) --


unveiled its eagerly anticipated Galaxy S4 smartphone at a glitzy event in New York on Thursday night, launching another rival to


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iconic iPhone.

Hordes of journalists descended on Radio City Music Hall for a somewhat chaotic Broadway-themed event, eager to see the company's fourth-generation phone.

Kicking off the launch, J.K. Shin, president of Samsung's mobile communications division, described the new phone as "a life companion for a simpler life", adding that the S4 is "slimmer yet stronger" than its predecessor, the popular S3.

The S4, he noted, is just 7.9 mm thick and weighs 130 grams, compared to the S3, which is 8.6 mm thick and weighs 133 grams. Samsung's latest offering also has a 5-inch screen, compared to the S3's 4.8-inch display.

"In our view, the S4 possesses all the relevant new features for an industry-leading product," wrote ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall, in a note released on Thursday. "Most importantly, it features a large canvas (i.e., 5.0" AMOLED display) which we believe is critical as users look to converge smartphone and tablet functionality into one device."

Offering both 3G and 4G capabilities, the S4 also runs version 4.2.2 of


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Android operating system. The phone comes with either a 1.9-GHz quad-core processor or a 1.6-GHz octa-core processor, depending on the market.

Shin said that the phone will be available via 327 mobile operators in 155 countries by the end of April.

U.S. telecom giant


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quickly issued a statement on Thursday confirming that it will offer the S4, although the company's Web site does not say when the device will be available.


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said that it will offer the S4 in the second quarter, and promised to provide additional details, such as pricing, in the coming weeks.

Like Apple at its iPhone 5 launch last year, Samsung made a song and dance about new camera capabilities on Thursday night. Key enhancements include a 13-megapixel camera and a host of other features. These include Dual Camera, which allows simultaneous use of front and rear cameras, and Drama Shot, which presents a series of shots as a collage in a single frame.

The Galaxy S4 also offers new forms of interaction, such as Air Gesture, which lets users navigate the phone without touching it, and Air View, which lets users preview, say, email content, by hovering their finger over the screen.

"These ideas have been perceived from our observation of real life," said Shin. "It's innovation which literally helps people live every day."

Samsung also showed off the phone's S Translator feature, turning the Radio City stage into a would-be Shanghai train station for the demo. Using S Translator, an actor typed a question in English, which the phone then "asked" another actor in Chinese. The S4 then translated the second actor's response from spoken Chinese to written English.

The device can also connect to the Home Sync technology that Samsung launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year. The tech giant describes Home Sync as a "personal cloud device" containing up to a terabyte of data.

The S4 certainly looks like stiff competition for Apple's iPhone. Apple overtook Samsung in the key U.S. market during the fourth quarter of 2012, according to

Strategy Analytics

, boosted by the launch of its iPhone 5. For the full year, however, Samsung


Apple, selling 53 million phones, compared to the iPhone maker's 43.7 million.

ISI Group's Marshall, however, thinks that there's plenty of room for both companies. "Despite Samsung's success, we believe AAPL is not standing still and our view is unchanged that the

approximately 2 billion unit cell phone market is large enough for several vendors to flourish," he wrote. "Global smartphone market share in 2013 is likely to remain unchanged with Samsung #1 and AAPL #2, in our view."

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

Follow @jamesjrogers

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