June 15, 2010. It was the first time that, with a majority of other bloggers and journalists specialized in technologies, I got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy S. I would like to say that there was a historic moment about the event, but in all honesty, the telephony market was so diverse and dynamic at the time that it looked like another intriguing handheld competing for our attention alongside Toshiba TG01, HTC Evo 4G and Nokia N8. Looking back, I now want to understand why Samsung's phone has become a global dynasty of smartphones while all the others have disappeared. I also want to think about what Samsung needs to do with the Galaxy S10 to keep up the momentum.
The original Galaxy S was a poorly disguised clone of the Apple iPhone in terms of design, as well as a powerful engine in terms of engineering. The last part of this evolution has never changed: Samsung has truly inaugurated the OLED display technology, which is now the best default option for all flagship smartphones, including iPhones. But the instrumental utility of shameless imitation of the iPhone is now often forgotten. At a time when everyone – including Samsung with its unfortunate Bada OS – was trying to find a good touch screen user interface, Samsung shrugged and opened an iPhone 3GS to the nearest copier. It worked.
I do not think it's a coincidence that everyone Of the five largest smartphone vendors in the world at present (aside from Apple), the copy of the iPhone has begun. Xiaomi's first devices appeared to have been manufactured on the same production line as Apple's, but with cheaper materials. Huawei has spent a lot of time preempting Apple technologies like 3D Touch and transforming its Android interface into an iOS-like environment. Samsung has been sadly sued for infringement of intellectual property by Apple as part of a long-standing and high-profile design action.
But copying Apple was just a starting point, and Samsung's most powerful device, the Galaxy S, would arrive in the year following the first. The Galaxy S II was, and remains to this day, one of the best Android phones ever designed. If the first iteration was an omen, the second was the liberator. The good OLED screen has become excellent, the forgotten camera has become incredible, and the speed, performance, high specifications and unique design have been integrated into a revolutionary device.
At the time of the release of the Galaxy S II, Samsung and HTC were equal, both seeking the crown of the most technologically advanced Android provider. However, the HTC Sensation 2011 was just a good phone, while the Samsung Galaxy S II was great, and the resulting fracture between the two companies would never be closer. If you want to indicate a single device as the Because of the global leadership of Samsung's smartphones, the S II was really that. Among other achievements, Android users were treated to a flagship product that felt as impressive as the iPhone.
For a few years, Samsung insisted on the strength of its technical prowess and felt a little lost in its Galaxy S designs. I became emotional about the plasticky mess that represented the Galaxy S III, and the Galaxy S4 did not fill me, which allowed to keep the bad design. It was the dark days when Samsung no longer wanted to use Apple as a model, but he had no big ideas or conviction to pursue. The Galaxy S5 was rightly accused of looking like a band-aid.
Then the Galaxy Alpha, a beautiful unique phone, came out of nowhere and showed that Samsung really cared about design – and moreover, the telephony giant was suddenly very talented. Check out the excellent Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge in 2015, which renewed Samsung's reputation as a leader in mobile photography, while adding a distinctly modern aesthetic and wireless charging. In addition to the Galaxy S II, I would say that the S6 is the pinnacle of Samsung's leading position on the rest of the Android handset market.
In 2016, Google transformed its line of Nexus niche phones into a revolutionary family of cameras for mobile phones, which were also Android smartphones. In the same year, OnePlus is establishing itself as the company that makes excellent flagship phones for a fraction of the usual price (read: Samsung). And Samsung itself was deeply involved in the fiasco surrounding the Galaxy Note 7's spontaneous combustion battery.
After a sincere and confusing apology about Note 7, Samsung is back on track with two competent but essentially iterative upgrades with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 series devices. In fact, the S9 was rather an S8 with the fingerprint reader repositioned at a reasonable place. In 2018, Samsung paid a heavy price to sales for its lack of eye-catching changes. Now the pressure on society to impress with its Galaxy S10 is stronger than ever.
Last year, Chinese companies such as Huawei and Xiaomi were huge because they both expanded their European operations and reduced their sales to Samsung. Vivo launched a phone with a periscope camera, Oppo got one with a sliding screen and OnePlus continued to attack from a lower price level. Even the cheap Huawei brand has started the year 2019 with a fantastic new phone, much cheaper than a Samsung flagship.
It's easy to forget now, but Samsung's mobile business started the same way it was threatened: with a ton of eccentric and aggressive innovations, at a price their current rivals could not and did not want to match. . Yes, Samsung phones were known to be inexpensive and plasticky. Now, they face often less expensive competition, but rarely worse in terms of design or build quality.
The Galaxy S10 has a lot of things on it. Samsung will have to regain the genius of the Galaxy S II and S6 and firmly reaffirm its reputation as an innovator and leader. If that's not the case – if the S10 is an extra refinement rather than a major advance -, Huawei and his ilk will simply out-perform Samsung at the time of the Galaxy S11. ARM, the company responsible for the plans of each smartphone processor, talks about the speed with which China is evolving, characterized by reducing the development time required for each new product of several months.
Looking at Samsung's story to envision its future, I see a successful company in the most competitive market in the world thanks to a constant technical and technological advance, augmented by provocative advertising and accidental awareness. to be sued by Apple. While it may be dominant in the US and across Europe, Samsung's lead is shrinking, and unlike Apple, the maker of Galaxy S has no influence on the ecosystem. It's a company that lives and dies every year of its ability to push the boundaries of technology, which it has not done much in recent times.
The dominance of Samsung's smartphones has never faced as many legitimate competitors as today, and the Galaxy S10 will have to be much more than just a phone to counter them. We know that Samsung can make good phones. But can he still make good ones?
Photograph of Vlad Savov / The Verge