In 2009 the technology giant that is Samsung took a big leap and created the Samsung Galaxy. It was a small smartphone that ran a relatively new operating system: Android. The brand wasn’t sure how this phone would be received or how it would mature. It was clunky, unstable, and lacked consistent updates. It seemed as though this phone was just another device that would soon be forgotten.
However this phone pioneered Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices which are now arguably some of the best devices currently on the market. Over the coming years Samsung would create and release a wide range of different mobile devices, many of which include the Galaxy branding. They evolved from cheap-feeling plastic devices into high-end flagships made with glass and metal. From smartphones to smartwatches, the Galaxy line has it all. Today Samsung is one of the most popular and profitable Android OEM’s, and that is largely thanks to their successful Galaxy line. So which of these iconic devices were some of the best?
Here are our picks for the top ten Samsung Galaxy products:
10. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Now if there’s one thing consistent with Samsung, it is that they release multiple devices every year, rather than just one or two smartphones like other manufacturers. One of their less-popular yet still impressive devices that they made would by the Galaxy S4 Active. Released in June of 2013, the Galaxy S4 Active featured pretty much identical specs as the S4, however it was created to be a more rugged and “solid” device marketed towards “active” consumers (think professional kayakers or snowboarders).
The device had added bulk to protect it from drops, it was waterproof up to IP67 specifications, and dust proof. It was the first device of it’s kind for Samsung, one that combined high-end specs with a tank-like build, and it is certainly a notable and important device within the Galaxy line as they still produce the Galaxy S Active line of devices to this day.
9. Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
While modern Android smartphones are up to par if not better than their competitors, Android tablets are still playing catchup in my opinion (lack of tablet optimized apps, more fragmentation, etc.). Samsung has produced many Galaxy Tablets before, however their current Galaxy Tab S2 is definitely the best iteration yet. It was released in July of this year and is available in both 8-inch and 9.7-inch models.
They are high-end tablets with a more premium design compared to past Samsung devices (all-metal frame with a plastic back). They feature Samsung’s powerful Exynos 5433 processor, 32GB of storage, 3GB of ram, a fingerprint scanner, WiFi/Cellular capabilities, and a 2048 by 1536 px Super AMOLED screen, among other features. Samsung’s tablets have never caught on as much as Apple’s iPads, however the Galaxy Tab S2 is easily their best tablet yet.
8. Samsung Galaxy Gear
The Samsung Galaxy Gear was a very important Galaxy device for a few different reason. It not only showed the world just how diverse the Galaxy line could be, but it was one of the first modern smartwatches. The smartwatch can be traced back even further, obviously, however the Galaxy Gear was one of the first devices to offer smartphone capabilities on a watch. It was pretty much dismissed by critics and sold poorly, however it was Samsung’s first real attempt at the modern smartwatch, and that is why we include it on this list.
7. Samsung Galaxy Note
Samsung’s first Galaxy Note is easily one of the most important and influential smartphones that was released within the last decade. Released in 2011, the Galaxy Note had some of the best specifications at the time. It had a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM (that was a lot back then), 16GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, a large 2,500 mAh battery, an 8MP camera, and an interesting new stylus. However the most notable feature was it’s massive 5.3-inch screen. This was released at a time where consumers thought the iPhone 4’s 3.5-inch screen was “large”. The Samsung Galaxy Note was the worlds first “phablet”, offering features of both smartphones and tablets. People were quick to criticize it’s large frame, yet today, big phones are the norm, and the Galaxy Note started that trend.
6. Samsung Galaxy Nexus
One of the biggest criticisms of Samsung’s mobile devices is TouchWiz, Samsung’s personal version of Android. While it has gotten a lot better over the years, their software was always bloated, clunky, somewhat laggy, and seemed to be in complete lack of tasteful design. The Galaxy Nexus changed that. The second Nexus phone from Samsung, the Galaxy Nexus was designed and manufactured in partnership with Google.
It runs stock Android, as Google intends the platform to be, which many (including myself) consider to be the best version of Android. The software experience was relatively smooth, clean, and optimized for the device. It received quick updates, for the most part, which is one area that Android devices always suffer. Google’s Nexus line has always been the most popular amongst tech enthusiasts and hardcore fans, and the Galaxy Nexus was easily the first Nexus phone that was actually worth buying.
5. Samsung Galaxy Alpha
While the largest complaint with Samsung has always (and arguably still is) their TouchWiz interface, the next biggest complaint would probably be their choice of hardware materials. For years, Samsung Galaxy devices were made entirely out of plastic, and those devices always felt cheap in the hand when compared to iPhones. It seemed that Samsung was stuck in their ways, but in 2014 they released the Galaxy Alpha.
Sure it was the S5’s weird cousin, but it was an important device because it was the first Samsung phone to feature an all-metal frame. With the Galaxy Alpha, Samsung stepped up their game yet again, and all devices since the launch of the Alpha have featured more and more premium materials within their build.
4. Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Samsung pioneered the idea of the phablet with the original Galaxy Note, but with their Galaxy Note 2 that “idea” became a reality. The Galaxy Note 2 combined again high-end specs with an even larger 5.5-inch screen into one incredible device. I personally had this phone when it was released in 2012, and as a student, I stopped bringing a laptop to class in favor of just using the Note 2. With the S Pen and it’s split-screen capabilities, I could simultaneously load up a powerpoint and take notes on the device.
It was extremely capable and robust, and was truly a device that could replace both your phone and your tablet. I was often ridiculed for carrying a “ridiculously large pocket computer” around, but now devices this large are normal and are everywhere you look.
3. Samsung Galaxy S3
It may surprise many readers as to why I have a device released in 2012 so high up on the list, however that is because the Samsung Galaxy S3 was just that good. In the early days of Android, the operating system was clunky, bogged down, and had a host of issues. During these days the iPhone was still the superior device by many respects, but that was changed with the Galaxy S3. This device was extremely important for Samsung.
Upon its released it was very popular, it offered a great user experience, and had all the features one could ask for in a premium device. It was well supported, but more importantly, it was probably the best Android phone ever made when it initially came out. It was with the Galaxy S3 that Samsung proved to the world that not only they could make a world class device, but that Android may actually be something to consider. But it was even more than that, it was with this device that many argued that Android was the best.
2. Samsung Galaxy S6
Coming in at number 2 is Samsung’s current flagship, the Galaxy S6. Generally, consumer goods, especially technology ones, get better as they get updated over the years. Samsung has come along way from laggy, plastic devices to the premium Galaxy S6. It has a metal unibody frame, glass panels, a gorgeous display, one of the fastest processors (at least, at the time it was launched), arguably one of the best if not the best cameras in a phone, and a revamped “lighter weight” version of TouchWiz. While the device is not without faults, it is still easily one of the best phones Samsung has ever made.
1. Samsung Note 5
The Galaxy Note line has always been the “better” version of their S counterparts. Typically they feature better specifications packed in a larger frame with more features that are marketed at “power users”. If the S6 was one of Samsung’s finest (and it is), then the Note 5 is arguably even better. Like their S line, Samsung’s Note line has matured into its own class of mobile devices, one that it pioneered itself. If you are someone that wants some of what Android has to offer at its best, the Note 5 is for you. It is truly one device that can do it all, and is arguably the best phone Samsung has made thus far.