone that cost more than last year’s while looking about the same. Thankfully, Samsung lowered the starting prices for the S9 family as compared to the S8 family, making 2018 one of the very few years that’s ever happened.
The one thing Samsung did improve upon with the Galaxy S9 family was the camera. The addition of a second lens on the Galaxy S9 Plus brought the Galaxy S line up-to-date with the competition. However, primary competitor (at the time) HUAWEI launched the P20 Pro shortly after Samsung launched the Galaxy S9, and HUAWEI’s device had a whopping three camera lenses. Our review of the P20 Pro was even subtitled “the Galaxy S9 killer.”
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus proved that Samsung couldn’t rest on its laurels anymore. The devices sold well enough, but not as well as the Galaxy S8, which, of course, didn’t sell as well as the Galaxy S7. If it wanted to stop the bleeding, Samsung needed to put some real innovation in its next Galaxy S device.
Samsung Galaxy S9 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S9 launched with Android 8.0 Oreo, and its final update was Android 10.
- Samsung opted not to increase the battery sizes of the Galaxy S9 family as compared to the Galaxy S8 family. This decision was likely rooted in the problems with the Galaxy Note 7 battery explosions.
- In 2016, Apple launched the iPhone 7, which didn’t have a headphone jack. Over the following years, many Android OEMs followed suit by dropping the 3.5mm port. There was a lot of concern that Samsung would do the same, but every one of its 2018 flagships, including the Galaxy S9, launched with the popular legacy port. Its 2019 flagships, however, wouldn’t be able to make the same claim.
- By the end of 2018, Samsung would launch One UI, its new Android skin. It rolled out to the Galaxy S9 family as part of the Android 9 Pie upgrade. One UI replaced Samsung Experience, which itself replaced TouchWiz. Most critics agree that One UI is Samsung’s best-ever effort in the Android skin game.
- In 2018, the price of the Galaxy S9 was $719, or about $850 in 2023 dollars. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S9 Plus started at $839, or about $990 in 2023 dollars.
Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e: The ‘e’ factor
The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus proved something to Samsung: if it released iterative upgrade smartphones that looked and functioned a lot like last year’s model, sales would suffer. The company must have heard this loud and clear because it basically threw out the rule book in 2019 with the launch of the Galaxy S10 family.
For the first time, there would be a whopping four devices in the S10 family. The primary two would remain the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus. But Samsung also launched a new high-end model called the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G as well as an entry-level model called the Samsung Galaxy S10e. Each model had the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, but differing build materials, cameras, and internal specs. This would allow each device to hit different price points, anywhere from $749 at the low end all the way to $1,399 at the high.
In addition to these new models, Samsung revamped the entire design aesthetic of the Galaxy S family. For the first time, it used punch-hole cutouts on the display to house the front-facing camera sensors. This, combined with the inclusion of in-display fingerprint sensors (or, in the case of the Galaxy S10e, a side-mounted sensor), allowed for the front of the phone to be nearly all display.
On the back, even the cheapest variant of the lot had two rear-facing camera sensors. The Galaxy S10 5G had three sensors plus a ToF sensor, making it a photography beast.
Even with all these upgrades, Samsung still kept true to its roots: every phone in the line had a headphone jack, microSD card support, and an IP rating against water and dust. In a way, the Galaxy S10 family represents the apex of the Galaxy S line, including nearly everything fans love about the phones.
Nearly all accounts support the idea that Samsung sold more of the S10 family than it did the S9 family.
Samsung Galaxy S10 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S10 launched with Android 9 Pie. It has since received Android 12, which will probably be its final upgrade.
- With a starting price of $899 for the vanilla Galaxy S10, the S10 line officially became more than twice as expensive as the original Galaxy S, which launched at $399 in 2010.
- Samsung touted that the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S10 line would be superior to the optical sensors in competitor devices. However, a flaw in the ultrasonic sensors made the phones easily accessible to hackers, causing a big security hole for Samsung’s phones. Samsung quickly released a software patch that fixed the problem.
