Samsung: the never-ending search for the next big thing

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Tomorrow at Samsung’s event in the Big Apple, all eyes are on the expected official announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S IV – well, we hope it’s what all the hoopla is all about! Throughout all channels on the interwebs, there’s a great deal of buzz swelling for this highly anticipated event, which very much mirrors the same level of intensity that’s normally attached to any of Apple’s events. You know, it’s funny how things go! Looking back only a couple years ago, the story was a little different compared to what it is right now. Back then, Samsung’s announcements were of little fanfare – basically, low key affairs that didn’t require extensive budgets. Over the years, it’s amazing how this company has made an expedited fast track all the way to the top of the mobile world, eventually landing themselves in their current predicament as being one of the great forces in the smartphone universe. So how the heck did this all happen?

Bread & Butter

When I first came aboard reviewing phones, I can’t tell you how many Samsung feature phones I had the task of reviewing. At one point even, I forgot that they actually produced various Windows Mobile phones – like the established OMNIA line. However, their bread and butter remained largely intact with dumb phones and feature phones, which not surprisingly encompassed a wide range of form factors. As I reminisce about the fun times with all of those non-smartphones, I realize that Samsung’s fundamental principles were long established before their venture with Android. Simply, they’re all about attacking every single form factor as possible – to the point of saturation. Beyond designs and aesthetics, Sammy has been known to meddle in the software experience too, sprinkling its various feature phones with its home brewed TouchWiz interface.

Call me a dreamer, but during my early days, I never considered Samsung as a player in the mobile space that’s equipped at producing quality phones until I reviewed the Samsung Impression – a no-hum looking landscape QWERTY phone, but what really stood out was its AMOLED display. In fact, it was the first Samsung phone in the US to feature the snazzy new display technology. Nowadays, most of us have become complacent about the display technology, but back in early 2009, it was a remarkable sight to behold. Soon after that, I began to take notice of Sammy’s portfolio, despite the fact that they still lacked any serious smartphone contender. During that time period, it seemed as though they were content with producing mostly feature phones, however, as history tells us, that all changed with the introduction of the iPhone.

With the release of Apple’s prodigy, Sammy didn’t do too much in the smartphone space to combat its new foe’s increasing popularity, and in fact, they seemed largely content with its usual drones. So what did they do to try and stifle the new threat? Well, how about come out with a fanciful touchscreen phone of its own? Again, we’ve probably forgotten about it, but the Samsung Instinct was the company’s quick answer. This time, though, they attempted to justify the handset’s superiority over the iPhone, by merely talking about its faster 3G connectivity, video recording capability, and unlimited data service via Sprint. Additionally, they poured a huge amount of advertising on the phone, but try as it did, the phone never came close to accomplishing the task of slowing down the iPhone. Therefore, they really needed a REAL smartphone to compete with the buttery slick experience of iOS – so enter Android.

Enter Android

Off the top of my head, I can count well over a dozen Samsung-made Android smartphones that really proved to be huge successes. Naturally, most people will mention newer stuff like the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, and even the Nexus S, but can you recall Sammy’s first Android smartphone to be released stateside? Even though the Samsung Galaxy I7500 gets the notoriety of being the Korean based company’s first Android smartphone, my first encounter came at the hands of the T-Mobile bound Samsung Behold II – a strange revelation, considering the original Behold was a camera-centric feature phone. Unfortunately for Samsung, it was nowhere close to being a venerable contender in the Android space, as HTC’s small group of Android smartphones had more prominence. Ultimately, the Behold II soon disappeared from memory, leaving Sammy in an unusual predicament as a minor player.



Fast forward to spring 2010, as Android has quickly gotten itself to the fast track of being the preferred platform of choice by many manufacturers. To tell you the truth, it wasn’t until the announcement of the original Samsung Galaxy S at the spring CTIA 2010 tradeshow that I began to recognize Sammy as a premier force. Yet again, though, the handset was overshadowed by another rival handset – the HTC EVO 4G. Yes folks, despite their best efforts, it seemed as though the Korean maker wasn’t going to get the love it deserved. From a specs point of view, the original Galaxy S was a remarkable piece of hardware, especially with that then-large 4-inch Super AMOLED display. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I should keep a watchful eye on the company, as they proved to be serious in delivering a mass-market device.

Solid smartphones, but little sway with the carriers


Compared to how it is now, Samsung had to bend to the will of mobile telecoms when it came to releasing its devices – and clearly it showed with the original Galaxy S. Instead of having one unified device for all major carriers here in the US, they eventually steered away from the model that I first checked out at CTIA 2013, and instead, they produced a different variant for each carrier. Deep down inside, I knew that this was simply the beginning of Samsung’s transformation. Left and right, it seemed as though the manufacturer was in top gear when it came to churning out smartphones – with nearly every single bearing the “Galaxy” moniker. Despite the meteoric rise, we still continued to see what little force they had when it came to the carriers. Then all of a sudden, the break they needed quickly emerged, one where they teamed up with the source; Google.



