10 phones that redefined Samsung's identity

Now that 2018 is finally underway, we're all eager to see what's in store for us in the flagship range. CES 2018 is seriously right around the corner, but if the trends from previous years continue to exist, we won't be seeing or hearing about anything substantial – then again, mid-rangers are more than likely to be expected. Things will really begin to heat up during the time period between CES 2018 and MWC 2018, with the latter tradeshow generally dishing up the juicer, more prized devices in the stable.

Out of all the companies that are looking to make some noise in the crowded space early on, you can surely bet that Samsung will be right there at the top, which is expected, given that its prized successor in the Galaxy S line is normally announced during the early months of the year. Last year, Samsung opted to wait after the events of MWC to announce its flagship in the Galaxy S8, which was a smart move on their part, as the Galaxy S8 exceeded expectations and was remarkably worth the wait – instilling confidence back to the company, which was rocked by a series of unfortunate events months earlier.

Samsung's position in the market has covered the gamut, from being a small-time fish in the pond, all the way to the top of the ladder with its devices. Through everything that transpired during Samsung's existence in the mobile space, the company made decisions that profoundly affected its identity – some good, some bad, but all necessary to bring them to where they currently stand. Samsung has come a long way, so it's intriguing to see what course of actions they took in order to redefine their identity.

Having that in mind, let's take a look at the 10 phones that redefined Samsung's identity.

Samsung Galaxy I7500

Samsung's first Android smartphone

We're starting off this list with none other than the very first Android-powered smartphone put out by Samsung, which was none other than the Samsung Galaxy I7500. Also notably for being the phone that launched the Galaxy line, it was actually the company's move into the Android circle – coming after other notable firsts, such as the T-Mobile G1 and subsequently the HTC Magic. Of course, it was a gamble of sorts given that Google's mobile platform wasn't still considered well-established.

This move, though, provided the necessary spark for Samsung to commit to this relatively unknown, unproven platform. Thankfully, the gamble to move forward with this new mobile operating system paid off, paving the road for many other future devices in Samsung's circle. While it didn't sell in huge numbers, the Samsung Galaxy I7500 established a brand new identity – one that would involve Android, while shifting away from its feature phones and Windows Mobile devices.

Samsung Galaxy I7500 Review

Samsung BlackJack

One of the most popular Windows Mobile phones

Speaking of Windows Mobile phones, our next device so happens to be what's arguably Samsung's most illustrious "smartphone" during the old days of Microsoft's mobile platform. The Samsung SGH-i607, more commonly known as the BlackJack, was a portrait QWERTY smartphone released back in 2006. Samsung invested heavily into the Windows Mobile platform, which was seemingly the smartphone platform of choice for a long time before Android eventually came onto the scene.

The BlackJack is notable for reshaping Samsung's identity in a couple of ways. First of all, it adopted the trend of offering portrait QWERTY smartphones, rivaling and even bettering the Moto Q before it. Even more ambitious, Samsung gambled on the name of the phone, just because the name could've been mistaken for a BlackBerry. Research In Motion at the time filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement, and given how Samsung wasn't an established brand in the mobile space at the time, it seemed as though Samsung was in for a bumpy ride.

Somehow, though, they managed to stand their ground and the two companies eventually came to a mutual agreement – where the terms of the deal weren't disclosed. For Samsung, this attempt to stand its ground allowed them to become more adventurous. And on top of that, the BlackJack went down as being one of the most memorable Windows Mobile phones of all time!

Samsung Galaxy S4

Flagship with more features packed into a phone, showed us that "more is better" isn't needed

Switching gears a bit for our next phone, Samsung was undeniably riding high from its acclaims after reaching new heights with the success of its earlier Android smartphones. When you've reached the pinnacle, the high can sometime cause egos to inflate, which could've been the issue surrounding Samsung's identity when they announced and released the Samsung Galaxy S4. Considered as one of the "big boys" on the block, Samsung didn't hold back with the release of the S4, which brought on that notion of "more is better."