- The S10 Plus has the distinction of offering the most internal storage of any Galaxy S phone. If you have the cash, you can get a Galaxy S10 Plus with a whopping 1TB of internal storage. You can even expand on that with up to a 512GB microSD card, bringing the possible internal storage to 1.5TB!
- In 2019, the Galaxy S10 was $899, while the Galaxy S10 Plus was $999. The Galaxy S10e started at $749, while the Galaxy S10 5G started at $1,299. In 2023, those prices would equate to $1,045, $1,160, $870, and $1,510, in the same order.
Samsung Galaxy S20 family: The leap of faith
If you noticed a big jump in numbers there, don’t be alarmed! Samsung skipped 11 and went straight to 20. This locks the series’ number with the year in which it launched.
With the Galaxy S10 family, Samsung tried to give budget-minded shoppers a good option with the Galaxy S10e. However, with the Galaxy S20 family, the company took things in the opposite direction. It eliminated the “e” model and introduced a much more premium variant known as the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
This change made it so, at first, the minimum amount of money a buyer would need to get a Galaxy S20 phone was $999. It was a significant risk to take. Unfortunately for Samsung, it didn’t pay off, as Galaxy S20 sales were disappointing.
Still, the phones in the line were pretty awesome. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset assured that every phone would be 5G capable, not to mention blazing fast. Tons of RAM, multiple rear camera lenses, expandable storage, and most of the classic Galaxy S elements were all there.
However, one big thing was missing: the headphone jack. No phone in the Galaxy S20 line features the much-loved port, representing the first time that’s ever happened.
Late in 2020, Samsung threw budget shoppers a bone with the Galaxy S20 FE, which stands for “Fan Edition.” This cheaper version of the Galaxy S20 acts almost like a Galaxy S20e. And you know what? We absolutely loved it.
Samsung Galaxy S20 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S20 series launched with Android 10 and received Android 12 in early 2022. Android 13 will likely be the line’s final upgrade.
- The starting price of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra was $1,399. This makes it one of the most expensive “normal” smartphones Samsung’s ever launched.
- It is assumed that one of the primary reasons the Galaxy S20 series is so expensive is because the Snapdragon 865 processor is much more costly than its predecessor.
- The Galaxy S20 FE features the same processor and a lot of the same integral specs as the rest of the S20 series. However, it doesn’t feature many of the premium build materials. It also cuts corners in other areas to keep the price low.
- In 2020, the price of the Galaxy S20 was $999, while the Galaxy S20 Plus was $1,199. Thankfully, the Galaxy S20 FE started at a mere $699. It’s pretty obvious why that one is so popular.
Samsung Galaxy S21 family: The pandemic response
Samsung’s move to make the Galaxy S20 line a strictly premium experience didn’t work out well. Granted, the company didn’t have a crystal ball to give a warning that a global pandemic was on the way. Regardless, it’s not easy to sell $1,000+ smartphones at a time when people are out of work and struggling to pay their bills.
With the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, the company rectified that problem. It slashed $200 off the entry prices for each of the three phones in the line. This made the Galaxy S21 much more affordable at $799.
The phones also continued to deliver the quality that Samsung fans expect. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is still a specs beast. All of the phones still have premium camera systems, and the overall design aesthetic took a major jump compared to the Galaxy S20 family.
Of course, some things had to go to make up for that $200 loss on each phone sold. The Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus lost their 1440p displays, and the Galaxy S21 landed with a plastic back. All the phones lost microSD card support, and Samsung sold the phones with no chargers in the box.
Samsung Galaxy S21 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S21 series launched with Android 11. Android 12 will follow in 2021, with Android 13 and Android 14 also expected as the years go on.
- Except for the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the phones in this new line have flat displays. This may seem like a downgrade, but for many, it’s actually an upgrade. Curved displays can be problematic for gaming and other tasks that use the entire screen.
