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Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled the Galaxy S4 with a bigger screen and software that tracks eye movements as the world’s biggest smartphone seller takes its battle with Apple Inc. to the iPhone maker’s home market.
The new Galaxy has a 5-inch screen, 13-megapixel camera and motion-detection technology that lets users control features with face movements, Samsung said. The smartphone, announced yesterday at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, will begin U.S. sales on April 26 with carriers including AT&T Inc (T)., Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA Inc.
Samsung wants to use the S4 — one of at least three high- end smartphones to be released this year — to reclaim the best- selling smartphone spot after the last Galaxy was overtaken by the iPhone 5 in the fourth quarter. The new handset is faster, slimmer and lighter than its predecessor and boasts features such as wrist motion for scrolling through e-mails.
“The story today is more about Samsung as a company and where they want to go,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner Inc. who attended the unveiling. “They’re aiming at world domination through their ecosystem, and there was no doubt about that left.”
Samsung declined 2.3 percent to 1,485,000 won at 11:18 a.m. in Seoul trading.
Samsung’s other phones this year will include a new model of its Galaxy Note and a device using the Intel Corp.-backed Tizen operating system as the South Korean company tries to win customers in a slowing global market.
The S4 also features a dual-facing camera that combines images of the subject and the picture-taker into one frame.
“The S4 will be the key to the success of the Samsung smartphone business this year,” said Warren Lau, an analyst at Kim Eng Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. “We think S4 and Note 3 will continue to be well received by consumers globally, given the innovations.”
Lau predicts that Samsung’s smartphone unit will boost sales by 40 percent this year, outpacing industry growth of between 25 percent and 30 percent. Samsung didn’t release prices for the phone.
“Samsung Galaxy S4 has taken a quantum leap from Galaxy S3,” J.K. Shin, the head of Samsung’s mobile unit, said in an e-mail interview before overseeing the device’s debut in a Broadway-inspired show featuring skits, tunes and tap-dancing.
In the U.S., the S4 will run on the latest version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system and be powered by Qualcomm Inc (QCOM).’s quad-core chip so it can handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
The phone will use Samsung’s new Exynos 5 Octa processor in other countries, including where fourth-generation, long-term evolution technology is more widely deployed.
The S4 compares with a 4-inch screen for Apple’s iPhone 5, which also boasts a dual-core chip and an 8-megapixel camera.
“The Galaxy S4 may not offer the dramatic leaps we’ve come to expect from each new generation of Samsung smartphone,” said Mike Gikas of Consumer Reports. “It does, however, cram a remarkable number of tech-forward features into a relatively svelte package. I anticipate it will do very well in our tests once we get it into our labs.”
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, said Park Hyun, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities in Seoul, who doesn’t expect a new iPhone until mid-year at the earliest. Since the iPhone’s debut in 2007, the Cupertino, California-based company has held one big phone unveiling a year, with the new product hitting the market in summer or fall.
Tong Yang Securities expects Samsung to sell at least 60 million Galaxy S4 devices this year, bringing its total smartphone shipments to about 303 million.
Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung became the largest smartphone maker last year, overtaking Apple. Samsung had 29 percent of global smartphone unit shipments in the fourth quarter, compared with 21 percent for Apple, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The new S4 will be sold 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.
Besides contending with the iPhone, Samsung has to fend off Chinese rivals offering handsets for $100 to boost growth in emerging markets. The current Galaxy S3 sells for about $200 in the U.S. with a two-year contract through AT&T’s website.
The S4 will also debut in Hong Kong and South Korea on April 26 before reaching 155 countries through 327 mobile carriers, including Deutsche Telekom AG and Vodafone Group Plc.
Competition from Apple and new devices from BlackBerry and Nokia Oyj is pressuring Samsung to add new software features to maintain its market lead. These include a function to detect facial movements and let users control the screen by looking in a certain direction.
“When watching a video and suddenly someone calls you and get distracted, the video automatically stops without pressing a thing,” Lee Young Hee, executive vice president at Samsung’s mobile business, said in an interview in Seoul ahead of the Galaxy S4 unpacking event.
Another feature detects wrist movement, letting users scroll the browser or sift through e-mails without touching the screen. The phone also will capture sounds and voices at the moment a picture is taken.
The “Air Gesture” feature allows a user to accept a call, change a song or scroll a Web page with a wave of the hand.
“We expect Samsung to expand its lead over Apple this year,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics in London. “Samsung has a bigger smartphone portfolio and deeper distribution than Apple at the moment.”
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