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the perfect example of how a company can go from being humble to something that others might regard as arrogant. Not only was the Galaxy S4 a formidable smartphone when to came down to the specs, but they heavily emphasized the phone's vast software features. Investing what seemed to be a ton of research, development, and time, the Galaxy S4 was notorious for what some considered redundant, novel features. In particular, the "smart scroll" feature with the web browser, which allowed users to scroll up or down on a wen page by tilting their head. While other features like the Air Gestures and Air View were practical to an extent, it showed us all that there's just a limit to how many features can be packed into a phone before it's considered overboard.

Naturally, the criticism was plentiful about Samsung's strategy of "more is better." You could say that it bruised the company's ego a bit, given how many of the features found in the Galaxy S4 were slowly phased out subsequently and discretely with each successor, it really makes you wonder the kind of impact this move had with Samsung's identity. We haven't seen a phone with as many features since this one!

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

Dual edged screen, premium design

Breaking ground on a slightly different form-factor, the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge was without question taking more of the spotlight when it was introduced alongside the redesigned Galaxy S6. Not only was it oozing from head-to-toe with a brand spanking new premium design, but it supplemented it with a couple of sexy curves that made it quite memorable. Samsung quickly perfected the art of producing curved screens, which was evident by how they were able to one-up themselves from the Galaxy Note edge a few short months ago, to a phone with both edges being curved.

Most people will still argue that the dual-curved edges are there mostly for cosmetic purposes, rather than serving as a useful function. Regardless what side you believe in, this phone became the poster child of how Samsung would be designing its phones going forward. Even now, the dual-curved edge design is still something that's particular to Samsung's slate of flagships – no one else has really attempted to replicate it, so it's widely seen as a unique thing in the space.

Samsung ventured into new territory with the Galaxy S6 edge, and based on the success of its gamble, it's been the precedent of Samsung's designs going forward. There were no shortages of good looking phones, but then again, there weren't many sporting these slick dual-curves either!

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge Review

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Design shift

However, if we're to look back and recognize one single phone that was the catalyst for change when it came to Sammy's phone designs, it had to be none other than the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which was released back in the fall of 2014. Prior to it, Samsung had this unflattering reputation of producing great performing, high-end smartphones, but they all simply were slacking in the design department. That was largely due to the fact that they were constructed primarily out of plastic, which obviously paled in comparison to the glass and metal materials employed on other phones.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, a departure from the norm for Samsung, and to an extent, redefining how the company would design its products. For once, Samsung had a premium looking and feeling smartphone, capable of matching the appeal brought on by rivals that employed premium materials as well. Specifically, it was the brand new metal trim outlining the phone that spurred praise, because for once, the company opted to employ metal in its design. Sure, it was still sporting some plastic elements with its design, but this shift in adopting metal was clearly a sign of bigger things to come!

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Review

Samsung Instinct

Response to the OG iPhone

Before Samsung's smartphone business began building up steam, the majority of the company's efforts was placed on its budding feature phones. Back in 2008, Samsung released the Instinct, a "smarter" feature phone of sorts that was in response to Apple's iPhone. At the time of its release, commercials for the Samsung Instinct specifically attacked the shortcomings of the iPhone – while praising the Instinct's superiority. And for a good while there, it seemed to work because the Instinct did offer several advantages over Apple's OG iPhone, like faster 3G data connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation with the help of its built-in GPS, downloading songs directly over-the-air onto the phone, watching television, and the ability to record and send videos.

The marketing behind the Samsung Instinct was intense, often depicting the Instinct and iPhone side-by-side breaking down what they offered. For Samsung, this was an opportunity to show its peers that it could deliver something that could compete against the ground-breaking features brought on by the original iPhone. Considering that Samsung's venture into the Android fold was still a year away, the Samsung Instinct helped to instill some degree of confidence into the company – by having a phone that proved to be a distraction to the iPhone.

Samsung Instinct Review

Samsung Galaxy Note

First true "phablet"

You could argue that it was Samsung who was a staunch supporter of the idea that "bigger is better." We grazed on that strategy earlier with the Samsung Galaxy S4, wherein that idea wasn't necessarily all positive, but for the Samsung Galaxy Note, which was released in the fall of 2011, it proved to be the driving force that spurred a brand-new line and form-factor. Remarked by many as the phone to popularize the "phablet," a device combining the elements of a phone and tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note was yet another validation for Samsung – that they were a serious contender in the space.

