Anticipation surrounding Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S III smartphone was at an all time high for an Android device, nearly matching that of an Apple iPhone or iPad. While we saw numerous leaked pictures and videos, few if any matched the final product at all. “Just about everything about the GALAXY S III, including patents and technology used on the device, was top secret,” Samsung revealed on its blog. Secrecy was so important for the engineers behind the smartphone that Principal Engineer Byung Joon Lee was forced to lie to his son. “My eldest son is in 6th grade,” he shared. “He knew that I had worked on the GALAXY S and S II. So I guess he assumed that I’d do S III also. Every time he saw an article on the Internet about the GALAXY S III he’d ask ‘Dad! You’re making the S III, right?’ But all I could say was ‘I don’t really know.’ It was really awkward.”
Rather than having a large team work on the device, Samsung only had select individual building the Galaxy S III in a top secret lab that required different security cards and fingerprint scans. When a problem arose, or when somebody got stuck, everybody on the team usually has an opportunity to help resolve the issue, however this was not the case for the Galaxy S III. The project was so top secret that when a prototype was moved, even if it was going across the hall, it was placed in a security box to prevent passers-by from catching a glimpse.
Unlike the usual practice of outsourcing prototype deliveries to third-party logistics services, Samsung instead chose to deliver the top-secret devices personally. Testing procedures were also monitored day and night to make sure no leaks occurred. And for obvious reasons, picture taking was strictly forbidden.
“Because we were only permitted to see the products and others weren’t, we couldn’t send pictures or drawings,” Lee explained. “We had to explain the GALAXY S III with all sorts of words. The Procurement Department had to set a price for the GALAXY S III and purchase the materials based on our verbal explanations. It was hard for everyone I guess.”
The South Korean manufacturer even went as far as creating three different prototypes to avoid any design leaks. All three were made like final products, meaning engineers had to continuously tweak each model in the same time frame.
“I was in charge of the antenna,” said Senior Engineer Beoung Sun Lee. “Generally, we manufacture the antenna based on the final design and request for authorization. However, for security reasons, we had to make the antenna over and over. We had to come up with a new antenna every time the new design came out. To be honest, it was quite tiring and frustrating.”
Principal Engineer Woo Sun Yoon agreed, and despite the difficulty of the project, he is glad the smartphone was kept under wraps. “There were many prototypes and yes, it takes more time and effort to make more working prototypes. It’s even more difficult when you’re sending those to different places for testing and yet at the same time hiding it from everyone. Time constraints pushed me to take a lot of helicopter rides back and forth. I’m glad we were able to keep the new GALAXY S IIIunder wraps to the end, but I can’t stress enough how hard it was.”