Samsung's Galaxy S3 Sets A Marker For iPhones

In the world of smartphones, Apple and Samsung have been going head to head. And the competition could get rougher. Samsung has launched the Galaxy S3 in the U.S., and it could be a serious threat to the iPhone. Linda Wertheimer talks to Bloomberg technology columnist Rich Jaroslovsky about the latest in the smartphone battle between Samsung and Apple.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

In the world of smartphones, two giants, Apple and Samsung, have been going head to head. And the competition could get rougher. Samsung just launched a new smartphone in the U.S., and it could be a serious threat to the iPhone.

To find out more, we called Rich Jaroslovsky. He is gadget reviewer and technology columnist for Bloomberg News.

Rich, good to talk to you again.

RICH JAROSLOVSKY: Great to be here.

WERTHEIMER: Now I understand that you have been test driving this new gadget, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Is this another iPhone wannabe or is it something that might be better?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, it's an iPhone wannabe that also set a marker for the next iPhone. Samsung is launching it simultaneously on all the U.S. carriers, and it's substantially larger than the iPhone, but it's also thinner and lighter than the current iPhone. So it really, the form factor of it is really quite striking.

WERTHEIMER: So can it do any good tricks, anything that iPhone doesn't do?

JAROSLOVSKY: There are a couple of things. The big thing that I found when I was using it is that the Verizon and AT&T versions of this phone run on networks that are called LTE. Now, these are the fastest data networks in the U.S. and it means that web pages download very quickly. If you're doing anything involving the Internet, it's much swifter than the current iPhone 4S.

Now, the expectation is that the next iPhone, which will probably be out in the fall, will be able to do LTE as well. But for right now, the Samsung S3 has it really beat in the speed category.

WERTHEIMER: So faster, lighter, larger. What about features?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, that's where you start to get into the explanation for why the iPhone is so powerful because although there are a lot of features and Samsung's packed a lot of technology into this device, as they often do, some of them don't work as well, some of them are kind of geeky.

WERTHEIMER: Define geeky feature. Examples...

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, they have something that they're introducing called TecTiles, which cost a little extra. They are stickers and embedded in the sticker is a chip called an NFC chip, which is also in the phone. And what you can do is to program the stickers, so that if you swipe the phone past one of them, the phone will do something. For example, you could program a tile and put it up on your door if you have a latch key child who comes home when no one else is home. The child could swipe his or her phone next to the tile and the tile would immediately - the phone, rather - would immediately send a text to mom that says, hi mom, I'm home.

(LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIMER: I don't know that I'd like that or not.

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, it's, there's a certain category of user and unfortunately, I suspect I'm probably one of them, who finds that utterly fascinating. But I do wonder if normal human beings would be willing to devote the patience to getting it - program to do just what you want it to do.

WERTHEIMER: What about the price? How does the Samsung Galaxy S3 compare to the iPhone on price?

It is very comparable to the iPhone 4S. There are more variations on the iPhone in terms of how much you can store on it. But the comparable devices are dollar for dollar pretty much equivalent.

Now, Apple obviously gets a lot of attention and it has very sort of high-powered publicity tactics. But if you look at the numbers, doesn't Samsung actually sell more smartphones around the world than Apple does?

JAROSLOVSKY: If you look, I think, in the first quarter numbers, Samsung had about a 29 percent global market share, Apple about 24 percent. Now, in the U.S., which is the most important smartphone market, those numbers are reversed. But the fact is that between the two of them, Apple and Samsung pretty much control about all the profits there are to be had in the mobile phone business.

WERTHEIMER: And Samsung can always lean back on the fact that it has dumb phones that are making a lot of money for the company.

JAROSLOVSKY: Exactly. If you expand the universe beyond smartphones to look at all wireless phones, Samsung has a big lead worldwide. But the growth and the money are all in that smartphone segment and that's where all the manufacturers are trying to pile in right now.

WERTHEIMER: Rich Jaroslovsky is technology columnist for Bloomberg News. Thank you very much.

JAROSLOVSKY: Thank you.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's stay on Samsung for a moment. Before it sold smartphones and other electronics, it started as a company which sold dry fish and fruit. That was more than 70 years ago.

WERTHEIMER: Now Samsung sells everything from life insurance to chemicals, along with those phones. It's one of South Korea's biggest companies.

MONTAGNE: And it's still run by the same family, the Lees. The thing is some members of the Lee family don't get along.

WERTHEIMER: And that brings us to today's last word in business: family feud.

When the founder of Samsung passed away in the late 1980s, his assets were divided among his three children. Now, the youngest son, 70-year-old Chairman Lee Kun-hee of Samsung Electronics, is being sued by his older brother and sister.

MONTAGNE: They argue that they did not receive their fair share of inheritance, that the youngest Lee concealed assets. They want their little brother to hand over an $800 million stake in the group.

WERTHEIMER: According to Businessweek, the younger Lee has said he has no intention to give even a dime to his brother, who he calls disloyal to their father. He also called the sister a whiner.

And that is the business news on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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