Samsung Electronics will sell a version of its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone that can run on LTE Advanced networks, even though most carriers around the world haven't yet launched the technology.
Samsung co-CEO JK Shin told Reuters that the phone will be sold in South Korea as soon as this month, and will be a little more expensive than the standard S4. However, he did not say how much the phone will cost or when it will be rolled out in other markets. Samsung said a 3 minute download using the standard S4 with LTE would be reduced to 1 minute with the S4 using LTE Advanced technology.
"We'll be the first with the commercial launch of the advanced 4G version of the smartphone," Shin said. He declined to name carrier partners of the LTE Advanced phone.
LTE Advanced can provide theoretical peak data rates of around 3 Gbps for downlink and 1.5 Gbps for uplink, but real-world speeds will likely be far slower. At this point, LTE Advanced networks have only popped up on a limited basis in a few countries, including in Russia, where Yota markets its network as being capable of delivering speeds of 300 Mbps, according to The Verge.
No U.S. carrier has launched LTE Advanced services, though many have hinted at such a move later this year or in 2014.
The LTE Advanced S4 model is one of several variants of the phone Samsung has unveiled in recent weeks, including a smaller version and a ruggedized one.
Samsung is the largest handset and smartphone vendor by volume, but the company's shares have lost almost $20 billion since June 7 following cuts by analysts in sales forecasts for the S4. Woori Investment & Securities cut its outlook for Samsung's earnings and target share price on June 5. Since then, analysts at JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have cut back their estimates as well, fearing that the high-end smartphone market is getting too saturated, with some analysts paring back sales estimates for the S4 by as much as 30 percent. According to Reuters, most analysts have slashed sales estimates for S4 shipments to around 7 million units per month from their previous average expectation of 10 million; the S4 hit 10 million sales less than a month after its debut in April.
"I'd say most forecasters including myself had this conviction that they'll outperform again--because it's Samsung," Byun Hanjoon, an analyst at KB Investment & Securities, told Reuters. "They had beaten expectations before, which led many to believe they are bound to excel again with the S4."
If Shin was troubled, he didn't show it in his interview with Reuters. He said some analysts just had forecasts that were too optimistic. "S4 sales remain strong," he said. "It's selling far stronger than the (Galaxy) S III ... and the new LTE Advanced phone will be another addition to our high-end segment offerings that ensure healthy profit margins."
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