PHIL Schiller, the second most powerful executive at Apple, has made an extraordinary attack on Google’s Android software just before Samsung – the biggest user of the software – launches its new Galaxy S4 smartphone.
Mr Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing and de facto number two, 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 Galaxy S4 may itself be introduced with an out-of-date operating system that will need updating.
"With their own data, only 16 per cent of Android users are on year-old version of the operating system," he said. "More than 50pc are still on software that is two years old. A really big difference," he told Reuters.
Mr Schiller said the fragmentation - the number of versions of the Android operating system out in the marketplace - is in itself a problem, adding:
"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."
He continued: “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. They don't work seamlessly together."
The timing of Mr Schiller’s attack will be taken as a clear sign that Apple is rattled by the buzz being created by tonight's New York launch of the rival to Apple's iPhone.
Samsung is already the biggest seller of smartphones globally and the launch is taking place in New York in a bid to knock Apple of the perch as the biggest smartphone seller in the US.
Samsung is understood to be anticipating sales of the new Galaxy S4 smartphone to be as high as 10 million handsets per month.
They are said to be taking precautions to avoid any supply issues that could stop them meeting the anticipated huge demand for handsets.
Following last year’s launch of the S3, a design fault with handset cases is estimated to have lost Samsung two million sales.
Some analysts have warned that Samsung has risked overhyping the new phone if it does not offer enough new features in comparison to the bestselling S3.
"It's got to be a blockbuster phone that beats its predecessor and competitors in nearly all aspects, otherwise Samsung could follow the footsteps of others and fail to manage expectations, which get only higher," according to David Choi, an analyst at SK Securities.
Samsung this week published a teaser image of the new phone, showing only a shadowed view of the top of the handset.
Samsung Mobile US published the picture on Twitter with an update that said: "The countdown for #TheNextBigThing has begun. Who’s ready for the Global Unpacked Event on March 14?"
The device looked similar to leaked images published on a Chinese forum the day before which had claimed to show the new Galaxy S4.
The leaked pictures showed a device that looked very similar to the Galaxy S3, only slightly larger. Information published on the forum claimed that the phone has a 1080p display, runs Android 4.2.1, has a 1.8GHz Universal5410 processor and 2GB of RAM.
The Verge, which first published the leaked photos, said the Universal5410 is "likely a codename for the Exynos Octa 5410, an eight-core processor with four A15 cores for power and four A7 cores for power efficiency".
The most recent leaked images do not match pictures published by SamMobile in January, which showed a similar device but without a button on the front.
Samsung's Global Unpacked Event takes place in New York at 7pm local time (midnight UK time) and though very little has been confirmed, lots of rumours have emerged about the new handset.
A video posted on YouTube showed a similar device and the uploader claims that it is a "world first hands-on" with the Galaxy S4.