Apple-Samsung Duel Intensifies

Zacks Investment Research

In order to maintain its market lead and provide significant competition to Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, Samsung Electronics recently launched the third version of its popular Galaxy S smartphone.

Galaxy S3, which runs on Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, will be available in 28 European countries including Germany, France and Britain from May 29, 2012 onward. Samsung recently said that its S3 will be available through 296 carriers in 145 countries by the end of July.

Reportedly, since its launch, Galaxy S3 has created a new pre-order record, beating iPhone 4S’s 4 million pieces late last year. Currently, the Galaxy S3 is available for pre-order in the U.S. as well as via Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) at a price tag of $800. Apple’s iPhone 4S (16 GB) costs around $649 and with a two year contract it has a price tag of $199.0.

According to Reuters, the 16 GB Galaxy S3 is priced around £189 under a 12-month contract with Vodafone Plc (NYSE:VOD) in Europe. This compares favourably with iPhone 4S, which costs £159, but comes with a more expensive monthly data plan.

Galaxy S3 has a host of new features, and is much faster and lighter than the current iPhone. The new device has a 4.8-inch screen based on AMOLED technology, much bigger than iPhone 4S’s 3.5 inch Retina display. The smartphone runs on 1.4GHz Exynos quad-core processor, comparing favorably with the 1GHz processor found in the iPhone.

Samsung is offering new Stay Smart software with S3, which not only makes the 1.9 megapixel camera (iPhone 4S has 0.3 megapixel) more effective but also tracks users’ eye movements to keep the screen from dimming or turning off.

The voice command known as S-Voice is similar to SIRI, which was introduced by Apple in its iPhone 4S. Samsung also launched its new music service on the Galaxy S3, in order to increase competition for

Apple’s iTunes online store which offers more than 20 million songs. Currently, the cloud-based Music Hub offers more than 19 million songs for purchase. We believe that these new features will be the major attractions of Galaxy S3 going forward.

However, we believe that Galaxy S3 will face stiff competition from the upcoming release of HTC One X and the new iPhone late this year. We believe that Apple’s innovative prowess will make the upcoming iPhone the primary competitor to Galaxy S3 going forward. We also expect ongoing legal disputes between Apple and Samsung to intensify as the competition for dominating the smartphone market heats up.

Apple recently lost its #1 position in the smartphone market to Samsung. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Samsung sold 44.5 million smartphones (30.6% market share) in the first quarter compared with Apple’s 35.1 million iPhone sales (24.1% market share).

Samsung’s strong market share growth was primarily driven by the dominating position of Android as compared to iOS. According to Gartner, Android was the #1 platform with 47.0% market share, whereas iOS had 23.0% market share and was placed at #2.

Although, Apple had been fighting its long time ally Samsung and Taiwanese handset maker HTC over the last couple of years to protect its iPhone and iPad products from infringements. Therefore, we believe that the primary target remains Google and its Android operating system.

Android has garnered significant market share over the last couple of years and according to research firm IDC, its market share will be 43.8% by 2015, compared to Apple’s 16.9%.

We expect Apple to continue to face significant competition from handset makers such as Samsung and HTC on the hardware side and Google’s Android on the software side going forward. However, Apple’s innovative product portfolio, loyal customer base, huge cash balance and international expansion opportunities keeps us positive on the stock.

We have an Outperform rating on Apple over the long term. Currently, Apple has a Zacks #2 Rank, which implies a Buy rating over the next 1-3 months.

 
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