A Samsung Galaxy S4 after it was unveiled in New York. (AP)
March 15: Samsung Electronics is the world leader in smartphone sales, besting Apple in many countries. Now Samsung of South Korea is stepping up its challenge to Apple, bringing the battle to its rival’s home turf.
At a packed event at Radio City Music Hall in New York yesterday, Samsung showed off the Galaxy S 4, which has a screen slightly larger than the latest iPhone.
The device has quirky software features, including Smart Scroll, in which the front camera detects when someone is looking at the phone, and scrolls the screen according to the angle the phone is tilted. The phone can also be controlled with hand gestures. Waving a hand down in front of the phone will scroll up on a web page, for example.
“Once you spend time with the Galaxy S 4, I’m very confident you’ll find how its innovations make your life simple and fuller,” said J.K. Shin, president of Samsung Mobile Communications, at the company’s first promotional event for its flagship smartphone.
With the prominent introduction of the phone, Samsung is trying to end its role as understudy to its more celebrated competitor, especially in the crucial American market, where Apple still rules.
Even as Samsung has surpassed Apple in global market share, it is often criticised in the US as an effective copycat, taking most of its product cues from Apple. But Samsung has begun flexing its marketing muscle more aggressively here to try to change that perception.
“This is Samsung’s time right now,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. “They are clearly gaining more attention this time around than they ever have.”
Apple itself is showing signs of concern. In an unusual move on the eve of the Samsung event, Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president for worldwide marketing, gave several interviews in which he discussed flaws in mobile devices based on Android, the Google operating system used by most of Samsung’s smartphones.
But Apple still has many big advantages that allow it to defend its position in the mobile business. Its iPhone 5 was the best-selling smartphone in the world in the holiday quarter, even though Samsung’s vast portfolio of phones is bigger than Apple’s.
By charging a premium for its products, Apple raked in 69 per cent of the profits in the smartphone business last year, compared with 34 per cent for Samsung, according to a report by T. Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. (The numbers add up to more than 100 per cent because Apple and Samsung combined made more money than other competitors lost.)