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Will Samsung’s next Galaxy phone have an unbreakable, flexible screen? Analysts claim ‘Project J’ handset could be on sale in April

Samsung is believed to be secretly preparing a new version of its Galaxy handset that uses a radical ‘bendable’ screen that is virtually unbreakable.

Codenamed ‘Project J’ after mobile division chief JK Shin, development of the new Galaxy S IV could be released as early as April, according to analysts and tech blogs.

Experts believe that as smartphones increasingly look alike, an unbreakable screen could be a big selling point for the Galaxy, which is battling Apple iPhone to lead the $200 billion plus smartphone market.

The Galaxy S IV is also expected to have bigger and better display, powerful quad-core processing power and a 13-megapixel camera, with picture density improving to 441 pixels per inch (ppi), a big improvement from the Galaxy S III’s 306 ppi and better than the iPhone 5’s 326 ppi.

‘Looking to the first half of 2013, we see evidence of Samsung likely accelerating the release of the Galaxy S IV – compared with May (this year) for the Galaxy S III,’ said UBS analyst Nicolas Gaudois.

‘We believe preparations for volume manufacturing of unbreakable plastic substrate displays continue.

‘All in all, we could see a strong products push in the high-end in the first half, followed by other releases.’

Samsung, a major backer of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, is a frontrunner in developing unbreakable screens, as OLED panels can replace glass substrate with plastic material. Down the road, mobile gadgets could be flexible as well as unbreakable.

“Eventually, they’ll have unbreakable and flexible displays. Either the Galaxy S IV or S V will have unbreakable and even possibly flexible and foldable displays by 2014. That’s going to be a game-changer,” said Mark Newman, an analyst at Stanford Bernstein in Hong Kong.

Both Newman and Gaudois are ranked as 5-star analysts, the top ranking, by Thomson Reuters StarMine for their recommendations on Samsung.

It would also be a game-changer for Samsung, which has built its reputation as a ‘fast follower’ of others’ technologies and designs.

The South Korean consumer electronics giant faces off against Apple again on Thursday in a U.S. courtroom for a follow-up ruling on whether it copied some of its U.S. rival’s patents and should pay the $1 billion awarded to Apple by jurors in an August verdict.

Samsung wants the verdict overturned, while Apple wants the damages to be increased and Samsung phones banned in the United States.

Since that landmark verdict, however, Samsung shares have gained 14 percent to record highs, while Apple shares – dented by a maps app fiasco, tight supply of its iPhone 5 and ever tougher competition in the mobile market – have slipped by nearly a fifth, wiping more than $120 billion off its market value.

Barring any extra costs related to the U.S. ruling, Samsung should report a fifth straight record profit this quarter, as profits from its component business recover and more than offset thinning margins on mobile phones – squeezed by higher year-end holiday marketing campaigns.

‘Samsung’s strength extends beyond cool products, they’re also a leader in the technology behind these devices.

‘We see further upside to Samsung’s stock as success in smartphones continues and chips and display profits also rebound,’ said Newman.

‘In smartphones, the opportunity is for Samsung to take more share from Apple in the premium segment, where Apple is still dominant.’

UBS estimates Samsung will ship around 22.5 million of its Galaxy S III and Note II devices in the quarter to end-December, up from 20 million in July-September. Shin said in November that Galaxy S III sales would hit 40 million by the end of this month.

In a worst-case scenario for Samsung, U.S. judge Lucy Koh could treble the damages payable to Apple, given the jury in August found Samsung ‘willfully’ infringed some Apple patents.

That would be a major blow to Samsung’s fundamentals and overall investor sentiment, but it’s not the most likely scenario,’ said Young Park, a 4-star StarMine analyst at Woori Investment & Securities.

(Reuters) – Samsung Electronics has built global leadership in mobile phones, but in a fickle industry looks more vulnerable than its nemesis Apple Inc without an ‘ecosystem’ – software, services, content and customer support – to keep its users loyal.

