Samsung set to unveil iPhone challenger

Story highlights

  • Third version of Samsung's Galaxy S will be unveiled in London on Thursday
  • Could help solidify Samsung's hold in the global smartphone market

If Apple were to challenge its smartphone competitors to a contest with its all-conquering iPhone 4S, Samsung's Galaxy S would probably be the model thrown into the arena to compete.

A new, third version of the Galaxy S will be unveiled in Earls Court, London, on Thursday amid speculation that it could be the official phone for the 2012 Olympics, which Samsung is sponsoring.

It will be a flagship phone but one added to the many models offered by Samsung that now make it hard to catch in the smartphone race, according to some analysts. Juniper Research reported on Tuesday that Samsung overtook Apple again in smartphone sales in the first quarter "in what is increasingly becoming a two-horse race".

It estimated that the two companies provided 60 per cent of the 139m smartphones shipped worldwide, up from 46 per cent in the previous quarter. Samsung "may now have established a firm lead" with 47m units to Apple's 35m, Juniper said; although analysts have widely different estimates of Samsung sales, which are not specified by the company.

Samsung overtakes Apple, Nokia in phone sales

Apple still leads in handset revenues though, according to Juniper, with sales of $22.7bn in the first quarter compared with about $17bn for Samsung, including the Korean company's non-smartphones, or feature phones.

Samsung has produced a wide variety of smartphones running Android, Windows Phone and its own Bada operating systems. Screen sizes have varied wildly, ranging as big as the 5.3in Galaxy Note, a smartphone/tablet hybrid equipped with a stylus. In contrast, Apple has stuck to a 3.5in screen size since the iPhone's debut and sales are focused on the latest 4S model, although the 4 and 3GS versions continue to be available.

While Samsung has enjoyed success with the Note and built Google its own flagship smartphone in the Galaxy Nexus, it is the Galaxy S that has won the most praise from critics and proved the most popular with customers.

After the Galaxy S II was introduced last year, TechRadar blog gave it five stars and said it set a new bar for smartphones in 2011, while Engadget gave it 9 out of 10 and called it "the best Android smartphone yet" and "possibly the best smartphone, period".

Samsung sold 10m units in the first five months and, after it was introduced in the US in autumn, sales had reached 20m by February this year.

"The S II has been a phenomenon," says Ben Wood, mobile analyst with CCS Insight. "Its volumes have been eye watering and it really has been the making of Samsung, while other competitors have fallen away."

The blogosphere has been rampant with rumours of what the Galaxy S III will feature. It is expected to have Samsung's own Exynos quad-core processor, improved video performance, a screen size as large as 4.8in, possibly a 12 megapixel camera, an NFC chip for payments and data exchanges, while it will run the latest version of the Android operating system, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich.

"We're expecting a super-thin device with a stunning display and a top-of-the-line processor," said Mr Wood.

Mr Wood predicted it would quickly become the number-one selling Android smartphone but added that the true test of the device would come later this year when Apple launches its next iteration of the iPhone.