SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc marketing chief Phil Schiller attacked Google Inc's "fragmented" Android software and its biggest adopter, Samsung Electronics, a day before the Korean firm takes the wraps off its latest flagship smartphone in the United States.
Schiller, in an interview on the eve of the Galaxy S4's launch in New York, said that Google's own research showed the vast majority of Android users were stuck on older versions of the software, and that Samsung's new phone itself may debut with a year-old operating system that will need updating.
"With their own data, only 16 percent of Android users are on year-old version of the operating system," he said. "Over 50 percent are still on software that is two years old. A really big difference."
Thursday's launch is deemed critical to propelling the Korean firm deeper into Apple's U.S. home turf.
Apple remains the most valuable technology company today, with a $137.1 billion cash pile, or the equivalent of just under the gross domestic product of Hungary.
But Samsung knocked Apple off its perch atop the global smartphone arena in 2012, and continues to chip away at its market share with a combination of aggressive marketing, rapid technology adoption and boundary-pushing designs.
That onslaught, coupled with growing uncertainty about whether the U.S. giant can sustain growth in coming years, has contributed to a 30 percent decline in Apple's stock since its September peak.
Samsung will take the wraps off its Galaxy S4, after a broad marketing campaign that has helped drive pre-launch speculation and hype to Apple-like proportions.
Samsung's rapid ascendancy was made possible partly by Android, the software Google Inc launched just a few years ago but is now the world's most-used smartphone platform. IDC expects shipments of Android tablets to exceed those of the iPad in 2013.
Schiller said the fragmentation, or the number of versions of the Android operating system out in the marketplace, is a problem.
"And that extends to the news we are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S 4 is being rumoured to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," he said. "Customers will have to wait to get an update."
Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz