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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Samsung unveils Galaxy S III smartphone to challenge iPhone

LOS ANGELES – Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled its latest handheld weapon in its war against Apple Inc. – a smartphone dubbed Galaxy S III that is lighter and thinner than the iPhone despite having a screen nearly twice as large.

The S III, with voice command, will go on sale in Europe at the end of this month and in the U.S. and other countries this summer. The company did not offer pricing information or disclose which U.S. carriers would offer the phone, which will run on 4G wireless networks.

Samsung is hoping the new phone will help it leapfrog Apple to become the best-selling smartphone maker in the U.S. During the first quarter of this year, Apple accounted for 29 percent of U.S. smartphones sold, while Samsung was close behind at 24 percent, according to figures released this week by NPD Group, a market research firm. Some analysts believe that Samsung sold more devices than Apple around the world from January to March.

Smartphone observers have attributed Samsung’s success to the growing prepaid-phone market, in which consumers can buy lower-cost handsets without a contract, paying for a limited period of service in advance. 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, saying the S III “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, allows users to dictate emails and text messages, issue voice commands to play songs, and even 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 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 Inc.’s Android mobile operating system, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.