Samsung Electronics unveiled a new top-of-the-range Galaxy smartphone in London on Thursday, updating the most direct rival to Apple’s iPhone with a larger touch screen and more powerful processor.
The South Korean technology group, which overtook Finnish company Nokia as the world’s biggest cellphone maker earlier this year, said the new Galaxy SIII model would go on sale in some markets late this month and around the world from June.
Samsung sold around 45 million smartphones in the first quarter and they contributed most of its operating profit.
The new Galaxy SIII model will have a 4.8 inch touch screen, 8 megapixel camera and will use the latest version of Google’s Android software.
Analysts said the expected massive marketing campaign and features of the handset — billed as the official smartphone of the London 2012 Olympics — were likely enough to generate strong sales, but the launch left many of them unexcited.
“It is not an eye-catching device that will overwhelm consumers,” IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.
Hong Won-pyo, head of product strategy at Samsung’s mobile business, said it expected sales of the Galaxy SIII to outstrip the SII’s more than 20 million units.
“Definitely, we expect so. The level of interest from our partners has been bigger,” Hong said. He said the marketing budget would also increase, even if brand awareness was already quite high.
“We need to spend more on marketing to address consumer interest and to meet requirements of our partners,” he said.
Analysts said the new device represented a formidable challenge to rivals, given a combination of the Galaxy brand, sales support from operators and heavy marketing.
“Samsung must make the most of a four to five month window of opportunity with the Galaxy SIII before Apple changes the game once more with its next-generation iPhone,” CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber said.
The new Galaxy will be powered by Samsung’s quad-core microprocessor, which the company hopes will also be used in handsets made by HTC (宏達電) and Motorola, as well as Apple, its biggest customer for components.
The Exynos 4 Quad, based on British chip designer ARM Holdings’ Cortex A9 technology, enables more tasks in a shorter period of time — for example streaming video can run on one core while the other cores update applications, connect to the Web and scan for viruses, simultaneously.
Apple and Samsung’s near duopoly in high-end smartphones was not expected to come under threat this year or next.
“Samsung is now the only company that can compete with Apple and challenge it in the smartphone segment,” Jeronimo said.
Samsung shares hit a lifetime high after its first-quarter results, pushing its market value to US$190 billion, 11 times that of Japanese rival Sony, though still only a third of Apple, the world’s most valuable company.
In stark contrast, shares in Nokia, which bet on a tie-up with Microsoft to revive its fortunes in the lucrative smartphone market, are at a 15-year low.