The Samsung Galaxy: a history of the S series

From the i7500 to today - Samsung's Galaxy of phones just got a little bigger

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When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S5, the world sat up and took notice, simply because it's one of the most anticipated phones for 2014.

But how did the South Korean giant become so influential in the mobile phone market? Lest we forget, it was a no-hoper just a few years ago, spraying out demi-smartphones that were met with shrugs and derision in equal measure.

Then Android emerged, Samsung decided that enough was enough, and it decided to take the plunge and become a fish in Google's pond.

The Galaxy i7500 - where our journey begins - was by no means a smash hit, and the Galaxy S did little to improve the situation.

It was with the S2 that Samsung really began to get its act together, and even though last year's S4 fell a little flat, the buzz that remains is proof that Samsung is still the only major player that can take on Apple in terms of overall mobile handset sales, and that it's truly become a shark in the Android lake.

Galaxy i7500

Samsung I7500

The month is April, the year is 2009, and Samsung debuts an Android 1.5 Cupcake phone that we described at the time as "run of the mill".

The key specs
Screen: 3.2-inch OLED, 320 x 480 pixels
Battery: 1500mAh
CPU: 528MHz, 128MB RAM
Key features: One of the early phones to run Android
Internal storage: 8GB
OS: Android 1.5
Price at launch: £499

Packing a 5-megapixel camera, the i7500 sported an OLED 3.2-inch screen that offered a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, and made use of a conventional D-pad — how mobile technology can change in the space of five years. The device weighed in at 116g, which is a little lighter than today's Nexus 5.

Under the hood the handset had a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200A CPU and an Adreno 130 GPU powering the display, a setup which we found to be laggy on occasion. The i7500 had 8GB of built-in storage and 128MB of RAM (absolutely paltry by today's standards but not so bad for 2009).

Despite a relatively large 1500mAh battery, battery life was disappointing: during heavy use it only lasted 3-4 hours, and the handset had to be charged at least once a day.

An underwhelming start for the Galaxy range then, and definitely room for improvement. Android was still in its infancy, and Samsung was still finding its feet: in October 2009, HTC was the only other manufacturer making mobiles running Android. The price was off-putting too, with the i7500 originally costing £499 to buy SIM-free.

Galaxy S

Samsung Galaxy S

The next Galaxy handset appeared a little over a year later, in June 2010. The D-pad was gone, and the Galaxy S had a far more recognisable shape and style to it, with the now ubiquitous back, home and menu buttons in place.

The key specs
Screen: 4-inch Super AMOLED, 480 x 800 pixels
Battery: 1500mAh
CPU: 1GHz Cortex-A8, 512MB RAM
Key features: Stronger TouchWiz overlay, front-facing camera
Internal storage: 8GB / 16GB
OS: Android 2.1
Price at launch: £449

The display was bigger (spot the emerging trend), offering a 480 x 800 pixel resolution across 4 inches of Super AMOLED screen real estate.

The S originally appeared with Android 2.1 Eclair and bowed out with 2.3 Gingerbread. The RAM was boosted to 512MB, 8GB and 16GB storage options were available, and a 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor kept everything running. A PowerVR SGX540 GPU was in charge of graphics, and the handset tipped the scales at 119g.

Android had added support for a forward-facing camera, so the Galaxy S included one, as well as a 5-megapixel shooter around the back. The battery was again a Li-Ion 1500mAh model, and again the phone struggled to get through a working day without a recharge. The 2.3 Gingerbread update did wonders in this department though, almost doubling its lifespan.

"There are a few faults, but on the whole it's a cracking bit of kit, and you really could do a lot worse," concluded our review at the time, and Samsung now had a foundation it could build on. In 2010, the SIM-free price for the Galaxy S was £449.

Galaxy S2

Samsung Galaxy S2

The S2 was the first Galaxy phone to cause a significant splash in the mobile handset pond.

The key specs
Screen: 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus, 480 x 800 pixels
Battery: 1650mAh
CPU: dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A9, 1GB RAM
Key features: Blazing fast internals, strong camera, brilliant screen
Internal storage: 16GB / 32GB
OS: Android 2.3.4
Price at launch: £499

It brought along with it an improved Super AMOLED Plus screen that was expanded to 4.3 inches, a faster dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, 1GB of RAM and a superior Mali-400MP GPU.

The Galaxy S2 debuted in April 2011 with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread and would eventually get as far as 4.1 Jelly Bean, a sign of its prowess and longevity. In terms of storage space, 16GB and 32GB models were available.

In our review of the phone, its thinness and lightness (116g) came in for praise, as did the display, responsiveness and 1080p video recording capabilities.

The camera had been bumped up to 8 megapixels and now had a flash, while the 1650mAh battery was good for almost two days of average use — a target that many of today's phones would love to be able to stretch to. At launch, SIM-free prices for the S2 hovered around the £500 mark.

After the moderate college radio success of the Galaxy S, Samsung finally had a chart-topping hit on its hands: within five months, it would shift 10 million of its S2 phones.

Here's what we thought at the time: "If you're after a one-word summary of the Samsung Galaxy S2: awesome. We've were waiting for a phone to set a benchmark among the dual-core breed, and we found it in the Samsung Galaxy S2."