With Samsung scheduled to release the new Galaxy S IV powered by Google's Android OS tonight, many have speculated that this will be the moment when Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iPhones loses the top spot among smartphones, possibly forever. Of course, there is an equally large contingent of Apple supporters and tech insiders that believe the latest addition to the Galaxy line will be as underwhelming an advance as the iPhone 4S was for the iPhone 4. While some of the new tech that may be included in the device has potential, an underwhelming release could be a huge reinvigoration for the iPhone maker.
Ultimately it is Samsung's broad market approach that poses the greatest threat to its Cupertino brethren. Recent reports suggest that in addition to the release of a new flagship Android device, the Korean company is planning to release a 4G LTE smartphone in the Indian market with a roughly $100 price tag. By hitting every price point in the market, Samsung is making it hard for any other company to keep pace.
What to expect from the Galaxy S IV
The only devices that have more speculation surrounding their release are iPhones, and Samsung has learned from that, building hype through carefully crafted advertising. In 2012, Samsung spent more on advertising than Apple, spending $401 million in the U.S. as compared to the $333 million spent by Apple. Central to Samsung's campaign has been the tag line "The next big thing is here," which has helped the company poke fun at Apple. The response from Cupertino has been a series of ads that highlight how much sense iPhone makes. For example, Apple has asked us to see the common sense of a smaller screen because that is how far our thumbs can reach.
This ad divide provides a natural segue to some of the new features of the Galaxy S IV. Among other advances, the new device is expected to follow the trend of previous Galaxy updates, bringing users a larger screen. The new device is expected to include a nearly 5-inch screen to go with an OLED screen and potentially the ability to scroll through websites using a new eye-tracking technology. Additionally, the new smartphone will have an upgraded camera.
U.S. models will likely utilize a Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM ) processor; non-U.S. versions will likely get Samsung's own eight-core processor. The inclusion of the Qualcomm chip, if this is indeed the direction taken by the company, comes as a reaction to supply constraints already being faced by the company. Supply chain issues proved a major problem for Apple with the release of the iPhone 5 which, despite record sales, was believed to have been limited by availability problems.
The low end of the spectrum
According to a recent release from the Times of India, the native Reliance Industries has selected Samsung to help it spearhead the buildout of a 4G LTE network in that country. Associated with the initiative is the expected rollout of a $100 smartphone from Samsung to help secure the position of the new network. Android Authority explains the importance of the move for the smartphone maker: "Samsung devices are already incredibly popular in the country, and this step will only help the company capture an even larger piece of the market share in the third largest mobile consumer base in the world." The importance of emerging markets are not a new part of the discussion, but Samsung's success in leveraging Android to capture increasingly large market share in these markets is critical. While China has been the biggest focus, given the immense size of that market, India should not be overlooked.
The move by Samsung is particularly significant given the power of the connection it is potentially forging. The Times of India also reports: "Samsung will not be just another vendor to RIL supplying handsets as it was when Reliance Infocomm was launched in 2002. They are seeking a much broader role. A possible joint venture could also be in the offering." This low-end development could be as important to the company as the release of the new Android device in the U.S.
A real iPhone killer?
It is obviously difficult to make any informed claims about the S IV relative to the iPhone until the new device is unveiled. With this being said, expectations are high. If the new Samsung smartphone comes even close to meeting expectations, this may be the catalyst needed to push Apple below the $400-a-share level. While I would not necessarily sell Apple shares ahead of the release, I would be prepared for some real volatility on the news. If the new product does not measure up, it may be the positive catalyst Apple has been needing to get back on track. This release is as important for Apple as Samsung.
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