From its larger-than-life stature, to its top-shelf specs, and its compelling ability to spur conversation from random strangers, the Galaxy Note elevated Samsung's reputation to a higher level. And you know what, it even helped when they were able to once again popularize the stylus, which was seemingly  all but dead at the advent of capacitive touchscreens. Everything about the Note helped to solidify Samsung's reputation as a premier player, and even now after all that time has passed, the Galaxy Note line continues to be one of the most popular and anticipated smartphone lines around!

Samsung Galaxy Note Review

Samsung Galaxy S I9000

First true flagship

Prior to 2010, the majority of Samsung's business was still in the feature phones market, but of course, that eventually shifted as the company began to invest more into its smartphones. As we mentioned at the top of our list, the first Android-powered smartphone from them was the Samsung Galaxy I7500 back in 2009, but we really didn't get a true flagship caliber device until the following year. Enter the Samsung Galaxy S I9000, released in mid-2010, it ushered in a brand-new era for the company – one that enabled them to not only be a force in the Android sphere, but in the overall smartphone market.

With the release of the Samsung Galaxy S, it reshaped Samsung's identity into a premier maker. No longer were they just going to settle on producing quirky mid-range phones, but rather, more time and development would be invested into a new flagship line. While the Galaxy S was indeed a pivotal moment for the company, they were still trying to claw their way out from the rest of the competition at the time. Motorola, HTC, and LG's offerings at the time were equally just as compelling, but the Galaxy S was the phone that allowed them to really be regarded as a serious contender.

As we anticipate Samsung's 9th entry in the series with the upcoming Galaxy S9, we really have to give credit to the original Samsung Galaxy S for redefining Samsung's identity. Gone were the days of just being content with feature phones, but instead, their intentions and focus were how being shifted to a flagship line for future profit and success.

Samsung Galaxy S Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Debacle with the recall

Samsung's history has been filled with several milestones that helped to bring the company to where it is right now, but there have also been a couple of mishaps along the way that had serious implications to the company's reputation. Relatively fresh on the minds of consumers, the events that transpired with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 during the fall of 2016 remains to be one of the biggest failures that redefined Samsung's identity! Even now, the scar that's been left over from it still fragile.

Looking to beat the majority of its rivals to the punch by announcing and eventually releasing the Galaxy Note 7 before anyone else in the fall, Samsung's ambitious strategy abruptly came to a halt when initial reports about its phone exploding randomly began to surface. Ultimately, the culprit behind the explosions was determined to be the battery. Initially announcing a recall of the smartphone to replace these faulty batteries, things got worse when additional reports of replacement models were also exploding. Damage controlled naturally ensued, with the eventual decision to discontinue the phone altogether.

Seriously, it was really bad for Samsung, just because its quality assurance procedures were questioned. The black eye that the company endured from the event resulted not only in missed expectations from a financial standpoint, but it severely damaged the company's reputation. It was one tough lesson learned by Samsung, but luckily it helped them to strive to do better, which was evident in the release of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Review

Honorable Mentions

  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus – Google partnered with Samsung to co-develop its third device in its Nexus line, the Galaxy Nexus. Many people will argue that the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was the pinnacle in Google's now defunct line, but for Samsung, the Galaxy branding attached to the Nexus line only elevated its position in the overall space. It was a polished phone that was acclaimed unanimously by everyone, which of course, helped to prove Samsung as an established contender.
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 – After the disaster with the Note 7 Samsung attempted to reclaim its position with the launch of the Galaxy S8. Not only was it an astounding success, but Samsung committed to tighter and more meticulous quality control and testing of its devices to ensure they were safe. Thanks to this, it managed to restore some of Samsung's reputation back to its position prior to the Note 7 events.
  • Samsung Omnia – This was the last great smartphone from Samsung that ran Microsoft's aging Windows Mobile platform. It featured an all-screen form-factor, while still providing interaction with the aid of its resistance screen, included stylus, and optical mouse. And it even packed on what was then regarded as a hefty 5-megapixel rear camera. It was a solid performing smartphone overall, but as history has shown us, the door to Windows Mobile was quickly closing at that point – forcing them to look elsewhere.
  • Samsung Wave S8500 – Who knows why Samsung thought it was a smart idea to develop its own mobile operating system, but the Samsung Wave S8500 can be seen as a tough lesson learned looking back. It was the first phone to run Samsung's own Linux based Bada platform, but after a few short years, Bada folded and was eventually merged with Tizen – yet another Linux based platform backed by Samsung and Intel.
  • Samsung Impression – AMOLED screens are synonymous to Samsung, but did you know that its first ever phone in the US to feature the display technology was the 2009 released Samsung Impression, a landscape QWERTY slider feature phone. Yes, the Impression showed to us all the beauty and wonder of AMOLED technology, like its high contrast, rich colors, and exquisite viewing angles.

