Galaxy of stars
SMARTPHONE allegiances are splitting in two. On one side is Apple, the world’s richest technology company and longtime smartphone leader.
On the other is Samsung, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker and fast-rising smartphone star.
Between them, the companies controlled 52 per cent of all smartphone sales at the end of last year, according to technology research company Gartner, meaning an increasing number of users are picking a side.
Into this two-sided, multimillion-dollar battle, Samsung fired a new attack late last week. It unveiled its flagship Galaxy S IV smartphone in New York, with the launch taking over Times Square, Radio City Music Hall and many of the city’s prominent billboards.
But rather than emphasize a new look or new phone hardware, the South Korean company switched its focus to software additions that will see the new Galaxy phone watch your gestures, track your eyeballs, and take photos with both cameras at once.
Analysts argue that consumers are likely to see more of this internal innovation as smartphone makers seek to make their own stamp on devices that boast few hardware failings.
Despite the company’s em- phasis on software, Samsung’s Galaxy S IV does feature significant hardware upgrades. Its Super AMOLED screen is now larger (5 inches) and sharper (full HD), its camera takes 13-megapixel photographs, and its Google Android software is powered by an eight-core processor – a smartphone first.
But when Samsung mobile communications head JK Shin revealed the new smartphone, he spoke of the company’s ‘‘ innovation’’ in creating new software for the phone’s camera, touch-free gestures for its screen, as well as language translation and health-tracking apps.
Ovum chief technology analyst Jan Dawson says despite Apple and Samsung going head-to-head, the leading smartphone makers now find themselves in similar positions. Both have to create and add new software to their phones to hook users on one system. Star power: Prince (above), Liam Hemsworth and Christina Aguilera at the launch.
‘‘ Having innovated rapidly over the last several years to vaunt itself into top spot in the world smartphone rankings, Samsung now faces essentially the same challenge as Apple: how to continue to improve its devices year on year when existing phones are already top of their class and there aren’t obvious shortcomings,’’ Dawson says.
Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says the new emphasis on what’s inside the phone, rather than its exterior, could also serve to differentiate Samsung from its Google Android rivals.
Though Samsung has emerged as a clear leader in Android phones, both HTC and Sony are planning to release attractive, high-end smartphones in the coming months, providing greater competition.
Despite the increased focus on what’s inside the phone, Fadaghi says Samsung has won itself a long lead over rival Apple in revealing the Galaxy S IV now, and they may not even have to recruit new users to succeed.
‘‘ Because Samsung has got such a large existing base of Galaxy S II and S III customers, they can effectively market to them for repeat purchases, much like Apple has done for
iPhone customers,’’ he said. Jennifer DudleyNicholson travelled to NewYork as a guest of Samsung Australia. In this camera mode, users can photograph the scene before them and their face as they capture the photo. Different frames can be added to the smaller image.
Phones paired with NFC (by tapping them together) can share photos, songs and games using this feature.
Watch a video when this mode is turned on, and the video will automatically pause if your eyes leave the screen. The video begins to play again when they return.
This new health-tracking app can count your steps taken with the phone and can scan barcodes to track calories. It can also collect information from a forthcoming fitness wristband, the S Band.