Samsung's Galaxy S III in action. (Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg )
Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled its latest handheld weapon in its war against Apple Inc. The smartphone, called the Galaxy S III, is designed to better understand the whims of its owner, and manages to stay lighter and thinner than the iPhone, despite having a screen nearly twice as large.
The SIII will go on sale in Europe at the end of this month, and in the U.S. and other countries sometime this summer. The company did not offer pricing information or disclose which U.S. carriers would offer the phone, which will run on faster 4G wireless networks.
Samsung is hoping the new phone will help it leapfrog Apple to become the bestselling smartphone maker in the U.S. During the first quarter of this year, Apple accounted for 29% of U.S. smartphones sold, while Samsung was close behind at 24%, according to figures released this week by the NPD Group, a market research firm. Some analysts believe that Samsung sold more devices than Apple worldwide in the quarter.
Smartphone observers have attributed Samsung's success to the growing market for prepaid phones, in which consumers can buy lower-cost handsets without a contract, paying in advance for a limited period of service. Samsung accounted for 4 in 10 prepaid smartphones sold in the U.S. during the first quarter.
For its new phone, Samsung took a page from Apple's voice-controlled phone helper, Siri. It says the SIII "has the enhanced intelligence to make everyday life easier," including a front-facing camera that will signal the phone to keep its screen bright if it detects that the user is reading or browsing the Internet.
The "S-Voice" feature, like Siri, enables users to dictate emails and text messages and to issue voice commands to play songs and tell the alarm to "snooze."
The features will be powered by a souped-up internal computer with four internal processors, called a quad core; most other smartphones, including the iPhone, have only two cores. The phone will have an 8-megapixel camera and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera and will run the latest version of Google's Android mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich.
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