A look back at Samsung in 2013: The Galaxy S4, patent worries, and curved displays

2013 was another banner year for Samsung, which further expanded its Galaxy line-up, and experimented with flexible, curved, and ultra high-definition (UHD) displays. But while Samsung held its own against Apple in the smartphone market, it was less successful in the courtroom as the patent fight between the two firms stretched out into another year.

Samsung kicked off 2013 at CES, where it showed off a prototype flexible display – dubbed "Youm" – as well as a wraparound smartphone screen. At the time, it seemed unlikely that we'd see anything like that on store shelves in the near future. However, by the end of 2013, Samsung introduced a curved smartphone known as the Galaxy Round, making the idea of a flexible display seem less like science fiction (and LG revealed the G Flex, too).

In 2013, Samsung also called on innovators to submit ideas for future start-ups that would use flexible display technology, and tipped 4K devices with foldable displays to arrive by 2015.

Curved displays were not limited to smartphones, though. Samsung's 55in Curved OLED HDTV arrived in Korea in June for $13,000 (£8,000), and in the US two months later for a slightly more affordable $9,000 (£5,500). If that's not big enough for you, Samsung will show off a 105in curved 4K TV at CES next week. And if you like your TVs flat, Samsung has 98in to 110in 4K sets on offer.

Dominating smartphones

While Samsung has a far-reaching business – from mobile gadgets and home appliances to PCs and processors – its Galaxy line-up of smartphones and tablets once again dominated coverage of the South Korean company in 2013.

The year opened with news that global sales of Galaxy S smartphones had hit 100 million units since 2010. Samsung looked towards another 100 million in March with the launch of its newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. The device was unveiled during a huge (and puzzling) presentation at New York's Radio City Music Hall, sporting a 5in, 1,920 x 1,080 Super AMOLED display with a 441 ppi density, as well as Samsung's usual treasure trove of software add-ons.

But why have one version of a new flagship phone when you can have four? Over the next few months, Samsung also unveiled a 4.3in Galaxy S4 Mini, a rugged Galaxy S4 Active, and a Galaxy S4 Zoom with a souped-up camera. For those who love a huge smartphone, meanwhile, Samsung offered up the 6.3in Galaxy Mega phablet.

The patent wars

Samsung ended 2012 with a patent win. Judge Lucy Koh found that Apple had not adequately demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable harm if 26 Samsung devices were not pulled from the market, denying Cupertino's request for a ban. In 2013, however, a US appeals court ordered Judge Koh to review her decision, making way for a ban after all.

And so it carried on in 2013: It was a case of two steps forward and one step back for both companies, though Apple seemed to have a bit more luck than Samsung. In February, Samsung earned a victory when Judge Koh ordered a new trial on 14 Samsung products and dropped more than $450 million (£275 million) in damages from the $1.05 billion (£640 million) the jury awarded to Apple in August 2012. A retrial ultimately gave Apple about $290 million (£175 million) of that $450 million (£275 million), or about $900 million (£550 million) in total.

Samsung failed to secure bans on iOS gadgets in Japan and its home country of South Korea. The White House also stepped in to overturn a ban on Apple gadgets in the US, but declined to do the same for Samsung.

In the EU, meanwhile, where Samsung has been investigated for patent abuse, the company offered to back down on gadget ban requests – sort of – to avoid an antitrust smack-down.

Patent woes aside, however, Samsung still had a lot to celebrate in 2013. In the first quarter, 95 per cent of all Android smartphone profits were snapped up by Samsung, and that only continued throughout the year. Stay tuned for the rumoured Galaxy S5 and a possible update for the Gear.

You might also want to check out our review of how Apple fared in 2013 while you're here.