Samsung, Apple Intensify Battle for Smartphone Users -By  Timothy W. Martin and  Tripp Mickle March 31, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET


Owners of Apple and Android phones rarely switch brands—but this year offers a rare chance for industry leaders to win (or lose) fans

D.J. Koh, Samsung's mobile chief, shows the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones on Wednesday in New York.

D.J. Koh, Samsung’s mobile chief, shows the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones on Wednesday in New York. Photo: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

It’s shaping up to be a big year in the smartphone wars.

Samsung Electronics Co.  fired the first shot this week with the unveiling of its newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, which won strong initial reviews. That comes about six months ahead of Apple Inc.’s launch of a 10th-anniversary model of its iPhone, which analysts expect to be its most innovative handset in years.

The new devices are coming as the industry’s boom times have faded. Brands in recent years have struggled to develop impressive new features, and consumers are holding on to their devices longer. Global sales growth has fizzled and most phone buyers stick with the brands they know, meaning Apple, Samsung and others generally have been competing over a relatively small share of consumers whose loyalties are up for grabs.

“There are fewer new customers and you’re having to fight to get your customers to upgrade,” said Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst with Jackdaw Research.

But in 2017, several factors are creating a rare chance to siphon away—or lose—consumers.

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