Samsung Galaxy S Phones: What You Need To Know

History and details of each release

Samsung Galaxy S8
Aaron Yoo/CC BY-ND 2.0/Flickr

The Samsung Galaxy S line is one of Samsung's flagship smartphone lines, along with the Galaxy Note series. Galaxy S smartphones get premium features first such as high-resolution screens, fingerprint and iris scanners, and top-notch cameras. 

Starting in 2010 with the Samsung Galaxy S, the company has released new models each year and shows no sign of stopping. The Galaxy Edge series is an offshoot of the S line; each of those models features one or two curved edges.

The two overlapped in 2017 with the release of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, each of which features two curved sides. Here's a look at the notable Samsung smartphone releases over the years and some rumors about the future.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Rumors

The Internet is abuzz with rumors about the Samsung Galaxy S9, due out in 2018. Qualcomm upcoming Snapdragon 845 processor will likely to be on many high-end Android phones including the S9 and other Samsung phones.

The chip has improvements across the board including better photo and video capabilities, artificial intelligence abilities, and faster and more efficient performance. In the S9 this could translate to a better, smarter camera and a longer battery life.

The Snapdragon 845 is the first chipset that can record 4K ultra HD premium video, so the S9 will likely have a more accurate camera (up to 32 megapixels) with a wide range of tones.

It's possible the S9 will have a face unlocking feature like iPhone X's Face ID. Edge capabilities will likely be enhanced unless Samsung decides to release a Galaxy S9 Edge model. The Galaxy S9 will hit shelves sometime in early 2018.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Mobile

 The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ share many specs including:

  • 12 MP rear camera
  • 8 MP forward camera
  • Quad HD+ Super AMOLED screens with a 2960x1440 resolution
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • Curved Edge screens

There are a few differences between the two smartphones. The S8+ phablet has a 6.2-inch screen compared with the S8's 5.8-inch display. It also has a higher PPI (pixels per inch): 570 vs. 529. Both launched in April 2017.

The two smartphones more closely remember the Galaxy S7 Edge than the S7, with screens that wrap around the sides. There are more than dozen Edge software-customizable panels available and multiple widgets (including a calculator, calendar, and note-taking app).

Other notable features that both smartphones have:

  • An iris scanner for unlocking the device.
  • Bluetooth 5 support lets you send audio to multiple devices at once.
  • The always-on display shows the time and date and unread notifications even when in standby mode.
  • Samsung's virtual assistant Bixby, responds to voice commands.
  • A microSD slot that accepts cards up to 256 GB.
  • Water and dust resistance.

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7
Samsung Mobile

Manufacturer: Samsung
Display:  5.1 in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 @ 577ppi
Front camera: 5 MP
Rear camera: 12 MP
Initial Android version: 6.0 Marshmallow
Release Date: March 2016

The Samsung Galaxy S7 brings back some features left out of the S6, most notably the microSD card slot. It's also water resistant, like the S5, a feature the S6 lacked. Like the S6 it doesn't have a removable battery.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phablet, was notorious for its exploding battery, which got it banned by airlines and eventually recalled. The Galaxy S7 has a safer battery.

Like the S6, the S7 has a metal and glass backing, though it's prone to smudging. It has a micro-USB charging port, not the newer Type-C port so that you can use your old chargers.

The S7 debuted the always-on display, which shows the clock, a calendar or an image as well as the phone's battery levels even when the device is in standby mode.

Samsung also released the Galaxy 7 Edge model, which has an enhanced Edge panel that can display up to 10 shortcuts to apps, contacts, and actions, such as creating a new text message or launching the camera.

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Mobile

Manufacturer: Samsung
Display: 5.1 in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 2,560x1,440 @ 577ppi
Front camera: 5 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Initial Android version: 5.0 Lollipop
Release Date: April 2015

With its glass and metal body, the Galaxy S6 is a big step up design wise from its predecessors. It also features a touchscreen that's sensitive enough to respond even when the user is wearing light gloves. The S6 upgrades its fingerprint reader by moving it the home button, making it much easier to use than the S5's screen-based one.

It also took what many saw as a few steps backward with a non-removable battery and no microSD slot. The S6 is also not water resistant like its predecessor. Its rear camera also protrudes slightly, though its forward-facing camera gets upgraded from 2 to 5 megapixels.

The S6's display is the same size as the S5 but boasts a higher resolution and pixel density resulting in a much better experience.

New features include:

  • Fingerprint scanner moved to home button
  • Tap the Home button twice to launch the camera without unlocking device  
  • Optical image stabilization in the camera
  • Compatible with Samsung Pay, the mobile payment app 

Samsung introduced the Edge series alongside the Galaxy S6 with the S6 Edge and Edge+ smartphones, which featured displays that wrapped around one side and showed notifications and other information.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Mobile

Manufacturer: Samsung
Display:  5.1 in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080 x 1920 @ 432ppi
Front camera: 2 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Initial Android version: 4.4 KitKat
Release Date: April 2014

A small upgrade to the Galaxy S4, the Galaxy S5 features a higher resolution rear camera (from 13 to 16 megapixels), and a slightly larger screen. The S5 added a fingerprint scanner, but it used the screen, not the home button, and it was difficult to use.

It has a similar look to the S4, with the same plastic construction, but has a dimpled back that keeps fingerprints from building up.

Notable features include:

  • Fingerprint scanner stores profiles for three fingers
  • Ultra HD aka 4K video
  • USB 3.0 compatibility for faster charging and data transfer
  • Ultra power saving mode disables most connections and changes the display to grayscale
  • heart-rate tracker. Integrated with the camera flash module on the back of the phone; press your finger to get a reading
  • Kids mode – sandboxed experience with only approved apps

There were also a few variations of the S5 including two rugged models: the Samsung S5 Active (AT&T) and Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport (Sprint). The Galaxy S5 Mini is a scaled-down budget model with less advanced specs and a smaller 4.5-inch 720p screen.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Mobile

Manufacturer: Samsung
Display:  5 in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1080 x 1920 @ 441ppi
Front camera: 2 MP
Rear camera: 13 MP
Initial Android version: 4.2 Jelly Bean
Release Date: April 2013

The Samsung Galaxy S4 builds on the S3 with a big upgrade to the rear camera, jumping from 8 to 13 megapixels. The forward-facing camera moved from 1.9 to 2 megapixels. It also got a bump up to a quad-core processor and a slightly larger 5-inch screen. The S4 debuted Samsung's multi-window split-screen mode, enabling users to view one or more compatible apps at the same time.

It also introduced lock screen widgets, where users could see certain notifications and other information without unlocking the device. Like S3, the S4 has a plastic body that's less prone to breaking, but not as attractive as the metal and glass bodies featured on competing smartphones. It also retains the microSD slot and removable battery.

Samsung Galaxy S III (also known as Samsung Galaxy S3)

Samsung Galaxy SIII/S3
Samsung Mobile

Manufacturer: Samsung
Display:  4.8 in Super AMOLED
Resolution: 1,280x720 @ 306ppi
Front camera: 1.9 MP
Rear camera: 8 MP
Initial Android version: 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Release Date: May 2012

The Samsung Galaxy SIII (aka S3) is one of the earliest Galaxy S models in the series, following the original Galaxy S (2010) and Galaxy SII (2011). At the time, the 5.4 inch by 2.8 inch S3 was considered large by some reviewers but looks small in comparison to its successors (see above), which are progressively taller. The S3 had a plastic body, a dual-core processor, and came with S Voice, the precursor to Samsung's Bixby virtual assistant. It also featured a removable battery and a microSD slot.

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