With an aura of expectation usually reserved only for shiny new Apple products, Samsung is set to announce its latest smartphone Thursday in the opening salvo of a new war between the Korean electronics giant and the iconic iPhone manufacturer.
A series of titillating leaks have stoked excitement that the new phone, to be called the Galaxy S4, will mark the first time since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 that another phone could emerge as the market leader.
While gadget freaks are poring over every new rumour, Michael Gartenberg, research director of Gartner, is a little more skeptical.
"The iPhone 5 is considered to be the gold standard for smartphones, so the bar is very high for Samsung at this point," he told dpa.
If the rumours on numerous gadget websites turn out to be true, Apple will have a fight on its hands. The Galaxy S4 is expected to boast a bigger screen, stretching 5 inches (12.7 centimetres), than the iPhone 5's 4-inch display.
Samsung has indicated that it will the eschew the sleek aluminium case favoured by Apple in favour of a plastic case that it says is cheaper and easier to manufacture. The design is expected to feature squarer edges than both its predecessor, the bestselling Galaxy S3, and the iPhone line.
Other leaked images have shown the S4's screen to stretch from bezel to bezel, with no physical home button. The phone is widely expected to be powered by an eight-core processor - and will be "ridiculously fast," according to Business Insider.
An even bigger attraction could be eye-tracking software that can detect when a user has finished reading to the bottom of the screen and automatically scroll down, according to The New York Times. Called Eye Scroll, the new feature will be paired with something called Eye Pause, which will automatically pause videos if it detects you are no longer looking at them.
Put those features together with rumours about wireless charging, a 13MP camera and the continuous improvement of the Google Android operating system, and it's clear that Samsung has its best chance yet to take the smartphone crown from Apple.
Samsung appears convinced that its Galaxy can overtake the iPhone 5 as the world's top-selling smartphone, backing the launch with a rumoured 5-billion-dollar marketing campaign, and according to Jefferies analyst Peter Misek is tooling up for the manufacture and sale of 100 million units.
Samsung is already the world's largest smartphone seller, shipping 64 million devices last year for a 29-per-cent market share for its broader product line, compared to the 22-per-cent share represented by Apple's 48 million devices shipped.
The iPhone 5, however, recaptured the title of world's best-selling smartphone in the last months of 2012 with sales of 27.4 million units, according to Strategy Analytics. Sales of the Galaxy S3 lagged at 15.4 million, as would-be-buyers waited for the new device and even the older iPhone 4s sold 17.4 million devices, the company said.
That superiority is likely to be fleeting if Apple does not match the new Galaxy's capabilities.
Misek says that Apple has begun scaling back component orders for its iPhone 5 as sales of its top model are decelerating faster than expected. While Apple still leads Samsung in US smartphone sales, it lags badly in India and China, the world's biggest growth markets, where low-price competitors like Huawei represented a further challenge.
Apple's stock is already down to 425 dollars per share from an October high of 700 dollars, amid a lack of market-leading new products, as it faces ever fiercer smartphone and tablet competition.
The Galaxy S4 may not topple the iPhone 5, but it will certainly make clear that Apple's hegemony in high-end smartphones is over.
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