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10 Years of Samsung Galaxy S Phones

Something like 5% of all the Galaxy S phones Samsung has made over 10 years.

One decade and one day ago, Samsung released the Galaxy S. The $400 phone was thin, sported a powerful graphics processor, and a bright AMOLED screen (at least until Samsung ran out). It was Samsung’s first real foray into a premium phone, after years of supplying carriers with cheap, good-enough models to give customers cheap or free. And it immediately made Apple very angry.

In Samsung Rising, author Jeffrey Cain writes about a group of Apple executives arriving in Samsung’s Gangnam district offices, exactly two months after the June 4, 2010 release of the Galaxy S. Some pundits had speculated the Galaxy S could be an “iPhone Killer.” Apple’s Steve Jobs had not failed to notice the familiarity of the Samsung phone’s icons, design, and even packaging. He was livid, Cain writes, and sent his emissaries with a warning.

Chip Lutton, an Apple Lawyer, launched into a presentation titled “Samsung’s Use of Apple Patents in Smartphones.”

When he finished, the Korean executives fell quiet.

“Galaxy copied the iPhone,” Lutton said.

“What do you mean, copied?” [Samsung VP] Ahn asked.

“Exactly what I said,” Lutton maintained. “You copied the iPhone. The similarities are completely beyond the possibility of coincidence.”

“How dare you accuse us of that!” Ahn retorted. “We’ve been building cellphones forever. We have our own patents, and Apple is probably violating some of those.”

A wonderful user-contributed teardown image of the original Galaxy S by valtteri.

This battle would go on for seven years. All the while, Samsung continued to supply Apple with memory, displays, and other components. The Korean giant would also continue to make phones that challenged Apple’s hold on the high end of the smartphone market. It all started with the S—although, in true Samsung style, the S was sold as the Captivate, Fascinate, Vibrant, and Epic 4G on different carriers.

Back in 2010, the battery replacement procedure for the Galaxy S was two steps: pop off the back, remove the battery with your fingers. The Galaxy S10’s battery comes out after 15 steps, including the heating and removal of a fragile glass back, a midframe with eight screws, and a battery that is both heavy with glue and perched over a cut-out that, if you’re not careful, might allow for damage to the front display.

Step 2 of 2 to remove the Galaxy S battery.

The Galaxy S line now has more phones than any human could actually keep track of without a spreadsheet. Our first Galaxy S teardown (with third-party images) was the Galaxy SIII, which received an 8 out of 10 repairability score. Our first in-house teardown was the Galaxy S 4G, which introduced us to the novel concept of a big, expensive display that was fused together and hard to remove. At the 6-year anniversary of the Galaxy S line, we rounded up all our teardowns to date and noted that Samsung’s flagship phones kept getting more glue-y and trickier to repair.

We’ll skip a 10-year compendium, noting that Samsung has not had an about-face when it comes to designing for repairability. But there’s always a chance for change.