“They need to move out of that mentality of just selling people a device,” says Rachel Lashford, Singapore-based managing director of mobile for Canalys, a consultancy. “They need to get their head around the idea that they’re no longer just a hardware company.”

The ecosystem standard has been set by Apple: offering mobile users downloadable programs and content – such as iTunes for music and the App Store for programs – which are best, and often only, accessible via and across Apple devices. This binds users to Apple and makes them more likely to buy another Apple device – an iPhone user buying an iPad, say.

“Apple’s greatest achievement beyond the design of the device has been the development of its ecosystem,” said Scott Bicheno, UK-based senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

While Apple has been slow to make some of these services available in some parts of the world – it only recently unveiled its iTunes Store across much of Asia, nine years after its U.S. launch – it is still ahead of rivals.

Samsung’s efforts to build something similar have been at best halting.

Music Hub, a service combining downloaded music and streaming, was launched in July but is only available for U.S. users of its new top-end phone, the Galaxy S III. Early reviews are mixed. It is also building an ad network via a partnership with OpenX, a service that Mar Pages, Singapore-based principal at Delta Partners, likens to Apple’s iAd. These services allow application developers to embed adverts in their software.

DILEMMA

But there’s only so much Samsung can do to build on top of Google’s open platform Android operating system, which already offers users well-established services such as Dropbox, which moves files seamlessly between devices and users.

“I wonder what Samsung could do which would offer conspicuous value over the likes of Dropbox,” said Strategy Analytics’ Bicheno, noting Apple’s ecosystem is largely a way to sell hardware. “This is the dilemma they face.”

It wasn’t always so. In 2010, Samsung launched its own mobile operating system called bada, and wooed developers and users with tools and an app store. Bada has steadily gathered users but accounts for less than 3 percent of devices shipped, according to technology consultancy Gartner. Android accounts for nearly two thirds.

The company’s efforts to make bada more popular were hampered by its own focus on hardware sales, said Karthik Srinivasan, who worked as a product manager at Samsung’s Media Solutions Center in Bangalore. His team would submit proposals for services and apps only “to be stumped when the question came back from Korea: How many more devices can you sell next year based on these services?” he told Reuters.

Samsung has not abandoned bada, but its emphasis on Android alienated its fan base and developers. “The top management may have had focus,” said Srinivasan, who quit the company last year, “but it was dispiriting to see the company was making very good Android devices and promoting them more than bada ones.”

Samsung said in January it planned to merge its operating system with Tizen, an open source platform promoted by Samsung and chipmaker Intel Corp. It hasn’t issued a press release about bada since November 2011.

Samsung declined to comment for this article.

OLYMPIC SPRINT

Samsung can be fast and decisive where it senses an opportunity that fits its broader strategy of brand building.

When Bangkok-based start-up Fingi turned to Galaxy smartphones for its hotel concierge service this year, Samsung’s local operation was quick to help. Fingi’s software allowed a Thai hotel to offer guests a Galaxy on check-in which they could use to open doors, control air conditioning, lighting and TV and order room service.

When Samsung’s UK operations heard about Fingi they decided to use it to help promote the Galaxy S III at the London Olympics, said Carl Rubin, Fingi’s vice president of business development. Within weeks, he said, Samsung had struck deals with hotels and helped set up the technology to make it work. “They turned on a dime and got this done,” he said.

The Fingi initiative made use of the near-field communication chip inside some Galaxy devices, a hint of where Samsung sees more opportunities. Delta Partners’ Pages says Samsung recently hired one of Visa Inc’s mobile payments executives and patented the words “Samsung wallet.”

SAMSUNG STORES

But its efforts to build a direct and binding relationship with users in the way Apple has done have been less convincing.

It has flagship stores in several countries which share Apple’s light tones and open invitations to play with devices, but a recent lunchtime visit to Singapore’s main store saw only a handful of visitors and a couple of staff. A cleaning woman was mopping the floor.

