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Samsung(NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) just announced that it will release a new smartphone, the Galaxy S4, in late April. The lavish setting for the unveiling was Radio City Music Hall in New York.
The South Korean electronics conglomerate hopes to overtake the U.S. tech giant Apple(NASDAQ: AAPL), the world’s most valuable and profitable company, in the battle for supremacy in the "high-end" handset market. Samsung currently has the top spot in overall smartphone market share and would love to hold onto that.
Various reports circulating today claim that Apple will incrementally upgrade its latest device, the iPhone5, sometime this year and may also be developing a lower-cost “mini" version which could reduce the overall Samsung lead.
Some analysts think that the S4 will outsell the iPhone5 (and the likely upgrades) because of advantages in technical specifications.
They include Sebastian Anthony who included a side by side comparison of various technical specifications in his article in Extreme Tech. According to Mr. Anthony the Galaxy wins "hands-down" across the board.
Others such as Gene Munster, one of the biggest Apple bulls around, wrote a note to clients stating that the new Samsung device is not a game changer (it is merely an upgrade to the S3) and won't affect the Cupertino, CA company all that much.
He reiterated his estimate that Apple will sell over 177 million smartphones, including the mini, this year. It appears that investors believe Mr. Munster so far. Apple shares closed up 4% in the days after the S4 was introduced.
Will Shankin wrote in Gizmag comparing the same specs as Mr. Anthony did,and states that the technical advantages are most likely not enough to allow Samsung to outperform Apple.
For example, is the S4 display better than the iPhone5 display? Are 441 pixels/inch (PPI) better than 326 PPI? Probably not to most people.
Is the S4's V1 octa core 1.6 GHz processor better than the iPhone5's 1.3 GHz dual core processor? Most apps out today do not even use the full capability of the processors available in the iPhone. Therefore, the extra speed and functionality in the S4 are probably not a big deal at this point in time.
The S4 will most likely affect sales of other devices powered by the Android operating system instead.
The Android operating system used in Samsung and most other non-Apple smartphones was developed by Google(NASDAQ: GOOG), the 3rd most valuable company in the world, which is not a big player in the hardware aspects of the business.
Android is open source, Linux-based software and is modified by the smartphone hardware suppliers. Google benefits when paid apps are downloaded from the Google Play store.
Google is dominant in the web search industry with a 65% market share and has also developed several quirky products lately such as the driverless car and Google Glass.
Samsung also sells tablet devices to compete with the best-selling iPad and the new iPad mini. Apple is widely recognized as the innovator in this product line. The first iPad was released in early 2010. Samsung sold its first device later that year. Apple controls about 65% of the market today.
Other innovations that Apple bought to market include the iPod and iTunes service, which dramatically altered how people listen to music.
Apple may develop another innovation. There have been unconfirmed and somewhat disputed reports that the company is working on some type of HDTV system, which could be a very disruptive force in the visual entertainment industry someday.
Although some analysts may not think so, based upon early returns, the Galaxy S4 will probably not be a big threat to the iPhone. The underwhelming release might actually spark investors to take another look at Apple stock and propel it to its former lofty heights. They might be looking at it through Google-colored Glass.