SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc(AAPL.O) marketing chief Phil Schiller attacked Google Inc's(GOOG.O) "fragmented" Android software and its biggest adopter, Samsung Electronics(005930.KS), a day before the Korean firm takes the wraps off its latest flagship smartphone in the United States.
The marketing chief's rare attack on a rival, on the eve of the Galaxy S4's global premier in New York, underscores the extent of the pressure piled upon a company that once stood the undisputed leader of the smartphone arena, but ceded its crown to Samsung in 2012.
Schiller, in an interview on Wednesday, told Reuters 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."
Schiller said fragmentation, or the host of customized versions of Android in the marketplace, poses a problem for consumers.
Every version of Android's operating system update has to be tested to ensure a good fit for a multiplicity of handset makers before it can be widely released by the handset makers, which slows updates. That's because some manufacturers, such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), employ heavily customized versions.
"And that extends to the news we are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," he said. "Customers will have to wait to get an update."
Schiller pointed to multiple research from third parties that showed that people who have iOS devices actually use them more than people who own Android devices, and more than half of iOS users are using the latest version of the software.
He also said that Apple's internal research shows four times as many consumers are switching to iOS from Android than the other way.
Schiller also took a shot at the vast sales volume of Android, which sees 1.5 million activations a day, saying even the out-of-the-box experience of using an Android device is far inferior with the consumer having to log into nine different systems to begin using the device fully.
"At Apple we know that it's not just enough to have products pumped out in large numbers," he said. "You have to love and use them. There is a lot of data showing a big disparity there."
Google declined to comment. Samsung did not respond to a request for comment.
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. The launch -- the first time Samsung has chosen to host a global Galaxy debut in the United States -- is deemed critical to propelling Samsung deeper into Apple'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 had 30.3 percent of the smartphone market in 2012, up from 19 percent a year earlier. Apple's share was 19.1 percent last year, up from 18.8 percent in 2011.
That 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's remarks came the same day Android architect Andy Rubin stepped down, after having built the free, open-source software into the platform of choice for mobile phone manufacturers around the world.
Editing by Edwin Chan and Leslie Gevirtz