NEW YORK Samsung Electronics is kicking up its competition with Apple with its new Galaxy S 4 smartphone, which has a larger, sharper screen than its predecessor, the best-selling S III.
Samsung trumpeted the much-anticipated phones arrival Thursday at an event accompanied by a live orchestra while an audience of thousands watched the onstage theatrics. The Galaxy S 4, which crams a 5-inch screen into a body slightly smaller than the S IIIs, will go sale globally in the April to June period.
In the U.S., it will be sold by all four national carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA as well as by smaller ones US Cellular and Cricket.
Samsung didnt say what the phone will cost, but it can be expected to start at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S.
JK Shin, the executive in charge of Samsungs mobile communications division, promised the money would be well spent for a life companion that will improve the way most people live every day.
That bold promise set the tone for the kind of flashy presentation associated with the showmanship of Apple, the company that Samsung has been trying to upstage. Apple contends Samsung has been trying to do it by stealing its ideas an allegation has triggered bitter courtroom battles around the world.
In the last two years, Samsung has emerged as Apples main competitor in the high-end smartphone market. At the same time, it has sold enough inexpensive low-end phones to edge out Nokia Corp. as the worlds largest maker of phones.
The Galaxy line has been Samsungs chief weapon in the smartphone fight, and it has succeeded in making it a recognizable brand while competitors such as Taiwans HTC Corp. and Korean rival LG have stumbled. Samsung has sold 100 million Galaxy S phones since they came out in 2010. Thats well below the 268 million iPhones Apple has sold in the same period, but Samsungs sales rate is catching up.
Research firm Strategy Analytics said the Galaxy S III overtook Apples iPhone 4S as the worlds best-selling smartphone for the first time in the third quarter of last year, as Apple fans were holding off for the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 took back the crown in the fourth quarter.
One way Samsung and other makers of Android phone have been one-upping Apple is by increasing the screen size. Every successive generation of the Galaxy line has been bigger than the one before. The S III sported a screen that measures 4.8 inches on the diagonal, already substantially larger than the iPhone 5s 4-inch screen. The S 4s screen is 56 percent larger than the iPhones.
In a Wednesday interview, Apples Phil Schiller declined to discuss whether Apple is considering enlarging the screen on the next model of the iPhone, which is expected to be released later this year. He said Apple remains confident that the iPhone 5 is the most useful and elegant smartphone available, hailing it as the most beautiful consumer electronics device ever created.
Samsung believes the S 4 will set the new standard.
Apart from the larger screen and upgraded processor, the S 4 has a battery thats 20 percent larger than that of the S III. Samsung didnt say if that translates into a longer battery life the added capacity might be gobbled up by the bigger screen or other internal changes.
The S 4 comes with a built-in infra-red diode, so it can control an entertainment center as a universal remote. This is a feature that has showed up in Android tablets before.
The S 4 comes with several new technologies intended to help users interact with the phone. For instance, the screen now senses fingers hovering just above the screen, and some applications react.
The Mail application shows the first few lines of an email when a finger hovers above it in the list, and the Gallery application shows an expanded thumbnail.
Users can control some other applications by making gestures in the air above the phone. In the browser, you can command the screen to scroll up by swiping from top to bottom a few inches from the phone.
The Camera application can now use both the front and rear cameras simultaneously, inserting a small picture of the user even as hes capturing the scene in front of him.
When several S 4s are in close proximity, they can link up to play the same music, simultaneously perfect for headphone dance parties.