Samsung Galaxy S III

First phone to reach sales comparable to iPhone, established Samsung as a world leader

After two attempts at its flagship line, Samsung finally got the recipe correct with the Galaxy S III, which was launched in 2012. Deemed the first true "iPhone killer," the Galaxy S III catapulted Samsung into uncharted territory where they were finally able to move ahead of its rivals in the Android space. And for once, we had a phone that rivaled the iPhone's sales, so it was a big deal for Samsung that the Galaxy S III proved to be a critical and commercial hit!

The phone itself was every bit of a flagship caliber smartphone, but even more impressive was that the smartphone was released and made readily available through the four major wireless carriers in the US – something that was unheard of at the time. Exclusives were rampant back then, evident in how Sprint had the HTC EVO line, AT&T was barely holding onto the iPhone, Verizon was being backed by its DROIDs, and T-Mobile still had its MyTouch line. The Samsung Galaxy S III changed all of that, and at the same time, Samsung was able to increase its share in various markets worldwide.

Samsung's identity was redefined by the Galaxy S III, by being the first true champion in the Android space – while also matching sales of Apple's iPhone. Sure, it's difficult to imagine where Samsung would be right now if it weren't for the success of the Galaxy S III – establishing them as a force to be reckoned with!

Samsung Galaxy S III Review



1. haruken

Posts: 307; Member since: Nov 06, 2013

Galaxy S1 Galaxy S2 Galaxy Note3 Galaxy S6 Edge Galaxy S8/Note8

40. fonelover

Posts: 255; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

Galaxy Alpha was a revolution in the history of Samsung.

2. fyah_king unregistered

That S4 is still gorgeous!!

13. kylebelle

Posts: 74; Member since: May 03, 2016


4. maherk

Posts: 6960; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Note 1 and S6 Edge imo.

6. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

Galaxy S1, which was a copy of the first iPhone, is the phone that introduced Samsung and Android to the smartphones world.

25. domfonusr

Posts: 1087; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Might also need some wet wipes, from the looks of things...

8. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

I think Galaxy S2 is the phone which made the world to look at Samsung seriously for the first time. It gathered all the attention 2011 and since then Samsung became a popular smartphone brand. My first smartphone was the galaxy 5 I5500/europa back in 2011. Then I had several androids down the road such as Galaxy S advance, S plus, grand 1, grand prime.....etc Then I switched to Nexus 5, Xperia SP, Oneplus 1, then Galaxy S7 and iPhone. Samsung was great back then, it was the only viable reliable option when it comes to smartphones.

11. Anonymous.

Posts: 423; Member since: Jun 15, 2016

Galaxy S4 all the way!

18. bucky

Posts: 3790; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

wheres the iphone?

22. NickHill

Posts: 388; Member since: May 07, 2016

You're high brah

19. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Few years ago I wanted S3, but it was too expensive here. You could buy two Moto G1 for the price even after S4 was released.

21. Firenze91

Posts: 206; Member since: Nov 19, 2014

I still think the note 7 was the best and the s5 the worst


Posts: 202; Member since: Dec 08, 2012

Too bad I can't find the Alpha anywhere any more.

24. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

"Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Debacle with the recall" Welp, so much for going a full calendar year without PA bringing this up. Here's to 2019. *I don't care if you felt it necessary to bring it up due to the title of this article. The only reason it redefined Samsungs' identity is because of the negative press it was getting & by negative press I mean the false cases (dude with the Jeep & the ones on 'security cameras'). During its short reign the Note 7 was the best phone of 2016. They next time you bring up the fiasco, mention that as well.