Singapore has also pioneered improved customer service where staff will pick up an errant device from the user and offer a loan unit while it’s under repair. But a member of staff at one of the two service centers said loan units weren’t always available.

Similar issues can be found online. An important part of keeping mobile users happy is ensuring their device’s core programs are up to date. The most popular feature on one Samsung fan website, SamMobile, is a twitter feed alerting users to when such software updates are due. It has 20,000 followers and is updated more than a dozen times a day. Samsung’s official equivalent feed has only 3,307 followers, and was last updated in December.

The owner of SamMobile, Rotterdam-based Danny Dorresteijn, says he has tried in vain to forge a closer relationship. “Samsung is not a big fan of us,” he said. But he’s hopeful. “Everything takes time.”

Indeed, there are signs that Samsung is learning it needs to use social media better. When two Indian bloggers flown by Samsung to a technology show in Berlin last week complained online that they had been stranded because they refused to wear a Samsung uniform and tout Galaxy phones, the company was quick to apologize.

Last month, Samsung hired Damien Cummings, Dell’s former Asia online director, for a new social media marketing role. In a blog post, Cummings said he aimed to “help transform Samsung into a digital powerhouse.”

BRAND LOYALTY

Samsung does appear to be slowly winning people over.

Surveys of users in Britain and the United States by Strategy Analytics concluded that while 51 percent of Apple users would replace their Apple device with an Apple device, they were only slightly less likely to switch and buy a Samsung.

A bigger problem for Samsung, says David Mercer, the co-author of the Strategy Analytic surveys, is that there’s little sign that user loyalty to Samsung phones translates to buying other Samsung products. A Samsung phone user may buy another Samsung phone, “but they won’t automatically buy a TV,” he says.

Given that Samsung is the world’s largest TV maker, that’s a significant miss. “That indicates those important branches of the company have continued to do their own thing,” says Mercer.

It also raises questions about Samsung’s efforts to build an ecosystem beyond mobile phones to embrace other parts of its consumer electronics business, especially so-called smart TVs – Internet-connected TVs that can work more like computers, running apps, storing and downloading content and, crucially, interacting with other consumer devices.

It’s not that Samsung isn’t busy working with TV stations and other service providers to build smart TV services. In the past week, it has announced deals with TeliaSonera and France TV in Europe, and Alt Media Sdn Bhd in Malaysia. The problem, Mercer says, is that consumers need to be convinced its useful. “Once they have it, they love it,” he says.

At the heart of Samsung’s challenge is to weave these products together with content and services that make it hard for users to jump elsewhere when they tire of their devices. While Samsung has long mastered engineering, it’s only recently woken up to the fact that users want something more.

“Samsung will start to realize, if they haven’t already, that they have to lock people in with some kind of ecosystem,” said Napoleon Biggs, head of digital integration for Asia at Fleishman-Hillard. “How else will you keep people’s loyalty?”

4 ways the Apple-Samsung verdict affects you

Posted by arnon_k On September - 2 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The Apple-Samsung patent mega-trial is approaching the finish line, but the consequences for users of all smartphones may be just beginning.

On Monday, Apple requested an injunction against eight Samsung devices, including multiple variations of the Galaxy S and S II, the Droid Charge and the Galaxy Prevail. A California jury on Friday found that those smartphones violated patents including pinch-zooming, bounce-back scrolling and the appearance of icons on the screen.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh will consider the injunction on Sept. 20, and if she grants it, Samsung could be forced to take those gadgets off the market.

The case was between Apple and Samsung only, but the ruling could force other major smartphone companies to make big changes.

“There are so many patents in a single phone, and these patent wars are raging every day in courts around the world,” said Mike Carrier, professor at Rutgers Law School. “The goalpost for what’s allowed moves every day, and customers need to keep that in mind.”

The trial’s complexity has left even industry experts mixed on how the ripple effect will play out, but here’s what you, the consumer, need to know:

If you own a Samsung phone: A total of 21 Samsung devices, were found to infringe on Apple patents.

