This week sees the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S3 in South Africa. But the siginficance of the launch goes beyond a mere handset, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
This week, the tectonic plates of the gadget world will shift once more. On 7 June, the most eagerly-awaited smartphone of the year will be released in South Africa. And no, it is not an iPhone. And no, that is not a misprint.
For the past five years, no brand has been able to compete with Apple and no device has been able to compete with the iPhone in the buzz created among consumers at launch. Until this past week.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 instantly become the fastest selling gadget in history when it was launched in Europe on Tuesday.
How is that possible? After all, the iPhone 4S sold a record four million units in three days when it was launched late last year.
Well, here’s a number to conjure with: 9-million. That is the amount of pre-orders for the Galaxy S3 before its launch.
The Daily Mail in the UK reports that Samsung hired 75 000 workers to keep up with the demand ‚ and is able to produce a further 5-milion phones a month.
For the first time, it appears, Samsung’s best-selling phone will be a smartphone. Previously, both their Star and E250 feature phones racked up 30-million sales to take pole position. The predecessor of the new phone, the Galaxy S2, moved more than 20-million units worldwide ‚ and is the only smartphone that has even remotely challenged the demand for BlackBerry handsets in South Africa.
If the S3 becomes the smartphone of choice at a time when smartphone sales are overtaking shipments of feature phones, it should blow through the 30-million barrier with ease. In South Africa, it will almost certainly outsell the iPhone from launch.
Even after the next iPhone is released, around October this year, the S3 will outsell it in South Africa simply on the basis of greater availability. Samsung ensures that the South African market is kept well-supplied with its devices, at the same time as Apple continues to treat it as a backwater that must wait at the back of the line for stocks.
BlackBerry’s powerful position in South Africa also has much to do with the careful and caring manner in which its manufacturer, Research in Motion (RIM), looks after this market.
The result is that the current imbalance of power in the South African market will remain a question of how much market share Samsung can win from BlackBerry. Their timing could not have been better. While the world waits for BlackBerry’s next generation of phones – also due around September or October ‚ Samsung will make a deadly foray into its slice of the pie with the S3.
What will customers get for a rather large slice of their wallets?
For starters, it looks so much better. While the phone has the same width and length of the S2, it has a larger screen ‚ measuring 4.8″ ‚ thanks to a smaller bezel, or edge. The screen use a display technology called Super AMOLED, which is about as good as screen technology can get today. It has a resolution of 1280 x 720, meaning it can run high-definition video, and videos on the phone can be played on HD TVs via an HDMI link, without any loss in quality.
It sports an 8MP rear camera and a 1.9MP front camera for video chats. And the rear camera is designed for high-speed action: it can capture 20 images in a 10-second burst. Oh, and one more thing (as Apple’s Steve Jobs liked to say when he unveiled a ‚killer app‚ ): it recognises your face and switches on by you simply looking at it.
Those looking for Apple-style gimmicks in the vein of the iPhone’s Siri ‚personal assistant‚ will find an equivalent here, too. The S3 recognises eight languages using Samsung’s S-Voice technology ‚ and lets you take pictures using your voice
A SmartStay feature keeps the phone on when the user is awake, and puts it to sleep when its owner nods off. Not good for boring teleconferences, then. But enough to keep Samsung’s main rivals, Apple, Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC, wide awake.
* Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee