Millions of preorders usher in the S4

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Millions of preorders usher in the S4

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A Samsung Electronics employee walks past the company’s Galaxy S4 smartphone logo at a launch event yesterday at its Seocho headquarters, southern Seoul. [BLOOMBERG]

Samsung Electronics’ next flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone has seen an estimated 10 million-plus preorders worldwide, a million more than its predecessor S3, which debuted last May.

Lee Don-joo, president of sales and marketing of the mobile communications division at Samsung, said at the Mobile Unpacked event yesterday for the members of the media at the Seocho headquarters in southern Seoul, “There have been many more preorders [for S4] than expected.” He refused to provide specifics, but added the new phone “is expected to hugely surpass the success of the S3, given the buoyant response from across the globe.”

A spokesman with the top smartphone producer also said, “S4 preorder volume stands at an amazing level.”

Analysts, including Noh Geun-chang, a senior analyst with HMC Investment, say the next-generation phone, expected to become the world’s best seller, is estimated to have more than 10 million preorders already. Noh said the S4 is expected to sell a combined 15 million units by the end of next month - six million this month and nine million in May. By comparison, Apple’s iPhone 5, the S4’s strongest competitor, sold over five million in just three days after its launch last September.

In the second quarter, the sales volume of the S4 is expected to exceed 25 million, and 100 million within a year of its release, according to Noh.

Samsung insiders are known to have set a target of 100 million, according to sources familiar with the situation, a milestone that Apple has yet to reach. The S4’s predecessor posted global sales of 30 million in the five months after its launch, and sales volume surpassed 50 million in 11 months.

“Samsung came up with Galaxy S4 with this goal of driving Apple phones off the planet,” the analyst said. “Given that the S4 is a high-end gadget, Samsung doesn’t seem to expect demand from entry smartphone buyers. Major demand would come from those who are replacing their phones - mainly migrating from Galaxy S2 and iPhone 4S. I would say iPhone users are Samsung’s biggest target.”

The Android phone, unveiled March 14 in New York, is set to hit shelves for the first time in the world today in Korea through all three carriers offering long-term evolution connectivity. It will then be available in 10 other countries tomorrow. Eventually, the S4 will be sold in 155 countries, with 327 mobile carriers. Preorders began last Friday in Seoul.

Lee, who was persistently shy about offering any tangible figures or straightforward answers throughout the press conference, this time replaced J.K. Shin, Samsung’s president of IT & Mobile Communications division, as main presenter of the media event because Shin was in New York to attend an opening event for Samsung Experience Shop inside the Best Buy store at Union Square. Shin has been the iconic speaker at major mobile gadget events of the tech king, including previous Mobile Unpacked events - held in New York for S4 and in London for S3.

Lee emphasized several times during the presentation that the new mobile device with a 5-inch Full-HD Super Amoled (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) screen is a “life companion,” aimed at enriching people’s lives, signaling a departure from Samsung’s past practice of emphasizing its hardware prowess.

As main features, he showcased various impressive camera functions. Dual Camera enables the user to take photos with both the rear- and front-facing cameras (13 megapixels and 2 megapixels), thus placing the picture taker and the object in a single frame. Drama Shot captures a sequence of photos in one frame to create a collage, while Sound & Shot makes it possible for the user to record up to nine seconds of sound while shooting.

S Health is a collection of embedded applications that measures the distance the user has walked, and tracks weight changes and sleeping patterns with the help of S Band, an accessory sold separately. The phone also has a temperature and humidity sensor.

On Wednesday, a day before the Mobile Unpacked event in Seoul, a slew of articles and reviews on Galaxy S4 poured out from overseas media, including Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

On the same day, Apple announced revenues for the second quarter could decline from a year earlier, and CEO Tim Cook said the company won’t release any new products until fall. Observers speculated that the heated attention given to Samsung was partially propelled by Apple fans’ disappointment and the public’s natural disposition to seek the “next big thing.” Samsung may have become one, said an industry insider.

Samsung admits Apple’s decline - whether temporary or permanent - is contributing to its boosted status. “I wouldn’t deny Samsung is enjoying the reflective benefit from consumers’ souring appetite for Apple,” said a spokesman with Samsung.

The S4 will cost 899,000 won ($808), down from 994,000 won for the S3. The phone running on the currently most advanced octa-core application processor - about twice the capacity of the widely adopted quad-core counterpart - is slimmer and lighter than its preceding model.

Pantech, the country’s third-largest smartphone producer, also announced yesterday its Vega Iron will be available today through the three mobile carriers at 829,000 won.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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