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Mar 14

Has Samsung has taken a bite out of Apple?

samsungIf there were any doubts that Samsung has taken a bite out of Apple’s cachet as the digital pocket device of the moment, the manufactured hoopla, random speculation, unabashed wishes and informed analysis surrounding tomorrow evening’s “Samsung Unpacked” event at Radio City Music Hall in New York puts it all in perspective. The iPhone has more than just a formidable technology competitor; it has a competitor with some buzz-making chops.

First, have you met YouTube’s Jeremy, “the secret messenger of Samsung UNPACKED 2013”? Not that everybody finds Jeremy endearing — “[the video] is controversially grating and already has people talking,” Haydn Shaughnessy pointed out on Forbes when the first installment was released last week -– but that’s besides the point, isn’t it? They are talking.

Anyway, that URL is also where you can watch a live stream of the unpacking event at 7 p.m. tomorrow EDT if your invitation to the festivities got lost in the spam folder.

“Like its arch-frenemy, Samsung’s been hush-hush when it comes to details,” NBC’s Rosa Golijanwrites, “though it has certainly made sure that all attention is on its new flagship device this week.” The hoopla includes billboards in Times Square, the aforementioned Jeremy (did Nabisco pay for that Oreo placement, we wonder?) and a tweet of the device looking like a movie star trying to go incognito.

The speculation includes the leak of a video from China purporting to be the new phone in use. “The phone in the video … has two SIM card slots, so if this is the Galaxy S 4, it’s likely a variant for certain overseas markets,” writes GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel. “Assuming this is what Samsung’s new phone will look like, some may be disappointed because it uses the same form and design cues found in the Galaxy Note 2 and last year’s S 3 handset.”

The wish lists include Computerworld’s JP Rafael’s detailing of four things he’d like to see in the new device, including a toning down of its “over-the-top TouchWiz interface,” more “meaningful” software features, less plastic and no navigation buttons.

“Let’s see something fresh and exciting, something that pushes the boundaries and embraces modern Android standards,” Rafael implores.

The analysis includes a piece by Min-Jeong Lee and Daisuke Wakabayashi in today’s Wall Street Journal that tells us “the challenge for the Galaxy S IV, Samsung’s fourth-generation flagship smartphone, is to wow consumers who have grown accustomed to the annual leaps in technology that deliver bigger, clearer screens, faster processors, and sharper cameras — all packed into thinner and lighter handsets.”

Indications are that the new device won’t be all that different that the breakthrough Galaxy S III in terms of looks and capabilities, though it will reportedly be slightly larger, faster and have a better camera. That goes with the territory, right?

“To help differentiate its phones, Samsung is expected to rely on a host of new software features such as technology that lets uses scroll up and down a screen with only their eyes,” Lee and Wakabayashi report, pointing out that a Samsung executive recently told a conference that the company intends to “double down on software.”

The New York Times’ Brian X. Chen wrote about the “Eye Scroll” technology earlier this month after talking to a Samsung source who told him that it would, for example, move to the next page of text when a user’s eyes reach the bottom of the screen.

TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook has an “Everything We Know About The Galaxy S IV” rundown replete with details such as it “has stuck with a brushed plastic for the front and rear casing of the device” but … it “does seem to have added a metal strip along the sides of the GS4, which seems more legitimate than the metally-looking strip on the Galaxy S III.” More fine points areelucidated here.

Writing from Seoul, Reuters’ Miyoung Kim tells us that Samsung has an unspecified supply backup plan in place to avert the kind of disaster that occurred in May when “a simple manufacturing snafu involving unsatisfactory design of handset cases cost Samsung some 2 million units of lost sales.”

The stakes are high for the company, Kim writes, in that last year it spent more than $400 million in the U.S. advertising the phones, which represent the bulk of its profit.

“It’s got to be a blockbuster phone that beats its predecessor and competitors in nearly all aspects, otherwise Samsung could follow the footsteps of others and fail to manage expectations, which get only higher,” says SK Securities analyst David Choi. Managing expectations. Isn’t there an app for that?

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