Asian smartphone makers have a chance to exploit a rare letdown from pacesetter Apple Inc. after the new iPhone 4S failed to wow fans and investors, leaving Android rivals better placed to grab market share.
The iPhone -- introduced in 2007 with the touchscreen template now adopted by its rivals -- is the gold standard in the booming smartphone market, and its sales have dealt a blow to ambitious plans of many competitors.
Shares of Samsung Electronics, HTC and LG Electronics, who all make phones using Google Inc.'s Android operating system, jumped on Thursday.
These companies could now aggressively promote their flagship high-end models ahead of Christmas, potentially helping boost sales in the most crucial shopping season.
Apple no longer has a leading edge, its cloud service is even behind Android; it can only sell on brand loyalty now, said Gartner analyst K.C. Lu in Taipei.
Users may wait to buy the next iPhone, if they can't wait, they may shift to brands with more advance specs.
The new iPhone 4S is identical in form to the previous model, disappointing fans who had hoped for a thinner, bigger-screened design of a product that had not been updated for more than a year.
While the device's high-tech wizardry such as voice commands -- for sending messages, searching for stock prices and other applications -- caught the attention of many analysts, it might not be enough to make it a must-have for consumers.
Major concerns for Samsung had been that its smartphone momentum will decelerate with Apple's new iPhone, but that's now less of a concern as the new iPhone failed to excite many, said Kim Young-chan, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp in Seoul.
Shares of Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC rose 0.6 percent in a generally weaker Taipei market, while Korean rivals Samsung and LG Electronics climbed 1.2 percent and 1.7 percent respectively, in a broader Korean market down 2 percent.
TOP SELLING SMARTPHONE
Apple's iPhone is the No. 1 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 greater combined market share than Apple's iPhones.
There are still many consumers who don't have the iPhone experience, and Apple still has a lot of markets and carriers to enter, so when there's a new model with better specs, it helps to lift shipments, said Ming-chi Kuo, analyst at Concords Securities in Taipei.
The iPhone 4S targets users who are expiring on their two-year 3GS contract.
Globally, iPhone shipments rose 9.1 percent in the second quarter while Nokia's plummeted more than 30 percent, handing the top spot to Apple with a market share of 18.4 percent, according to IHS iSuppli. Samsung, whose shipments grew faster, is coming on strong with a market share of 17.8 percent.
The iPhone 4S will cost $199 in the United States, with pre-orders starting October 7. Apple also cut the price of the older iPhone 4 to $99, and said an even older 3GS model will be available for free to customers who sign a long-term contract.
SUPPLIERS TAKE A BEATING
By 0540 GMT, Apple's biggest supplier Hon Hai was down 1.9 percent, while casing company Foxconn Technology fell 6.9 percent. Camera module maker Largan Precision shed 6.6 percent. The broader market lost 0.8 percent.
The casing companies should be the most-hit, correcting from the previous rise, because the market has expected a metal case for the new iPhone, said Mike Fang, a fund manager of Paradigm Asset Management.
Fang did not expect iPhone shipments to drop on the disappointment over its appearance however, as a cheaper price would allow sales to expand at a faster pace.
The demand is still there from users upgrading from iPhone 3GS because it's two generations behind, he said.
In Japan, the country's second-largest mobile carrier KDDI will sell Apple's new iPhone, ending rival operator Softbank's highly profitable reign as the sole provider in Japan.
(Additional reporting by Argin Chang in TAIPEI; Writing by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Alex Richardson)