Here's how a Samsung Galaxy smartphone gets made

From its ergonomic looks to sound design (you'll never see Over The Horizon the same way again)

Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S and Note series are among the most well-known and popular flagship Android smartphones available today.

There's nary a phonephile who isn't acquainted with the devices' sleek bods and rich displays, so omnipresent are they - you see them on posters, inside stores, in the hands of commuters on the MRT, maybe even in your own pocket. 

But what goes into these phones that makes them run and look the way they do? Stuff visited Samsung at its Suwon headquarters and Seoul design office to find out what goes into producing a winner like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. 

The design

From the drawing board to mass-market release, each Samsung Galaxy flagship model including the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 takes about two and a half years to reach our grubby hands.

The global Samsung design team, from the company's R&D campus in Seoul to its global offices in China, Japan, India, Europe, American and Latin America, all work together to come up with concepts for every new device. It's a massive effort that literally spans the globe. Designs are proposed 24 months before, and the team works closely with Samsung engineers to create the prototypes, suggest colourways, figure out the best way to hold the phone and so much more.

In the case of the Galaxy Note 8, the design stems from the the philosophy of “neutrality”. Which translates to a phone that's made to blend into anywhere and used by anyone, while keeping the core concept of Galaxy series intact.

The Note 8, in particular, was planned from the start to be a more sturdy device than its predecessors, built perfectly for taking notes with the accompanying S Pen. 

For those wondering why there isn’t a (insert your favourite colour here) Galaxy Note 8, the design team doesn’t pick colours from a hat. Rather, it works with global design institutes to find the latest colour trends - though needless to say, black always remains at the top of the list. 

What can we look forward to in future, in terms of looks? Samsung's design team is ambitious and wants to take the Galaxy flagship further with a fullscreen display and is even exploring foldable screens. 

The camera

Samsung cameras are built to shoot photos that are “better than real”. 

What that means is that the photos taken with a Samsung flagship device should replicate or look better than the subject you’re taking a photo of. And if you’ve tried taking photos with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, you should see a near-perfect reproduction of what you took in your shot. 

Some of you may be wondering about the drop in megapixels across subsequent generations of Galaxy phones (for example, the Galaxy S6 1.6MP camera to the Galaxy S8 1.2MP camera). But the truth is megapixels makes up just one aspect of photography. While bigger megapixels mean better printed images, image resolution suffers, resulting in photos with lower colour rendering on your phone screen. 

As fewer people print their photos and social media becomes the main way to store and share photos, Samsung has turned its focus to on-device photography. 

The dual camera setup on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 achieves just that, plus the combination of wide and telephoto lens provides a long-distance optical zoom that no other camera can provide without sacrificing form.

The sound

The name “Over the Horizon” might not ring a bell, but the tune likely will - that’s the name of Samsung’s default ringtone which you hear in every generation of Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

At the sound design lab, the team work on specific sounds for every Samsung gadget to bring it to life. For example, they've given the Samsung Gear 360 cute sounds to match its shape and face, and an audible-but-not-distracting warning for fridge doors that haven't been closed completely.

What sort of detail do they get down to? Even the shutter sounds for Galaxy smartphones have been taken from one of Samsung’s defunct cameras (the NX20). And that sound when you pay with Samsung Pay? It was recorded from money being taken out of a money clip. 

Back to the “Over the Horizon” - did you know that every year, there’s a new variation of the tune? Last year’s poppy version by Swedish jazz-funk outfit Dirty Loops is one of my all-time favourites, while this year, with millennials leading the charge, Grammy Award winner Jacob Collier (and millennial musician himself) brought his signature beat to the six-note groove.

Here're a few more renditions from past years - recognise any of them?