The Mobile 15: Our picks for the most innovative companies

Samsung Electronics

CEO: Oh-Hyun Kwon

Number of employees: 221,726

The business:

Samsung Electronics is a highly diversified company, ranging from mobile devices to televisions to household appliances. The company is also one of the largest chip producers in the world: no. 2 behind Intel in 2011 as measured by revenues.

The backstory:

Samsung was always part of the mobile phone world, and in 2007, it took over the second sales spot worldwide, passing Motorola. However, this was just as Apple’s iPhone arrived and the shift from feature phones to smartphones began. Over the next several years, Samsung changed focus and started to see smartphone success with its first Galaxy S phone in 2010. Since then the company quickly moved through the ranks of top smartphone sales to oust Nokia for the no. 1 spot.

The innovation:

Much of Samsung’s Galaxy phone line has an iPhone-inspired look and feel, but the company has pushed beyond a simple copy with advances in both hardware and software. Early adoption of Near Field Communications (NFC) chips allow Samsung phones to be used for wireless payments. The use of a digital stylus — and smart software that takes advantage of it — for note-taking and image editing or creation is becoming more prevalent in Samsung’s mobile products. The company also sensed an early trend for large, high-resolution displays on smartphones, blending the lines between handsets and connected tablets.

The plan:

Samsung clearly has struggled in the courts. A judge recently found that the company had infringed on a number of Apple’s patents and ordered it to pay damages of $1.05 billion. However, Samsung shows no signs of backing off its push for advancements in hardware and software, particularly where rivals have not. Larger but still portable smartphone and advanced stylus software will continue to keep Samsung near the top of the smartphone market.