- At launch, Samsung offered more colorways for the phones than in any prior year. Some of those colors were locked to Samsung.com orders, but at least there were more options than the usual black/white.
- In the US, none of the Galaxy S21 phones have MST. This is the tech that allows Samsung Pay to work at any credit card terminal, even if it doesn’t have NFC. This was a big drawback, but the rest of the world’s devices still have the feature.
- In 2021, the price of the Galaxy S21 was $799, while the Galaxy S21 Plus was $999. The Galaxy S21 Ultra starts at $1,199, which is the same price that the Galaxy S20 Plus started at in the prior year.
Samsung Galaxy S22 family: The Note revival
In 2020, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the Galaxy Note line’s swan song. The company skipped launching a Galaxy Note in 2021, and the launch of the Galaxy S22 line essentially cemented its end.
We say that because the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is more like a Note phone than a Galaxy S phone. It has the boxy shape of a Note, an S Pen, a slot to store the S Pen, and a few other Note hallmarks. We don’t know if we’ll ever see a Galaxy Note phone again, but this is basically a Note by another name.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus are pretty much unchanged from 2021. At least as far as designs go. Inside, the phones have the usual upgrades, including a faster processor, better cameras, and a few other hardware and software tweaks.
Most notably, Samsung didn’t change the pricing for the phones. They each cost just as much as their comparable models in the Galaxy S21 series.
Samsung Galaxy S22 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S22 series launched with Android 12.
- Notably, along with this series, Samsung announced its intention to offer up to four Android upgrades. That means Galaxy S22 phones could see Android 16!
- The Galaxy S21 had a plastic back that Samsung called “glasstic.” Thankfully, the Galaxy S22 has a traditional glass back.
- Speaking of glass, all three Galaxy S22 phones are covered with Gorilla Glass Victus Plus on the front and back. This “Plus” variant of Victus was heretofore unannounced and made its debut on the Galaxy S22 line.
- In 2022, the price of the Galaxy S22 is $799, while the Galaxy S22 Plus is $999. The Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,199. In 2023, those prices would equate to $810, $1,013, and $1,216, in the same order.
Samsung Galaxy S23 family: Refining already-great handsets
Samsung’s back at it in 2023, launching its flagship lineup early in the year. Yes, we’re talking about the Samsung Galaxy S23 series. The new series follows a similar philosophy to the Galaxy S22 lineup, offering a trio of devices. These are the Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra.
While the phones are very similar to the S22 series, Samsung managed to throw some gradual improvements to the equation. The design is slightly boxier. All devices look more like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which offered individual housings for each camera lens instead of a single, larger camera bump. All that said, the Galaxy S23 Ultra does look pretty much identical to its predecessor.
Of course, these handsets are also upgraded to the latest hardware, including a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, slightly larger batteries for the S22 and S22 Plus, a new selfie shooter, and improved cameras. The primary camera on the Galaxy S23 Ultra actually sports a 200MP sensor, almost twice more definition than the 108MP shooter on the S22 Ultra.
Like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is an unofficial successor to the Galaxy Note series. It is much larger, more capable, and comes with Samsung’s S Pen. And the best news is that Samsung didn’t change the pricing for its latest phones! They each cost the same as their Galaxy S22 comparable models.
Samsung Galaxy S23 fast facts:
- The Galaxy S23 series launched with Android 13, with One UI 5.1 on top.
- Notably, along with this series, Samsung announced its intention to offer up to four Android upgrades. That means Galaxy S23 phones could see Android 17!
- All Galaxy S23 devices come with the tough Gorilla Glass Victus 2.
- The price of the Galaxy S23 is $799, while the Galaxy S23 Plus is $999. The Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,199.
There you have it, the complete history of the Samsung Galaxy S lineup until now! Which phone was your all-time favorite? Sound off in the comments below.