* Delay comes as legal battle with Apple hits fever pitch this week
* Says no changes in scheduled court hearings with Apple
* Most crucial U.S. court hearing scheduled for Thursday
* Apple, Samsung also meeting in Dutch, Australian and Korean courtrooms
* Samsung shares up 1.6 pct vs 0.4 pct rise in wider market (updates share price, edits)
By Miyoung Kim
SEOUL, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co said on Monday it had delayed the launch of a new smartphone based on Google’s latest version of the Android operating system while the world pays tribute to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who died last week.
The delay also comes as an intensifying legal battle between Apple and Samsung reaches a crucial point this week, when the two technology giants will meet in courtrooms in the United States, the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea and Japan.
Samsung had planned to introduce the new product based on the Ice Cream Sandwich system, which will unite the Android software used in tablets and smartphones, at its Mobile Unpack event in San Diego on Tuesday.
“We decided it was not the right time to announce a new product while the world was expressing tribute to Steve Jobs’s passing,” a Samsung spokesman said.
Samsung has yet to decide on a new date for the release, the spokesman said.
Jobs died last Wednesday following a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer, and tributes from world leaders, business rivals and fans have poured in.
Samsung and Apple are suing each other in 20 cases filed in 10 countries since April, but few of them hold as much significance as a California court ruling due on Thursday, since it could affect Samsung’s mobile device sales in the United States, one of its biggest markets.
Samsung said it has no plan to delay scheduled hearing dates due to Jobs’ death. Less than a day before his death, Samsung widened its patent-infringement cases with the U.S. firm to ban the sale of Apple’s new iPhone in France and Italy after a series of setbacks in Australia and Europe.
Apple says Samsung’s Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets “slavishly” copied its iPhone and iPad. Samsung rejects the claims and argues the U.S. firm infringed on its mobile patents.
Samsung is the most credible challenger to Apple in smartphones and tablets. It said on Friday its quarterly profit should top the most bullish market forecasts, with smartphones becoming its main profit engine despite intense competition from bigger rival Apple.
Apple unveiled its latest iPhone last week, leaving investors and fans wishing for more than a souped-up version of last year’s device at a time of heightened competition from rival smartphone makers. But U.S. mobile carrier AT&T said on Friday it has seen “extraordinary demand” for the new iPhone with more than 200,000 pre-orders in the first 12 hours.
Last week, Apple rejected an offer from Samsung to settle a tablet computer dispute in Australia, possibly killing off the commercial viability of the new Galaxy tablet in that market.
Samsung is the biggest maker of mobile phones that are based on Android, which is available for free to handset vendors such as Motorola Mobility and HTC Corp . Android phones have a greater combined market share than Apple’s iPhone, the world’s best-selling smartphone.
Shares in Samsung closed up 1.6 percent, versus a 0.4 percent rise in the wider market . (Reporting by Miyoung Kim; Editing by David Chance and Ken Wills)