Samsung has fired a pre-emptive strike ahead of the launch of the new iPhone with the release of the Galaxy S III - its long-awaited flagship Android smartphone that features a 4.8-inch screen and advanced new software features like face recognition and eye tracking.
The launch of the phone - which analysts say heralds the next "revolution" in smartphone technology - comes as a report today claims a new taller, skinnier iPhone will launch later this year that will include a 4-inch screen, metal back and remade dock connector.
Making the smartphone more intelligent for everyday users looks to be the key theme in the Galaxy S III. While the specs, which include a 4.8" 720p screen, a quad-core processor, NFC and the latest 'Ice Cream Sandwich' version of the Android operating system, are impressive, Samsung has taken a leaf from the Apple playbook by emphasising ways that the Galaxy S III improves on the smartphone user experience.
These include a 'smart stay' feature that tracks eye movement and keeps the screen on while you're looking at it, a 'direct call' function that automatically dials the number on the screen when you lift the phone to your ear, and a 'buddy photo share' feature that employs facial recognition on photos to automatically tag people based on the profile pictures in your contacts.
The new phone was unveiled at the Samsung Mobile Unpacked 2012 international launch event in London.
Rodney Gedda, senior analyst at Telsyte, says that Samsung has lived up to expectations with the Galaxy S III.
"The higher specs and new hardware and software features make it a compelling addition to Samsung's smartphone range," he said.
"The device introduces the next 'revolution' in smartphone technology, which will be around how we humans interact with devices. The next wave of competition will lie more in software, not hardware. Samsung knows this, and is beginning to develop applications that make the smartphone easier to use and more natural."
The Galaxy S III announcement comes at an opportune time for Samsung. Earlier this week, the company announced record profits for the first quarter of the year on the back of its stellar smartphones sales.
The latest figures from Strategy Analytics over the same time period also revealed Samsung beat Nokia to claim the position as the world's leading mobile phone manufacturer, with Samsung claiming 25.4 per cent of the global market share, Nokia at nearly 23 per cent, and Apple at 9.5 per cent.
In the smartphone market, however, Apple is nipping at Samsung's heels. While Samsung commands the lead with a 30.6 per cent global market share, Apple isn't far behind at 24.1 per cent, and Nokia brings up the rear at 8.2 per cent.
In Australia, Apple took the lead for the entire year of 2011 according to IDC, with 41 per cent of the smartphone market share, and Samsung was a distant second at 16 per cent. Telsyte predicts Apple's market share will grow to 45 per cent by the end of the year - a figure that likely takes into account the impending launch of the iPhone 5.
Samsung Galaxy S III vs. iPhone 5
Apple's sixth-generation iPhone is tipped to have a larger 4-inch display, an A6 quad-core processor, NFC, and a form of 4G that may or may not be compatible with Telstra and Optus' 4G networks.
On a spec-by-spec comparison with the iPhone 5's rumoured features, the Galaxy S III seems like the superior device, however the iPhone's success to date hasn't been due to having the the most advanced features.
"The S III has everything in order to be competitive from a hardware standpoint, but it still needs to offer an integrated experience that's as good as Apple's," said Gedda.
Australian availability for the Galaxy S III is yet to be confirmed, but Samsung said it would launch in 145 countries with 296 mobile operators around the world.
The 3G version is expected to go on sale in Europe on 29 May, followed by releases in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The 4G version will be available in North America, Japan, and Korea in the June/July/August timeframe.
When it is released in Australia, the Galaxy S III will have a strong competitor in the HTC One X.
Both devices offer a quad-core processor, a 720p display, NFC, and the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, however the Galaxy S III edges ahead in a few ways by virtue of its expandable memory, replaceable battery, and various user-friendly software enhancements.
Jenneth Orantia travelled to Samsung Mobile Unpacked 2012 in London as a guest of Samsung.