The mounting competition puts pressure on Apple to step up its pace of product releases. Since the iPhone’s initial debut about six years ago, the company has held one big phone unveiling each year, with the new product hitting the market in summer or early fall.
“There’s been a drumbeat of rumors about Apple working on more than one version of the iPhone,” said Jan Dawson, chief telecommunications analyst at the New York office of London- based consulting firm Ovum. “The thinking is, if Apple does several devices it would help dampen the singular effect of having only one phone a year.”
Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Samsung, meanwhile, faces its own challenges. The company will be selling the S4 into a $358 billion global market that is approaching saturation. Growth is projected to slow to 9.8 percent in 2017 from 27 percent this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Industries.
In addition to contending with the iPhone, Suwon-based Samsung has to fend off Chinese rivals offering handsets for $100. The current Galaxy S3 sells for about $200 in the U.S. with a two-year contract.
The crowded market has prompted Samsung to add more gee- whiz features, rather than just improving basic specifications. With last year’s S3, for instance, it added a function that lets users exchange information by bumping their phones together.
This year, speculation has centered on eye-scroll technology, which would track eye movements to let users scroll through articles based on where they’re looking on the screen. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the Galaxy S4 will include such a feature, citing a Samsung employee.
People familiar with the device disputed that idea this week, saying that eye scrolling won’t be in the Galaxy S4, though it may appear in future versions of the phone. There will be more simplified uses of eye-tracking technology, such as the ability to pause videos when the user’s eyes move away from the screen, the people said.