Samsung announced its latest Galaxy S smartphone — the S4 — at an event in New York on Thursday, as the electronics titan steps up its rivalry with Apple and its iPhone.
The new Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch full HD screen. It is slimmer, lighter and more solid than its predecessor the Galaxy S III, Samsung executive JK Shin said as he unveiled the phone.
“For each of us, life is a journey,” says Shin. “What we want is a device that can join us in our journey.”
The phone will go on sale in the second quarter by all four major U.S. carriers — Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile — as well as smaller U.S. Cellular and Cricket.
No price was announced, but it can be expected to start at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S. It will run on wireless carriers’ fast 4G LTE networks, as well as 3G.
The screen size compares with 4.8 inches for its predecessor the S III, and four inches for the iPhone. Other key specs: The main camera is 13 megapixels. It will come built with 16 gigabytes of storage with options for 32 GB or 64 GB. It also includes a micro-SD slot for up to an extra 64 GB. It has a removable battery.
The S4 weighs 4.5 ounces, is 5.3 inches long and 0.3 inches thick.
The smartphone will include Dual Camera, allowing users to capture photos and videos with both the 13-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera at the same time. There’s also S Translator for speech-to-text and text-to-speech translation of several languages, and a Group Play feature for sharing photos, documents, music and games without a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
“We have a new king of the smartphones,” says lead analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. “The Galaxy S4 is topping every other phone with its impressive hardware and new customized software features.”
The arrival of the S4 comes as Samsung slugs it out with Apple in the competitive smartphone market. The Korean-based electronics giant has become Apple’s top rival through its line of Galaxy S phones, with 100 million sold since launching in 2010. By comparison, Apple sold more than 125 million iPhones in its last fiscal year alone.
Either way, the smartphone battle is clearly a duel. Samsung and Apple have tightened their holds on the market, responsible for nearly half the smartphones sold worldwide in 2012, according to research firm Gartner. Samsung has surged ahead in recent years, commanding a 30% market share in global smartphone sales last year across its entire line, up from 19% in 2011.
“Samsung has proven they can beat Apple at its own game,” says Jefferson Wang of IBB Consulting. “It will be interesting to see if Apple (comes) to the table with either an incremental upgrade (iPhone 5 to a “5S”), or if they’re going to feel pressure to get away from the whole generation.”
The gap between mobile operating systems is even wider. Smartphones running Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android — the system of choice for the Galaxy S series — represent 85% of the global smartphone market, finds Gartner. However, the key question for Samsung will be whether the user experience will match the S4’s hardware upgrades.
“Software and services is a weak spot for the company,” says Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile analyst based in Seattle. “How quickly it beefs up its offerings and how ambitious it is in providing end-to-end solutions will determine its competitiveness in the next 24 months.”
However, the introduction of Dual Camera and other built-in software features really stand out, says Forrester analyst Charles Golvin. “That’s where the real opportunity to differentiate in the market comes from,” he says.
On Wednesday, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller dismissed iPhone rivals and the Android operating system.
“The experience isn’t as good as an iPhone,” Schiller told the Wall Street Journal.Schiller cited fragmentation and complexity as reasons he thinks iOS devices are better.