Call it a dream come true, but Google decided to partner with Samsung for its second pure vanilla Android smartphone – the Google Nexus S. Running the most-up-to date version of the platform at the time, it surely looked as though Sammy was nearing the pinnacle. On paper though, I wasn’t too excited by the handset, seeing that its specs mirrored the stuff I saw already with the original Galaxy S, but despite that, I regarded the partnership as a ground-breaking moment for them. Without skipping a beat, we fast forward to Sammy’s next big venture in the successive device in the Samsung Galaxy S II. Now this was something truly dreamy, since it managed to propel itself by making some marked improvements in every category. Bigger screen, check. Faster processor, check. Everything seemed like it was going to be Samsung’s way or the highway, but yet again, we continue to see them bending to the will of the carriers. Sad to say, they didn’t quite master the Jedi mind trick just yet, as Samsung produced different versions of the Galaxy S II for the carriers. This time, we saw a bigger disparity between them – not just in the design style of each handset, but their screen sizes as well.



The Transformation

Continuing its run, Sammy hit yet another fine achievement by marking the end of 2011 with yet another big bang, proving to us that they’re content with making plenty of noise in the mobile arena. Call it two-for-two, but Samsung partnered again with Google for its latest Nexus device – the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Everything was beginning to come together at this point for them, since they had a magnificent device with Google’s very own blessings. Nothing seemed out of reach for this company that once needed to fight tooth and nail just to get its products recognized. As history played out, they eventually sought out to find the next big thing to rock the industry.

Without a doubt, 2012 proved to be the banner year for Samsung, as they launched a full on assault with their most prestigious device to date. With the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S III, the company overnight seemingly dictated the new direction of the industry. Not only was it a hardware powerhouse, but they totally emerged in bringing a comprehensive Android experience – something that many of its rivals still lack with its Android devices. Sure, the TouchWiz Nature UX might look cartoonish on the surface, but the additional tertiary features of the custom interface managed to reel me in the most.

Looking to the future

During its official release in the US, we began to see a shift in how the carriers regarded Samsung. From the looks of it, Sammy took the bull by the horns with its Galaxy S III, seeing that all four carriers got the same exact device without the mix bagged offerings from previous ventures. In a similar manner to how consumers perceived Android phones as “DROID” phones in the past, mainly due to Moto’s ingenious marketing with its Android line with Verizon, they now recognized Sammy’s device as the “Galaxy” phone. Time after time, the handset seemed to win a fair amount of mind share – making it one of the most popular Android devices in 2012. Thirsting for the next big thing, we’re bound to see within the next 24 hours what they have in store next. As I said, it’s funny how things turned out. Four long years ago, the thought of Samsung being top dog in the smartphone industry didn’t seem like a plausible idea, but hey, they toiled their way all to the pinnacle of the mountain. So with that in mind, let’s sleep tight tonight and hold on to the lingering feelings that we're at the tip of the iceberg with the next big thing.

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49 Comments

48. jaspergrantus

Posts: 9; Member since: Jan 14, 2014

I HATE reading! BUT I NEVER NOTICED FINISHING THE WHOLE ARTICLE. MAN! This was the most interesting idea I have ever know!

41. AppleConspiracy

Posts: 637; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Beautiful text, no doubt about that, but I think it's a little one-sided in terms of complete picture of Samsung's success. There are at least two (publicitly known) instances which shows the underlying mechanics of Samsung's performance, which is not all that dreamy and bright in the sense of capitalist utopia of battling the higher forces and winning: 1) Samsung is a dynastical/monopolistic (informally) South Korean conglomerate with classic Asian business model of copying, financial injecting and overproducing. They have, of course, made a certain distance, but it was always their weapon of choice. Before iPhone era, they were also closing in on Nokia with exactly the same model - produce more, produce better, produce everything. Same with Android era as an opposition to Apple: they produced the technologically more advanced, cheaper and more various already known products. The viral and metastatic nature of this business model is always with a winning outcome, considering the brute force (read: money) invested in it. 2) The first real success of Samsung is actually based solely on abovementioned business model applied to copying the "Great One" in Galaxy S model. The wings thay got with this secured profits for Samsung far greater than penalties on courts. Galaxy S was actually the first really succesful Samsung's device which started the downfall of HTC and turning the symbolic designation of Apple's counterpart from HTC to Samsung. On this highly immoral device Samsung has been launched in stellar highs, and the "rest is history". They did not copy Apple anymore (rembember those saying "designed by lawyers"?), but they remained lost in terms of visual and conceptual language of their products. They are now again paraziting on Apple, but by reversed, more legal tactics - by being their exact opposition! Without iPhone they will be lost, and they will not be able to offer something truly new in the world without Apple's iconic status. It's not because of Apple, it's because Samsung is deeply founded on this Asian business model roots and mentality. They have no creative power, only work power, and their money and creative people employed can't really help them because the Dynasty is always in charge. Of course, today this business model work very well, and nothing can stop it. What will future bring, no one knows, but I'm pretty sure Samsung always needs some Nokia or Apple to push them. So that's the other side of this story, the one that shows that dreamy and utopian explosion of creativity and persistence don't quite add up to this success; that there is much more of success hidden in strategies some would not consider completely fair (even if they are formally legal)!

