Click here for a slideshow of Samsung and Sony's most notable products.
At the European-focused trade show IFA, Samsung Electronics and Sony Mobile Communications each announced a range of new electronics including new Android- and Windows-powered smartphones and tablets. Key among those announcements were Sony's first branded Xperia tablet, the new version of Samsung's Galaxy Note and the world's first official Windows Phone 8 device.
Perhaps the most notable announcement for the wireless industry was Samsung's new Ativ S, the world's first official device running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 operating system. The latest version of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform features a number of enhancements, including additional control over the look and feel of the platform (and specifically the home screen) and support for new services including NFC. Samsung's Ativ S sports a 4.8-inch AMOLED screen, 1.5GHz dual-core processor and support for HSPA+ 42 networks. Samsung did not discuss the gadget's pricing or whether it would be available in the United States. However, it's reasonable to assume that some version of the Ativ S will make it way to a U.S. carrier at some point, based on Samsung's previous successes in selling its other Windows Phone products through U.S. carriers.
Microsoft's largest Windows Phone licensee is Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which has bet its smartphone future on the platform. That Samsung was the first to announce a Windows Phone 8 device could represent a competitive slap at Nokia, which has scheduled a press event on Sept. 5 with the promise that "things are about to change."
Some analysts were less than impressed with Samsung's Ativ S: "If you take a closer look at the WP8 platform specifications, it is clear that, as far as enabled devices are concerned, differentiation on the hardware side will be difficult," noted Malik Saadi, a principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "This means all WP8 devices will come with similar hardware (multicore processor, same display size and quality, similar memory capacity, etc.). A number of devices powered by WP8 are expected to be launched by various manufacturers in 4Q12, the majority of which will come with similar, or even better, hardware capabilities so ATIV S cannot be differentiated in this way."
Samsung's Ativ S joins a number of other new Samsung Windows products all bearing the new Ativ brand (which spells "Vita," or life, backwards), which appears to be the Windows counter to Samsung's established "Galaxy" brand for its Android products.
Along those lines, Samsung also announced a new version of its popular Galaxy Note. The company's new Galaxy Note II features 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, even bigger than the prior Galaxy Note's 5.3-inch screen. The gadget also offers Samsung's S Pen stylus, a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor to support HSPA+ and LTE, and Android 4.1, dubbed Jelly Bean.
Samsung's original Galaxy Note has generated significant sales for AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), the first U.S. carrier to sell the so-called phablet. T-Mobile USA too recently began selling the Galaxy Note. Samsung said the Galaxy Note II will arrive in the United States "later in 2012," according to Engadget. Samsung did not discuss pricing for the device.
Samsung is the world's largest smartphone and handset supplier, and therefore its product launches are closely watched.
In other IFA news, Sony Mobile took the wraps off a range of new Android-powered Xperia smartphones. The company also showed off its first Xperia-branded tablet, the Tablet S, which sports a 9.4-inch screen, Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and Android version 4.0.3.
Sony promised its new Xperia products would be available "globally" in the coming months, and it did not provide any further details or pricing information. However, Sony has had little luck in pushing its Xperia phones through U.S. carriers. AT&T has offered Sony's Xperia products in the past, but currently is not pushing any Sony offerings. After sitting for years among the globe's top five handset makers, Sony has tumbled to the No. 11 spot, according to ABI Research.
Apple's request to ban Samsung phones gets pushed back to Dec. 6
Microsoft, Nokia may emerge as winners from Apple-Samsung verdict
Sony to axe 1,000 mobile jobs, move HQ from Sweden to Japan