Samsung releases Galaxy S4
Samsung's Galaxy S4 emerges to do battle on Apple's home turf.
NEW YORK/SEOUL - Samsung Electronics Co premiered its latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, which sports a bigger display and unconventional features such as gesture controls, as the South Korean titan challenges Apple Inc on its home turf.
The phone, the first in the highly successful Galaxy S-series to make its global standalone debut on U.S. soil, was unwrapped at Manhattan's iconic Radio City Music Hall on Thursday evening. Some industry watchers were clearly dazzled by its features, setting a high bar for Apple to surpass.
The S4 can stop and start videos depending on whether someone is looking at the screen, flip between songs and photos at the wave of a hand, and record sound to run alongside snapped still pictures. But other industry watchers said the phone would not overturn an industry that lives and dies by innovation.
The plethora of new features "are good steps in this direction, but they can be seen as gimmicks rather than game changers. At this point, Samsung appears to be trying to kill the competition with sheer volume of new features," said Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at IT research outfit Ovum.
"For now, Samsung can likely rely on its vastly superior marketing budget and the relatively weak efforts of its competitors in software to keep it ahead."
The success or failure of Samsung's latest flagship phone - the fourth in a brand launched in 2010 - will be pivotal in the world's biggest smartphone maker's battle against Apple and smaller, and key to that struggle will be phone differentiation.
Apple may already be feeling the heat.
Just a day before, marketing chief Phil Schiller blasted Samsung and the Google Android software in rare interviews given to Reuters and other select media, underscoring the pressure that the iPhone maker is feeling from its Korean mobile-phone nemesis.
The S4, which Samsung preceded with a marketing blitz that drummed up industry speculation reminiscent of some of Apple's past launches, will be available by the end of April and rolled out to 327 carriers in 155 countries, including U.S. service providers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA.
"Samsung has fulfilled the promise of their marketing that they are the tech innovators. It remains to be seen whether it's overload for customers, whether they can really take advantage of all these features," said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin.
The S4 will use either Samsung's own applications processor or Qualcomm Inc's Snapdragon central processing chip, depending on the country. But the Korean company kept mum on exact dates and prices.