The Best (and Worst) Galaxy S Phones Over the Last Decade
A Decade of the Galaxy S
In March 2010, Samsung announced the Galaxy S smartphone, the first entry in what became the company's market-leading Galaxy S line. Samsung has mostly adhered to the tried-and-true slate-style form for its flagship phone, but we've seen the phone maker turn out good, bad and sometimes perplexing changes to both the design and the features of its Galaxy S devices. (Remember Air Gestures?)
Whether it meant adding an edge to the side of the phone or going edge to edge with an Infinity Display, Samsung has continued to improve upon its original Galaxy S design. As we gear up for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ at a Feb. 20 Unpacked event, we thought we'd take a look back at the best and worst Galaxy S phones from the last 10 years.Credit: Tom’s Guide
1. The Best: Samsung Galaxy S8+ (2017)
As the first of Samsung's phones to tout the company's Infinity Display, the S8+ was a modern phone that looked and felt innovative. And two years after its release, it still does. The S8+'s immersive display and long battery life made it the perfect phone for Netflix bingeing, Twitter scrolling and — when necessary — email composing.
Although the Galaxy S8 and S8+ were perfect examples of what a 2017 flagship phone could be, they did have a couple of flaws. Firstly, including the Infinity Display meant relegating the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone. While that's not a flaw on its own, Samsung's decision to put the sensor next to the camera instead of centered on the back of the device perplexed many a fingertip. Secondly, Samsung was very excited about its Bixby virtual assistant, which debuted with that phone; consumers, on the other hand, were not so enthusiastic.
Despite those oddities, the S8 and S8+ are still among the best smartphones you can buy for the money.Credit: Shutterstock
2. Samsung Galaxy S9+ (2018)
The Galaxy S9 featured better speakers than any Galaxy phone, a more powerful processor than ever before, and some improvements to Bixby, but it was still that 6.2-inch, super-AMOLED display and near edge-to-edge design that made last year's flagship a sight to behold. Samsung also added a dual camera system to the S9+, giving this phone the ability to shoot with 2x optical zoom.
The Galaxy S9 phones weren't a huge step up from Samsung's Galaxy S8 models, but the slight changes to the design (like centering the fingerprint sensor under the camera) and the upgrades to the hardware made this model an easy choice for our second spot.Credit: Shutterstock
3. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)
As the second iteration of Samsung's Edge design, the Galaxy S7 Edge introduced a new and improved Edge UX. Swiping on the edge of the screen brought up frequently used apps, common tasks and widgets. The Edge UX improvements added helpful functionality to what otherwise felt like a superfluous design decision for the Galaxy S6 Edge.
The Galaxy S7 line's always-on display was a popular feature among consumers, making it easy to check the time and date at a glance without lighting up the display. The devices also added IP68 water resistance to the Galaxy lineup, making this phone far more resistant than its predecessors to brief dips in a pool, bath, sink or, horror of horrors, toilet.Credit: Shutterstock
4. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (2015)
How does one stand out among the competition and breathe new life into a predictable smartphone lineup? By announcing the curvy-screened, metal-and-glass Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.
There were plenty of complaints about the Galaxy S6 Edge: no external SD card support, a home button that stuck out slightly and a higher price at the time to name a few. But this phone felt unique and exciting. Samsung didn't get around to making good use of that curved display until the Galaxy S7 Edge, but the design's appearance on the S6 Edge got our attention in any case.Credit: Shutterstock
5. Samsung Galaxy S (2010)
As the phone that kicked off the Galaxy S line, the Samsung Galaxy S had to make the top five. This phone ran Android 2.1 with Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 user interface layered over the top, which gave users access to a greater number of apps, widgets and controls.
The plastic-and-glass phone featured both a front- and a rear-facing camera, 512 MB of RAM, and options for 8GB and 16GB storage capacities. With its 4-inch, super-AMOLED display, the Samsung Galaxy S touted one of the largest screens on the market at the time. However, this panel's resolution (800 x 480) wasn't quite as good as the competition's.
Although this device pales in comparison to today's ultrapowerful smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S was a more-than-worthy competitor in its day, and it helped kick-start the S lineup.Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty
6. Samsung Galaxy S II (2011)
The Galaxy S II ranks sixth in our list because it was an excellent upgrade to the original Galaxy S phone. This device featured a bigger screen, better front- and back-facing cameras with LED flash, a better processor, more storage space, and support for NFC.
The Galaxy S II also saw internal and external improvements over the Galaxy S that set the stage for the next several upgrade cycles.
Credit: myLoupe/Universal Images Group/Getty
7. Samsung Galaxy S III (2012)
Launching more than a year after the Galaxy S II, the Galaxy S III featured Samsung's Exynos 4412 quad-core processor and ran Android 4.0.4. The Galaxy S II had a dual-core processor and ran Android 2.3. That jump in processor speed and operating-system version made for a swift and smooth experience.
The slim and curvy design of the Samsung Galaxy S III paired with its then-impressive 1280 x 720p, HD display and improved performance earns this phone our eighth spot. Compared to the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, this phone had a new, modern look and felt like it was designed to be held … or perhaps we should say, "designed for humans."Credit: Shutterstock
8. Samsung Galaxy S5 (2014)
The Galaxy S5 takes the second-to-last spot in our list not because it was a bad phone, but because, unlike the rest of the devices we've mentioned so far, it felt like a rather uninspired upgrade to its predecessor. The Galaxy S5 did feature a slightly larger display than its predecessor but maintained the same form factor as the Galaxy S4. We'd give the S5 some points for its fingerprint scanner, but many consumers struggled with getting that feature to work reliably.
The Galaxy S5 did see the introduction of a new Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Snapdragon 801, along with updates to the camera system, water and dust resistance, and higher-capacity options for external storage.
In the end, the Galaxy S5 represented the final bit of stagnation in the Galaxy S lineup. A year later, Samsung would announce the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, a whole new take on form and functionality.Credit: Shutterstock
9. The Worst: Samsung Galaxy S4 (2013)
With a 5-inch, 1080p display, the Galaxy S4 introduced a new level of pixel density to Samsung's smartphones. Unfortunately, this device also introduced a whole load of odd features, like Air Gestures and bloatware (smart scroll, safety assistant, TouchWiz and an IR blaster) that left users confused and lost within the OS.
Putting those software issues aside, at least this version of Samsung’s flagship introduced an upgraded camera system, processor and slight change in form factor from the Galaxy S III.Credit: Shutterstock