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Galaxy S IV launch sets stage for cutthroat 2013 smartphone battle

Mikael Ricknäs | March 14, 2013
Marketing strength gives Samsung an edge even if its new smartphone is no better than the competition.

The launch of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S IV will set the stage for this year's battle for smartphone market share. Competitors such as HTC and Sony will face an uphill battle, even if they release great products, according to analysts.

With the launch of products like the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z, Samsung's Android competitors have done their best to develop products that can take on the upcoming Galaxy S IV, which will be announced Friday evening local time at an event in New York.

"Those products are all well-equipped in terms of technology to compete with the Galaxy S IV," said Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

However, just like last year, the challenge will be to break through what is expected to be an unprecedented marketing campaign from Samsung.

Sony is in a better place because it has started shipping the Xperia Z, which was announced in January at CES.

"Sony has improved its position over the past 12 months. The company has a clear strategy in that it wants to move content across screens, and owns assets it can leverage," said Pete Cunningham, principal analyst at Canalys.

HTC is working on getting the One out the door. On Tuesday, the company said it wouldn't start shipping in large volumes until April, which is not good news. However, the company has taken to heart that it needs to become more aggressive in marketing its products and hired a new chief marketing officer at the end of last year. The question is whether HTC has the financial resources to back up that effort.

Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE are also putting out more competitive products. A dark horse going forward is Lenovo, which has become the world's fifth-largest smartphone vendor thanks to sales in its home market, according to Canalys.

"Lenovo is going to be hugely disruptive in this space," Cunningham said. "Unlike Huawei and ZTE, it has a brand that resonates in other parts of the world than China."

But whatever tactics competing vendors choose, they will find themselves in a difficult position.

"Samsung is a beast at the moment. It is an incredible machine that is basically steamrolling everything in its way," Cunningham said.

Products from other members of the Android camp aren't the only ones the Galaxy S IV will have to contend with.

BlackBerry's Z10 and Nokia's Lumia 920 are among those also competing for consumer spending. The Finnish vendor is rumored to be working on an improved version of its flagship model called Lumia 928 for Verizon Wireless. It will have Xenon flash, an aluminium shell and be lighter and thinner than the standard Lumia 920.


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