49. jaspergrantus

Posts: 9; Member since: Jan 14, 2014

THIS is s JUST elaboration of the Other side! :D

34. Adithya7184 unregistered

Great article. Thank you John.V.

32. androidlikeaboss

Posts: 40; Member since: Nov 16, 2012

I hope the S4 have a great design .Plastic is fine, but the problem with Samsung's plastic is the feel. The feel absolutely sucks and even mid range phones feel better. If Samsung don't listen,then they will probably fall slowly like Apple.

39. clark

Posts: 51; Member since: Feb 23, 2013

I don't think so, Samsung is already pioneer in the android industry and besides they already prove a lot in terms of giving something new (innovation)

44. No_Nonsense unregistered

Name innovations of samsung besides multi-window, both in terms of /w and s/w.

20. Technobri

Posts: 84; Member since: Dec 10, 2012

ill admit im a samsung guy at heart...my first samsung phone was a t429 slider phone...followed by my first android phone .the samsung moment...than i bought the s2 which i currently have....ive only owned one htc phone and thats the Evo shift...samsung has come a long way...dont know if ill go back to htc....but the One looks amazing too

28. clark

Posts: 51; Member since: Feb 23, 2013

Yes I admire HTC One's design but the point that HTC One doesn't have removable battery and card slot really pises ususers. So still I'm gonna choose Samsung over HTC One.

31. UrbanPhantom

Posts: 949; Member since: Oct 30, 2012

These devices are throw away, and you don't upgrade them, so why the desperate need for a removeable battery slot? Also, ever heard of the cloud? Who needs sd-micro now?

35. ray386407

Posts: 14; Member since: Jul 02, 2012

Dude do you really not know anything.please just stop posting your managing your self sound ridiculous

38. UrbanPhantom

Posts: 949; Member since: Oct 30, 2012

Dude, learn how to write using proper english and grammer before you waste the precious time of civilized folks such as myself. Now get back into your cage...

40. clark

Posts: 51; Member since: Feb 23, 2013

Cloud storage? You crazy, card slot is way better than freakin cloud storage and much accessible than cloud storage. Ok you made me laugh with what you said

19. PostalJim

Posts: 46; Member since: Sep 01, 2011

Great article. But how could you leave out the Notes? They ARE still phones ya know. lol

17. cR203

Posts: 209; Member since: Jan 27, 2013

Great article indeed. Samsung has come a long way. I remember when I had the Samsung impression myself. Its screen was like nothing I had ever seen. That was my first experience with amoled displays. From that I went to the galaxy s series and the galaxy tab. Samsung has and will continue to bring out the best devices (not saying other manufacturers don't make great devices). Can't wait to see what they bring with the s4. I'm looking forward to a 1080p super amoled display.

16. imkyle

Posts: 1117; Member since: Nov 18, 2010

Samsung already found the next great thing..... They update their phones.

12. techguy22

Posts: 227; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

so excited, looking at nexus 10 on ebay. will sell my S3 as soon this one drop.

11. shuaibhere

Posts: 1986; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

I knew samsung is goin to be big player in mobile industry...but i thought they will be threat to nokia not apple....

15. fanboy1974

Posts: 1345; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

I love Samsung but I would also like to see HTC and Motorola do something this year. HTC One is a very good start.

43. No_Nonsense unregistered

Well, I wouldn't be surprised if HTC/Moto/Sony/Nokia have better devices this year. Although, the Galaxy series may almost certainly beat them in sales. I'd root for them rather than Sammy/Apple because they are on the path of bringing something evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

10. MrJerry

Posts: 403; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

Apple gave us the Smartphone Samsung gave us the Choices

14. Tele7

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 12, 2012

A choice of freedom, don't forget freedom!

9. avin007

Posts: 139; Member since: Feb 28, 2013

Nostalgic...

5. NateAdam8

Posts: 439; Member since: Feb 17, 2012

Looking for the next big thing on something that been done over and over again so if they want the next big thing they should move away from the current big thing "Android" and find there own thing to make it BIGGER then everything.

8. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I'm sorry, but I don't understand your point at all...

13. fanboy1974

Posts: 1345; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

wtf did I just read?

29. MrJerry

Posts: 403; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

My translation: He/She is not happy with Samsung and Android both

4. Tele7

Posts: 47; Member since: Dec 12, 2012

Samsung event in the Big APPLE, hehe

3. UrbanPhantom

Posts: 949; Member since: Oct 30, 2012

How to become the undisputed king of Android: step 1.) Slavishly copy Apple's designs, and infringe upon their patents. step 2.) Follow step no. 1

6. fanboy1974

Posts: 1345; Member since: Nov 12, 2011

excuse 1.) Too bad Apple does not know how to fight back. All Tim is doing is telling Phil to bad mouth Android before Samsung's big date. excuse 2.) Follow excuse no 1 when iPhone 5s sales die after 2 months

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