Here’s a question: what is the most significant Android smartphone ever? Is it the T-Mobile G1 which was the first on the market, or one of the second-gen phones such as the Motorola DROID or Nexus One which were easily as good as the iPhone. Or perhaps it is the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S – a phone with a feature set so rich that it redefined what a smartphone should be.
The Galaxy S had pretty much every feature dialled up to 11. Starting with the huge (for the time) 4” 480 x 800 pixel AMOLED display, 512MB of RAM, a 1GHz CPU, dedicated GPU, 8 or 16GB of RAM plus a microSD slot, a stereo FM radio, 5 megapixel camera plus a secondary camera on the front… plus of course all the expected features such as 3.5G, WiFi, GPS and by then a huge variety of applications to do just about anything. In terms of features, the Galaxy S blew everything else out of the water.
|Samsung I9000 Galaxy S|
But there wasn’t just one model – when you took into account all the variants there were over two dozen. Some added 4G support, some replaced the FM radio with TV tuners, a couple even had physical QWERTY keyboards. Some variants replaced the 5 megapixel camera with an 8 megapixel one… or a 3 megapixel one. Screen sizes varied between 3.5 and 4.5 inches and LCD screens made a showing alongside AMOLED. Samsung was willing to customise and tweak the phone in any way the carriers wanted, which was something Apple would never do.
The rest is history – the Galaxy S in now in its 11th generation with the Samsung Galaxy S20 (confusingly the previous version was the S10). Although the Galaxy S does come in about half a dozen main variants, these days the more extreme variations come under different parts of the bewilderingly huge Samsung Galaxy range.
Perhaps the most important legacy is screen size – although tiny for a modern smartphone the 4” display of the original Galaxy S was huge compared with smartphones of the time. Manufacturers proceeded somewhat cautiously, but every time they made the panel bigger it seemed that customers approved. The current S20 has a 6.2” screen on a bezel-less display and the phone one third bigger overall than the original one.
Perhaps because of the bland styling, the Samsung Galaxy S doesn’t seem like a particularly collectable device despite its importance in the evolution of modern smartphones. There are plenty of decent examples for less than £40 and unofficial ports of the more modern Lineage and Replicant OSes exist if you want to tinker.
Image credit: Samsung Mobile