Customers who own those devices don’t need to worry that anyone will take their phones away. Samsung could license Apple’s software patents to keep all of its phones’ features intact. Some legal experts note it’s possible that those phones could receive a software update that tweaks how they look and work — for example, changes to zooming action.

If you own any Android phone, not necessarily a Samsung model: The Apple-Samsung verdict could affect all smartphone titans, but Android maker Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) is the first on that list.

That’s because the Android software that got Samsung in trouble is relatively the same across manufacturers. Armed with patents now deemed valid by at least one jury, Apple could go on to sue Google and its phone partners.

JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth called the verdict “a setback for [the] Android ecosystem” in a note to clients on Monday, warning that both Google and its partners “will likely now have to work around certain features of the operating system and their devices.”

Android users could see those workarounds in a software update that changes how some features work. Even the threat of that could be enough to give consumers pause when buying their next smartphone, some experts believe.

“It’s a psychological victory for Apple,” said Carrier the Rutgers law professor. “Now it’s in the back of consumers’ minds: Will my phone work the same way in a few months? Even if the answer is yes, the seed of doubt is there.”
If you’re looking to buy a new phone and are worried about buying a Samsung: The final ruling on this trial could come long after your new smartphone becomes old hat. Even before the jury came back, industry experts expected any decision in the complex case would be appealed — which could set off another long legal battle.

Even if an injunction is granted against Samsung’s devices, there’s a strong possibility that ruling will be postponed by a higher court.

If you’re still really concerned about the power that Apple could wield against Samsung and its other rivals, Apple did cite two companies with unique designs: Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK).

If you own or are interested in buying a Samsung tablet: This category offered one spot of good news for Samsung: The jury ruled that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets did not infringe on Apple’s design patents for the iPad.

That means the Tab’s hardware style and icon layout are allowed to stay the same. But the software infringements apply here, so like Samsung phones, the tablets could receive changes to their features.

Japanese court backs Samsung in latest Apple skirmish

Posted by arnon_k On September - 1 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Hong Kong (CNN) — A week after Samsung was ordered to pay $1 billion to Apple for patent infringements, a Japanese court has backed the South Korean company in another dispute with its U.S. rival.

The Tokyo District Court on Friday ruled that Samsung did not infringe Apple’s patents for its iPhone and iPad for some of its Galaxy smartphones and the Galaxy tablet.

The case focused on technology used in Samsung’s Galaxy S, Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Tab 7 devices to synchronize music and video with a computer — technology Apple says its rival copied.

However Judge Tamotsu Shoji disagreed and threw out Apple’s 100 million yen ($1.27 million) claim and ordered the California-based tech giant to pay the costs of the lawsuit. It has 30 days to file an appeal.
In a statement released by Samsung after the decision, it said: “We have been strongly appealing that our products do not infringe the patents of Apple U.S. and its completely different technology.

“The verdict recognizes the lawfulness of our company. We think it is very appropriate.”

A ruling against Samsung would have been a severe setback in one of its most lucrative markets.

The South Korean company is already facing the prospect of a U.S. ban on Samsung smartphones and computer tablets found to have violated Apple’s patents — described by one Samsung executive as “absolutely the worst scenario for us.”

This followed last Friday’s decision by a U.S. federal jury to order Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion for copying the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad design.

A nine-person jury spent just two and a half days puzzling out its final verdict, with weeks of notes and memories of testimony, 109 pages of jury instructions, and boxes of evidence including a collection of contested smartphones and tablets as their guide.

The lawsuit was the largest yet in the ongoing worldwide patent brawl between the two companies, which itself is just one battle in Apple’s war against Google’s Android mobile operating system.

In another case just days before, a South Korean court found that both parties had infringed on each other’s patents — Samsung was ordered to pay $33,300 for infringing two of the intellectual property rights for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, while Apple was found to have infringed Samsung’s Wi-Fi technology and ordered to pay $22,000 in damages.

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