Souped-up Samsung Galaxy promises more pressure on iPhone

Samsung Electronics Co. is making its biggest run yet at the iPhone’s U.S. loyalists, unveiling the new Galaxy S4 a few blocks from Apple Inc.’s flagship store in New York and broadcasting the event live in Times Square.

The debut of Samsung’s marquee smartphone at Radio City Music Hall tomorrow night lets Samsung bring the fight directly to Apple’s strongest market. The South Korean company is relying on an advertising blitz and cutting-edge features, potentially including a snazzier camera and eye-tracking capabilities, to generate the kind of buzz associated with Apple’s products.

Samsung’s challenge is proving it can innovate as effectively as its U.S. competitor. While Apple’s iPhone pioneered the market for touch-screen phones in 2007, Samsung became the smartphone leader worldwide more than a year ago, according to IDC. Apple still remains No. 1 in the U.S.

“The upcoming event in New York has big implications because it’s Apple’s home ground,” said Chung Chang Won, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Seoul. “This is the first time Samsung has launched its Galaxy S phone in the U.S.”

The phone will sport a 5-inch screen, slightly larger than the one on last year’s S3, according to two people familiar with the product. The U.S. version will use Qualcomm Inc.’s quad-core chip, giving the phone more processing power to handle multiple tasks at the same time, they said. In other markets, it will rely on Samsung’s “octacore” eight-core chip, the people said.

Sharper Camera

Galaxy S4, which runs Google Inc.’s Android software, also will have a higher-density, 13-megapixel camera, up from 8 megapixels in the S3, according to the people. The upgrade would put the new Samsung phone well ahead of Apple’s iPhone 5. That device has a dual-core processor, a 4-inch screen and an 8- megapixel camera.

The timing of the S4’s arrival could spell trouble for Apple, which probably won’t have a new phone out until mid-year at the earliest, said Park Hyun, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities in Seoul. Apple’s sales growth last quarter was the slowest in more than two years, a sign the iPhone is losing its edge over other smartphones.

“Its popularity has clearly cooled off,” Park said. The next Apple phone, expected to be called the iPhone 5S, will be out in the late second quarter or early third quarter, he said.

Apple suffered from mapping-software glitches and supply constraints with last year’s release of the iPhone 5. Jefferies & Co. cut its price target for Apple this week, citing concerns the next phone will be delayed because of problems with the device’s casing colors.

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