Let’s face it. Before Android, Samsung phones didn’t exactly cause tech-watchers to gush in appreciation. And users were also distinctly lukewarm towards old-school Windows Mobile and Symbian handsets coming out of Seoul.
But now, Samsung is storming ahead, revealing that it’s sold 300 million handsets in 2011, 20 million more than it did last year.
So, what went so right? And can it keep it going in 2012?
Samsung’s success is tied intrinsically with Google Android. Without the Big G’s open source OS, it wouldn’t have the integrated top-end devices, from the Galaxy SII to the Galaxy Nexus, which have given it such huge mindshare in 2011.
The operating system has allowed Samsung to develop phones that are laden with the kind of bleeding-edge tech that first-adopters love, while also releasing cheaper Galaxy handsets that utilise the OS’s skills brilliantly, despite not having the hottest tech under the hood.
Samsung has been helped by a burgeoning appetite for smartphones around the globe, as well as a growing demand for devices with larger screens.
Its huge Galaxy Note has been a critical success, while the four-inch panels on its best smartphones have helped give Sammy the edge over Apple in the spec race.
But it’s its willingness to spread itself across different platforms that has surely helped Samsung reach this milestone.
Its Windows Phones are stunning and every bit as sharp as preferred partner Nokia’s Microsoft-backed devices.
Bada, while not huge here, is cleaning up in China and proving that Samsung is capable of working well on the software side of things.
The question is, can this pace be maintained? With the impending Galaxy S3 and Ice Cream Sandwich updates for its older phones you wouldn’t bet against Samsung doing well at the start of the year, especially in the immediate aftermath of Mobile World Congress.
But it’ll have to face down HTC – a company now desperate to move back to top position after a disastrous drop in profits in the last quarter of 2011.
On top of that, it faces ongoing legal battles with Apple, which have dogged the devices and could eat into future profits.
Even if it can keep ticking along like this, does volume really matter so much?
Apple would say no, having lower sales but the kind of profits Samsung can only dream of.
And, of course, Nokia remains the biggest mobile-maker, but is still in dire straits, despite the release of the Lumia 800.
It’d be a coup for Samsung to steal Nokia’s crown and then be able to crow about it. But ultimately, it’s all about how much Sammy makes.
If it keeps up this level of innovation though, 2012 should be bright for the Korean giant.