Samsung upped the ante in its fight with Apple on Thursday, introducing its newest phone at a glitzy event aimed at proving that it’s not content simply to be the world’s best-selling smartphone maker. It also wants to be the coolest.
The Galaxy S4has a super high-definition five-inch screen, 13 megapixel rear-facing camera and advanced video and photo editing controls, features all aimed at challenging Apple’s iPhone. Samsung trumpeted its arrival at Radio City Music Hall — complete with a live orchestra and Broadway performers.
“We have listened to you to understand what a smartphone should provide to you in our lives,” said J.K. Shin, president of the IT and mobile communications division at Samsung.
This is new territory for Samsung, which has clawed its way to an industry-best 29 percent of the global smartphone market by releasing a broad range of devices at different price levels but which hasn’t released a single model that can consistently outsell Apple’s iPhone.
Samsung has been pouring money and energy into making its Galaxy smartphone a flagship device. The Galaxy S4’s success will be crucial to Samsung’s ability to keep its leading position in the smartphone market. The key will be for Samsung to secure an iPhone-like following for its highest-end phones while developing devices at lower prices for new smartphone users.
“This is the time to grab mind share — hopefully, market share will follow,” said International Data analyst Ramon Llamas.
The timing is right. Apple’s next iPhone isn’t expected for months, giving Samsung plenty of time to frame the competition’s current phone as “last year’s model.” Apple, meanwhile, has been struggling to convince the tech community and consumers that it hasn’t lost its innovative touch since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs.
Apple’s grip on the global smartphone market has slipped over the past few years, falling to 21.8 percent in 2012.
In launching the Galaxy, Samsung made a point of highlighting features that aren’t available on the iPhone such as text and voice translation software and a feature that lets users shoot video and pictures from the front and rear cameras simultaneously. The phone also includes scrolling technology that senses when users are looking at the screen and moves accordingly.
Samsung can use these features to frame itself as the cutting-edge smartphone maker — taking that mantle from Apple, Llamas said. “It amps up the pressure on Apple to respond in some way shape or fashion to the prevailing market trends that are out there,” he said.
All smartphone makers, Samsung included, are facing a potential slowdown in growth this year as U.S. and Western European markets approach smartphone saturation while the markets with the most potential for growth — China, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa — have yet to develop an appetite for expensive premium phones.
Samsung did not release the price of the new phone, which will go on sale at the end of April.
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