Samsung unveils new Galaxy S 4 smartphone challenging Apple iPhone

NEW YORK - Samsung Electronics is kicking up its competition with Apple with its new Galaxy S 4 smartphone, which has a larger, sharper screen than its predecessor, the best-selling S III.

Samsung trumpeted the much-anticipated phone's arrival Thursday at an event accompanied by a live orchestra while an audience of thousands watched the onstage theatrics. The Galaxy S 4, which crams a 5-inch screen into a body slightly smaller than the S III's, will go on sale globally in the April-to-June period.

In the U.S., it will be sold by all four national carriers — Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA — as well as by smaller ones US Cellular and Cricket.

Samsung didn't say what the phone will cost, but it can be expected to start at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S.

JK Shin, the executive in charge of Samsung's mobile-communications division, promised the money would be well spent for a "life companion" that will "improve the way most people live every day."

That bold promise set the tone for the kind of flashy presentation associated with the showmanship of Apple, the company that Samsung has been trying to upstage. In the past two years, Samsung has emerged as Apple's main competitor in the high-end smartphone market.

Research firm Strategy Analytics said the Galaxy S III overtook Apple's iPhone 4S as the world's best-selling smartphone for the first time in the third quarter of last year, as Apple fans held off for the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 took back the crown in the fourth quarter.

One way Samsung and other makers of Android phones have been one-upping Apple is by increasing the screen size. The S III sported a screen that measures 4.8 inches diagonally, already substantially larger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen. The S 4's screen is 56 percent larger than the iPhone's.

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