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iPhone 4S disappoints many, spell chance for Samsung, HTC to be market leaders

Smartphone manufacturers in Asia have a chance to exploit a rare letdown from market leader Apple Inc after the new iPhone 4S botched to impress fans and investors, leaving Android competitors better placed to grab market share.

Shares of Android-based smartphones makers, Samsung Electronics, HTC and LG Electronics jumped last Thursday after the iPhone 4S failed to excite many. These companies could now aggressively promote their high-end models ahead of the Christmas season, potentially helping boost sales in the most crucial shopping period.

According to Gartner analyst K.C. Lu in Taipei, "Apple no longer has a leading edge, its cloud service is even behind the Android OS; it can only sell on brand loyalty now. Smartphone users may wait to buy the next iPhone version, if they cannot wait, they may shift to brands with more advance specifications."

The new iPhone 4S is similar in form to the previous model, disappointing fans who had hoped for a thinner, bigger-screened design of a product that had not been upgraded for more than a year.

While the device's high-tech features such as voice commands — for sending messages, searching for stock prices and other phone applications — caught the attention of many tech analysts, it might not be enough to make it a must-have for most consumers.

"There used to be major concerns for Samsung that its smartphone momentum will slow down with Apple's new iPhone, but that is now less of a concern as the new iPhone failed to impress," noted Kim Young-chan, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp. in South Korea.

Shares of Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC rose some 0.6 percent in a generally weaker Taipei market, while Korean rivals Samsung and LG Electronics increase to 1.2 percent and 1.7 percent respectively, in a broader Korean market down two percent.

Currently, Apple's iPhone is the top selling smartphone in the world. But phones based on Google's Android, which is available for free to handset vendors such as Samsung, HTC, LG Electronics and Motorola, have a larger combined market share than Apple's iPhones.

"There are still many consumers who do not have the iPhone experience, and Apple still has a lot of markets and carriers to penetrate, so when there is a new model with better specifications, it helps to lift shipments," said Ming-chi Kuo, analyst at Concords Securities in Taipei. "The iPhone 4S focuses on users who are expiring on their two-year 3GS contract."

The iPhone 4S will cost US$199 in the U.S., with pre-orders starting October 7. Apple also reduced the price of the older iPhone 4 to US$99, and said an even older "3GS" model will be available for free to customers who get a long-term contract.

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