26. domfonusr

Posts: 1087; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

I remember the Samsung BlackJack well... really wanted one of those, but the price was just too high, and AT&T's data plans back then were also expensive, so I ended up with an HTC Dash on T-Mobile, my first smartphone.

27. EC112987

Posts: 1216; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

Galaxy S4 is the first Samsung phone I owned and I loved it. My mother then went ahead and used it for about a year or so. The phone was amazing.

28. chenski

Posts: 774; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

Galaxy s3 was my first smartphone ever

29. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3151; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Phonearena forgot to mention the first phone with HD display was an obscure Symbian-powered Samsung. The Omnia i8910 was a nice little phone with a great camera for its time. The 8MP camera was also on the last WinMo from Samsung - the Omnia i8000. One of my favorite WinMo phones right behind the HTC HD2.

30. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 730; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

That's actually incorrect. It was called the Omnia HD i8910 because it was the first phone to do HD video capture. The display was 640x360. The first phones with an HD display were the HTC Rezound & the Galaxy Nexus which debuted the same week in November of 2011.

31. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Great article, the alpha was pivotal but it was also a troll against the iPhone 6

32. redmd

Posts: 1943; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Very Nice article John V. Looking back at those phones brings nostalgia. Can we also have the same for other brands as well?

33. redmd

Posts: 1943; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Samsung Note 4 Edge is also worth mentioning. First Edge phone.

35. makatijules

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

My very first Samsung was a dual speaker flip phone Sprint. It was cool with MP3 ringtones and it use a microSD card. I also had the Instinct and I can say that phone though cool, was the slowest piece of booboo ever! But I actually still have it. It's totally dead though. After that it was the iconic S3 and the S4, and also the S5. I left the S series for the Note 2, 3,4,5. After the Note 5, I went back to the S for the S6 edge and edge+. Then back to Note series with the Note 7. But because of the recall, I had to take an S8+, but I actually liked the S8 better, but it was too small for me for daily usage. Now back to the Note 8, it feels great to have the SPen again. But I feel Samsung didn't evolve the Note this time into a big deal over the 7. But I would say the original S, the original Note, the Alpha, S3, S6 edge and the Note 7, were the game changers for Samsung and the most "note"able.

36. makatijules

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Anyone remember the Samsung Focus? It was the best Windows Phone 7 devices along with the HD2. I think the Focus should have been mention, it was the Windows version of the Samsung Droid Charge which I tried both. Very nice article John V. So happy to see you back.

37. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

No note edge?

39. HansP

Posts: 542; Member since: Oct 16, 2011

The Jet deserves a mention, too. I think that was their first phone with an AMOLED display, which definitive of the technology that's defined their mobile evolution over the last ten years.

41. cjreyes666

Posts: 81; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

Don't forget the Note Edge, the phone that started the Edge craze.

42. domfonusr

Posts: 1087; Member since: Jan 17, 2014

Seeing the "honorable mention" of the Samsung Wave S8500 is nice. I remember from back in my "hepresearch" days, there was a Bada fan here... I think he was named "Peter". He disappeared at some point, and I've never heard from him since. I didn't always agree with him, but it was interesting to hear his perspective on things. I hope he is doing well these days. Ever since Bada got rolled into Tizen, I had hoped that Tizen would really take off so that Samsung could make a third/fourth OS option out of it, but it hasn't worked out that way. Having pretty much everything be either Android or iOS nowadays just seems a bit unnecessarily dangerous and precarious.

43. LiveFaith

Posts: 487; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

The first Samsung smartphone that I ever saw (and nearly bought) was waaaaay back. It was the SPH-i500 running Palm OS. It was nearly the first true smartphone ever made. A flip phone running Palm OS. The screen was square in the top fold, with the Palm OS gesture area, T9, and call buttons on the bottom fold. I remember opting for a PDA and Sony Ericson T637 combo, but I was completely entralled by the idea of converging the 2 devices. Soon the Blackberry and Treo explode onto the scene and the rest is history. But, I remember Samsung was waaay out in front of this concept back then. 2000?

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