Apple Inc. (AAPL) is on the defensive.
In a rare interview a day before Samsung Electronics Co.'s launch of a new flagship smartphone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller on Wednesday played down the expected competition from the device. He also discussed how he believes products that run Google Inc.'s Android software, such as Samsung's phone, are inferior to Apple's iPhone.
Mr. Schiller shared data on the iPhone's popularity and said Apple's own research shows that four times as many iPhone users switched from an Android phone than to an Android phone in the fourth quarter.
His remarks come as Apple has been gently suggesting similar messages in recent months as competitors such as Samsung have been gaining buzz—and market share.
Mr. Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of world-wide marketing, also said that Android users are often running old operating systems and that the fragmentation in the Android world was "plain and simple."
He added that "Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn't as good as an iPhone."
The executive said Android devices suffer in part because different elements come from multiple companies, whereas Apple is responsible for all its mobile hardware and as well as its iOS operating system.
"When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with," he said. "They don't work seamlessly together."
Apple's iPhone represented 19.1% of global smartphone sales in 2012, compared with 66.4% for all Android phones, according to research firm Gartner. Meanwhile, market researcher IDC this week said it expects tablets powered by Android to eclipse Apple's iPad next year, too.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment. A spokesman for Samsung didn't respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Schiller disputed the importance of market-share figures. "I'm not sure that the estimates and the modeling accurately gives an accurate picture of it all," he said.
Among his own statistics, Mr. Schiller cited a survey from research firm ChangeWave that found that around three-quarters of iPhone users say they are "very satisfied" with their device compared with around half of Android users.
Apple, long seen as the innovator in smartphones, has been wrestling with an image problem lately. Growth has slowed. In its most recent earnings report, the company said its revenue grew about 18%, but profit rose 0.1%.
And customers and investors are anxiously awaiting the next big thing. Apple's shares have fallen from a high-close of $702.10 in September to $428.35 Wednesday. Analysts have been reducing their forecasts, some of which once approached $1,000 a share.
Samsung, meanwhile, is trying to sustain its momentum with the announcement of a new phone Thursday. Its next Galaxy phone is expected to have a faster microchip, an improved camera and better battery life, analysts and industry watchers say. The device also will have a slightly bigger and sharper screen, continuing a trend of offering larger displays.
Apple's new product timeline is still murky. It is expected to release at least one new iPhone later in the year and has been working on a less expensive version of the iPhone as well, people familiar with the matter have said.
Mr. Schiller declined to comment about future products. Instead, he discussed the iPhone 5, which went on sale last September. "Given the iPhone 5 is so thin and light, the reason that people are making their devices bigger is to get up to the battery life the iPhone 5 offers," he said.
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