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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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RE: Disappointed in Samsung gimped US version
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/13/2013 7:40:16 PM , Rating: 2
Sure do, because my S3 doesn't crash, I get a full day of battery life, and the UI, isn't clunky. Sounds like you haven't even touched one and they have issues with their particular phone.

RE: Disappointed in Samsung gimped US version
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/14/2013 8:08:08 AM , Rating: 2
I have used then many times, and multiple people all have the same problems documented in many other places. Things like battery life and the screen are known problems. Either you don't really use your phone much or you don't care.

In the end it is clunky and choppy. Lots of you don't seem to mind a second rate device though. It looks like Samsung's marketing to people with low standards has worked well, brainwashed you good.

By xti on 3/14/2013 10:33:56 AM , Rating: 2
yeah, the battery issue is my only real gripe about my gs3 - i don't want to reduce brightness to 30% to just get thru the day, and simply because i can swap out batteries, doesn't mean i want to. Samsung had that 50% off thing and i picked up the charging station + spare battery

i wish i had waited for the note 2 - obviously with more real estate they addressed the well documented gs3 battery issue.

RE: Disappointed in Samsung gimped US version
By Cheesew1z69 on 3/14/2013 12:13:11 PM , Rating: 2
In the end it is clunky and choppy.
Again, your device. Mine isn't.

RE: Disappointed in Samsung gimped US version
By KoolAidMan1 on 3/15/2013 3:58:57 AM , Rating: 2
I just watched a video of the GS4 and even that lagged with scrolling and pulling down the navigation bar. The GS3 hardware and software is even older.

If that is fine for you then I don't think you know what a smooth UI looks like.

By Cheesew1z69 on 3/15/2013 8:44:09 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know how else to tell you, but I don't experience that... and others here have the S3 and don't have that issue either.

I know, you are an AppleTool, looking for any excuse to knock the Samsung, but your experience, isn't the norm but troll on, troll on.

By JPForums on 3/14/2013 11:59:52 AM , Rating: 2
I've been on both sides of this situation. Battery life is a constant and won't last for people who use their phone extensively. This "problem" is very well documented in both reviews and forums so I'm going to let you broaden your scope if you want proof beyond the personal experiences of my family and friends. Unless you have an extended pack, I have to believe that you either don't use it as heavily or don't have to go a full day (I need 15hr sporadic usage) without plugging it in.

Out side of that, how well the phone (both U.S. and International) works depends almost entirely on usage patterns. How many applications are running? Which applications in particular are you running? How much effort to you put into managing resources? How much storage is in use? Is your phone rooted? Have you made changes at a lower level? Do you have a custom ROM? Which one?

Interestingly, I see little difference between the U.S. and International versions other than the memory limitation of the International version requires more resource management. The only other constant is that (regardless of version) when storage usage gets high enough, IO tasks take longer to complete and can cause stutters giving the phone a sluggish feel. That said, not everyone encounters this (seems to be half and half in my sample group) and the sluggishness is curable if you spend the time to learn what is causing it.

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