Can Samsung stay on top?

Through the early part of 2013, Samsung has sold over 40 million S3 handsets. An astounding number. But during Q4, the S3 lost its lead to the iPhone 5 (and iPhone 4S) as the world's bestselling smartphone.

What do you mean we look like iPhones? Samsung Galaxy Nexus on left, Galaxy S3 on right.
What do you mean we look like iPhones? Samsung Galaxy Nexus on left, Galaxy S3 on right.
What do you mean we look like iPhones? Samsung Galaxy Nexus on left, Galaxy S3 on right.

The Galaxy S4 lands today in New York City. No doubt, the specs will impress. Tech blogs across the land will light up with hands-ons, first impressions, and in-depth comparisons (I think it’ll trounce the iPhone 5). The real story-line, unquestionably propelled by the S4 launch, is:

Can Samsung stay on top?

Just a few years it was unfathomable to think that the South Korean company would come to dominate the smartphone market. Yes, Samsung is a heavy hitter in the consumer electronics space. But mobile was the domain of Apple, Motorola, and Nokia. Samsung?! You can’t be serious.

Yet here we are in 2013, and Samsung is king of the handset; selling more than Apple, more than HTC, more than Motorola, more than Nokia, more than BlackBerry.

Though the S2 was more than respectable, its successor, launched last summer, that really caught the eye of mainstream buyers. The Galaxy S3 was the first Android phone to actually give would-be iPhone buyers pause. Samsung had nailed the attributes: a large 4.8-inch display (which made the iPhone feel positively cramped by comparison), svelte design, and a fast processor by Qualcomm. Eventually it would be available across all the majors, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. It would be featured prominently at Costco kiosks. And let’s not forget that the Android operating system was just coming into its own at the time. With Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0.4), Google has polished its techy platform into something quite beautiful, and, though it wasn’t as easy to use as iOS on the iPhone, for the first time an Android device could go functionally toe-to-toe with almighty Apple. That lawsuits between the two companies would follow seemed like the natural order at that point.

Through the early part of 2013, Samsung has sold over 40 million S3 handsets. An astounding number.

But during Q4, the S3 lost its lead to the iPhone 5 (and iPhone 4S) as the world’s bestselling smartphone.

So a lot is riding on this announcement today. With the next iPhone likely not hitting store shelves until later this year, Samsung has a window of opportunity to take back the crown.

The subplot revolves around Nexus.

Will the S4 be good enough to replace my LG Nexus 4? Surely it’ll out-spec my 5 month old Android handset. But being unlocked has its advantages. I suppose it’s wishful thinking to hope that Samsung would offer some sort of unlocked version of the S4. I’d be all over it. Well, at least until the Google X Phone arrives.

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