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  (Source: Mirror)
Apple may be in trouble as Samsung's flagship smartphones storms into the U.S. market

March 14 -- mark tomorrow night on your calendars.  That's when Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930), the world's largest smartphone maker, will unleash its flagship smartphone: the Galaxy S IV.

I. Galaxy S IV is Samsung's First Launch Held in America

Over the last two years Samsung has built a healthy lead in unit sales over archrival Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone.  And it's used attack ads -- borrowing a page from Apple's own playbook -- to slowly chip away at Apple's "cool factor".

Apple, for its part, has suffered from a less aggressive path of hardware development. While analyst still praise its App Store and developer ecosystem as the best in the industry, Apple's GUI as of iOS 6 looked increasingly long in the tooth, and the jump to a larger screen size was derided by Android fans as a "me too" move.

And yet Apple's supporters have plenty to crow about.  The company still has the strongest brand -- even if it has weakened somewhat amid the Samsung storm.  And Apple is more profitable than any other phonemaker, making approximately twice the profit that Samsung makes per quarter.

But analysts believe that for all Apple's success, it may be in trouble when Samsung launches the Galaxy S IV.  

The latest Galaxy phone is set to be unveiled at the Radio City Music Hall.  Capturing the carnival-esque vibe Apple once held during the iPhone launches of the Steve Jobs era, Samsung's blockbuster launch will be broadcast live in Times Square.  A simultaneous launch event will be held in London, the largest city in the European Union.

Times Square
The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S IV will be broadcast live tomorrow night in New York City's Times Square. [Image Source: Global Torusim]

The New York City event will be held just blocks away from one of Apple's busiest stores -- a gesture that has certainly not gone unnoticed.  Chung Chang Won, an analyst at South Korea's Nomura Holdings Inc. calls the launch a landmark event for a surging Samsung, commenting to Bloomberg, "The upcoming event in New York has big implications because it’s Apple’s home ground.  This is the first time Samsung has launched its Galaxy S phone in the U.S."

Past Galaxy smartphone launches have typically been held at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin, Germany, or in South Korea.

II. Spec Sheet: an iPhone Slayer

Samsung is anticipated to serve up more than just hollow-hype.  It's expected to bring a much faster processor and a larger screen size.   Here's what we know so far about the device:

  • 5.0-inch 1080p display
  • Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • 1.9GHz Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) Snapdragon 600 processor (U.S.) or 2GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos 5450  processor (international) [source]
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32/64GB storage options
  • Removable SD card slot (up to 64GB)
  • 13MP rear-facing camera w/ "Orb" technology for compressed panorama shots
  • 2MP front-facing camera w/ "eye scrolling" technology
  • 4G LTE support
  • Multi-purpose / Dedicated camera button
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 3100 mAh battery
  • Plastic shell body

The U.S. processor (a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon), the 5-inch screen, and the new camera have all been confirmed by top U.S. news outlet Bloomberg, which is owned by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

[Image Source: Sammy Hub]

Perhaps the biggest "wow" feature could be the eye-tracking technology, which will use the front-facing camera to track the users eyes allowing them to visually scroll through articles.  First reported by The New York Times, the hands-free feature has been reportedly in the works for a long time and has been perfected to be very fluid.

Bloomberg's sources dispute that full-fledged eye-tracking will appear in the GSIV, but says that simplified versions of the technology may appear in the device.  For example, if you look away from the screen, the phone may automatically pause the video you're watching.

The new spec appear to be well ahead of the iPhone 5 -- which only packs a 8MP rear camera with a (reportedly) smaller sensor, a 4-inch screen, and a slower dual-core CPU.

III. "Cooling Off" Apple May be Forced to Change Strategy

Park Hyun, an analyst at Seoul, South Korea-based Tong Yang Securities says that Apple will be unlikely to be able to muster its response (the iPhone 5S) until late this year.  He says that is bad news for Apple, whose once hot phone is seeing slowing sales.  He comments, "[The iPhone 5's] popularity has clearly cooled off."

Jan Dawson, chief analyst at the New York City office of London-based telecommunications consulting firm Ovum, says Apple's best hope to stay competitive may be to try to release different versions of the iPhone.  She comments, "There’s been a drumbeat of rumors about Apple working on more than one version of the iPhone.  The thinking is, if Apple does several devices it would help dampen the singular effect of having only one phone a year."

