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Koh Dong-jin, the head of Samsung's mobile business, shows off the Galaxy Note 8's features at a media event in Seoul on Sept. 12.
Business

Asian handset brands take crack at stealing iPhone X's thunder

Samsung, Xiaomi roll out shiny new models on eve of Apple mania

SEOUL -- Asia's smartphone makers have been unveiling one new model after another, hoping to get the jump on Apple and its highly anticipated iPhone X in the race for market share.

Samsung Electronics on Tuesday hosted a media day for its Galaxy Note 8, which will hit shelves on Friday. The South Korean conglomerate is hoping the 6.3-inch screen helps customers forget about the fire-prone Note 7, which was killed off last year.

"We recognized consumers' affection and support for the Note series, while overcoming the Note 7 issue," said Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung's mobile business sector. "We are proud of the Note 8 -- the best Note model yet -- with its innovations in the display, cordless charging, waterproofing and the camera."

Koh declined to comment on the iPhone X but admitted Samsung is monitoring rivals' new products. Apple is set to unpack its 10th anniversary smartphone at its Cupertino, California, headquarters on Tuesday, local time; sales are expected to kick off in the fourth quarter.

Analysts say Samsung may benefit from the Note 8's early release. "The timing is good for Samsung," said SK Kim, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets. 

Samsung said it is satisfied with the consumer reaction so far, with the Note 8 having drawn 650,000 preorders over the last five days -- 2.5 times more than the comparable figure for the Note 7. The company set the price of a 64-gigabyte Note 8 at 1.09 million won ($966), while the 256GB model is priced at 1.25 million won.

Samsung Electronics shares fell 0.4% to 2,480,000 won on Monday, but they had risen 8.17% over the previous five sessions. The benchmark KOSPI inched up 0.27%, to 2,365.47.

Mixing it up

China's Xiaomi is also taking the fight to Apple -- and Samsung, for that matter -- with its new Mi Mix 2.

This is a critical moment for Xiaomi. The Chinese market, the world's largest, is not growing like it used to, and the company faces stiff competition for the limited pie. At the same time, it is determined to raise its global profile.

So a lot is riding on the new bezel-less phone Xiaomi unveiled on Monday. Chairman and CEO Lei Jun touted the Mi Mix 2's advantages over the iPhone before a crowd about about 3,000 at a Beijing university. Perhaps the biggest difference is the price: Xiaomi's phone will go for 3,299 yuan ($500), well below the Note 8 and the expected price of the iPhone X.

As things stand, Samsung is the world's largest smartphone manufacturer, accounting for 23.3% of global market share in the first quarter, according to IDC. Apple had 14.7%, while China's Huawei came in third at 7.5%, thanks to its domestic dominance.

But even companies that are barely on the radar are hoping to change their fortunes this season. Consider Taiwan's struggling competitors: Asustek Computer is pinning its hopes on the new ZenFone 4 and has recruited South Korean actor Gong Yoo to promote it in key Asian markets. 

Acer, too, is hanging on, targeting Southeast Asia with entry-level models.

Nikkei staff writer Shunsuke Tabeta in Beijing and contributing writer Jason Tan in Taipei contributed to this article.

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