Samsung smartphone coming to all major carriers

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted June 28, 2010 at 3:12 p.m.

In the shadow of the latest blockbuster Apple Inc.   iPhone launch, Samsung Electronics Co.  has quietly positioned its own marquee smartphone with all of the national carriers in an attempt to regain its position with high-end cellphones.

Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp.  and T-Mobile USA said  Monday that they would be carrying a version of Samsung’s Galaxy S.  AT&T Inc.  previously said it would sell a version of the device  later this year. Of all the carriers, only T-Mobile would commit to a firm launch date of July 21.

While Samsung’s total cellphone market share rose steadily in the last few years, the company fell behind in the more profitable — and faster growing — smartphone market. Instead, the South Korean company had pegged its growth on mid-market messaging devices and was slower to adopt  flashier smartphone operating systems. The Galaxy S, which packs several high-end features, is Samsung’s attempt to regain momentum in the segment.

Samsung is hoping to avoid Nokia Corp.’s  dilemma. Despite its leadership position, Nokia has struggled with eroding share in the high-end market because it has clung to its aging Symbian platform and has been slow to roll out a next-generation smartphone operating system, leading to a recent profit warning.

While Samsung is the No. 2 cellphone maker in the world, it is only the fifth-largest player in the smartphone category, surpassed by Nokia, smartphone power players Research in Motion Ltd.  and Apple and Taiwanese upstart HTC Corp., according to research firm Gartner.

Samsung, unburdened by its own legacy operating system, has turned to Google Inc.’s Android as well as strong carrier relationships to kickstart its smartphone business. While its initial attempts at an Android phone have yielded middling success, it has higher hopes for the Galaxy S, which features a 1-gigahertz Samsung processor, a brighter Super Amoled touchscreen display and a six-axis sensor for mobile games.

“In the race to redefine the smartphone, the starting gun has just been fired, and the Samsung Galaxy S is already standing at the finish line,” said J.K. Shin, head of Samsung’s mobile business, during the phone’s unveiling at the CTIA Wireless trade show in March.

Still, the Galaxy S has a high bar to cross. Apple said Monday it sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s in its first three days, surpassing the start of the iPhone 3GS. Samsung sold 2.6 million smartphones in total in the first quarter, according to Gartner.

Unlike the iPhone 4, sold exclusively through AT&T, the Galaxy S will be available through all of the carriers and may not get the marketing support reserved for exclusive devices.

Samsung plans to hold an event to promote the device, which will be known as the Vibrant and cost $200 with a two-year contract,  Tuesday.

Sprint’s version, called the Epic, will be able to tap into its fourth-generation WiMax network in areas where the service is available. The carrier didn’t say when the phone would be available.

AT&T announced its version, called Captivate, this month, but it said only that the phone was scheduled for release in the coming months.

Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by Verizon Communications Inc.  and Vodafone Group PLC, will sell its version as the Fascinate, and it expects to sell the device by late summer or early fall.

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