Apple may be forced to launch a variety of iPhones to keep up.

But one must wonder if copycatting Android's approach of a broad range of phones will do more harm than good for Apple.  Apple's app ecosystem has benefitted from a homogenous screen size/resolution for each smartphone release; likewise its marketing has always focused on the simplicity of its phone offering -- there has always been only one iPhone.

Ultimately, though Apple may be forced to try to reinvent the wheel, as it sees Samsung stealing its thunder.  With over $100B USD in the bank, and an incredibly strong brand it's far too early to count the Cupertino, Calif. phonemaker out.  But the GSIV launch is certainly serving notice that Samsung has Apple pressed up against the ropes and is hitting it hard, in its home turf.

Source: Bloomberg

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Why have different size options...
By quiksilvr on 3/13/2013 1:53:46 PM , Rating: 3
If you have an SD card slot? It doesn't make any sense. Also why are we stuck in this 16GB base option phase? Just have one, 64GB option and stop using iPhones bullsh|t memory pricing methodology.

By regorthegreat on 3/13/2013 2:15:08 PM , Rating: 2
They will keep the 16GB model as the model they will display to show the price of the device. The other models will probably be upgrade options, but quite costly, and only some users will be interested. The device probably comes with a stock SDcard, or no card since they offer different size options, regardless, it needs the expansion slot.

I, as a power user, would go with the 64GB model, and then use my expansion cards (currently a 32, but would consider a 64GB). It's for more flexibility giving the user what they want. Not like Apple, telling people what they want. That's the whole reason Android has such a following of loyal users.

You know, if they only made it as a 64GB model, their lowest price advertisement would be a lot higher, thus shying people away, or not accurately comparing it an Apple product like they want. It's a smart marketing move, and many basic users will prefer this option.

By Lord_Conrad on 3/13/2013 2:28:28 PM , Rating: 3
As an average user, I'll take the 16GB version and add a microSD card for a cheap storage increase.

By DanNeely on 3/13/2013 2:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
In addition to the other reasons already mentioned s a (presumably micro)SD slot lets you transfer data from other devices (eg an high end camera) directly instead of needing to use third device as an intermediary.

By Jeffk464 on 3/13/2013 3:13:58 PM , Rating: 1
micro sd slot is fine, just make sure its in the battery compartment and not a slot on the outside. They are a huge pocket lint and dirt magnet.

RE: Why have different size options...
By nessman on 3/13/13, Rating: -1
RE: Why have different size options...
By Rukkian on 3/13/2013 5:13:47 PM , Rating: 2
Like itards that are stuck only using itunes?

While you may not see the benefit of paying 200$ less for memory that you can get for $15, not all like to blow money for no reason.

It is also nice to be able to transfer directly between devices when you are not near a computer.

RE: Why have different size options...
By Guspaz on 3/13/2013 6:00:57 PM , Rating: 2
You don't need iTunes to get photos off an iPhone. The phone will show up on any computer as a digital camera. For getting files onto the phone, there's a ton of different ways to do that, although my favourite is DropBox. Apps can register that they support reading a certain file type, so can put (for example) a PDF in dropbox, and then tell dropbox to open it with your PDF viewer of choice.

By Rukkian on 3/14/2013 10:18:21 AM , Rating: 2
I guess you must have read my mind and knew I was only talking pictures, oh wait, I never mentioned it, and was not talking about photos.

What about apps, music, movies, roms, etc? If an iphone could be plugged into a a computer as a flash drive and get to all the contents, then sure I can see the argument that you may not need an sd card to transfer data. You still have the problem of needing to spend $200+ to get something you can buy for ~$20, and if you want to go over 64gb, good luck with that on iphone at any cost.

RE: Why have different size options...
By Noonecares on 3/13/2013 7:15:31 PM , Rating: 2
Why is it dying? It doesn't get scratched and become unreadable. Cloud storage and streaming is the future I guess then? No more hdd or ssd either. Touchscreens and lint free screen cloths for everyone....

By Cheesew1z69 on 3/15/2013 8:47:22 AM , Rating: 2
Why is it dying?
It's not, and neither is optical. Certainly not anytime soon, it's just something the AppleTools like to parrot. Because remember, if Apple doesn't use it, it MUST BE DEAD TECH!

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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