Samsung's new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III, went on sale in New Zealand at midnight through Vodafone, Telecom, and 2degrees.

The phone, which is being sold off-contract by all three carriers for $1049, is the latest in the Samsung Galaxy line, which has emerged as the biggest competitor to Apple's iPhone.

It has a high-definition touch screen that's nearly twice the size of the iPhone's. Like previous Galaxy phones, the S III will run Google's Android software.

The processor will be upgraded to include four computing cores. The iPhone and most other high-end phones are dual-core but there are some quad-core devices on sale.


The added computing power will be put to use in the S III's expanded voice-command features. When the phone screen is off, owners will be able to wake it up by saying, "Hi, Galaxy". They can then give further spoken commands.

Samsung doesn't release shipment figures, but most analysts believe its smartphones outsold Apple and its 35.1 million iPhones in the January-to-March period.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley believes Apple and Samsung together accounted for virtually all the profits in the phone industry in the first quarter, with three-quarters going to Apple by virtue of its singular focus on the high-priced iPhone.

Samsung said this month that the phone would go on sale in 145 countries with 296 phone companies, making it the company's biggest launch so far.