Samsung Electronics' shares are increasingly outperforming rival Apple's as the Korean giant steps up its bid for global smartphone leadership.

At one point during Thursday trading, shares of Samsung Electronics touched 1,675,000 won, renewing the all-time high hit in January 2013.
The shares have risen 45% from a year ago, compared to a 5% drop for Apple shares over the same period. The difference in price momentum reflects the difference between the two companies' respective smartphone sales.

On Monday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook greeted locals on a visit to China on his Weibo account. During the visit, he met with government officials and unveiled a plan to build the company's first research center in the country.

The visit comes as sales of Apple's mainstay iPhone smartphones dropped 15% year-on-year in the April-June quarter to about 40.4 million units. For the quarter, the company's overall sales in China fell 33% from a year ago, representing the largest fall in sales for a single region. The company's overall operating profit was down 28%.

Regaining smartphone sales in China is key to the company's earnings recovery, and will hinge on the next iPhone model, which is expected as early as September.

But investors are not convinced the new model will have the appeal needed to save the day, with speculation rife that it will include just a few minor updates.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics is set to release Galaxy Note7 on Friday. The day before, a New York AT&T outlet displayed the handsets at its entrance to maximize interest in the device that Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung Electronics' mobile communications business, described as the most intelligent smartphone yet. Significant numbers of customers have already placed advanced orders, according a store attendant.

Samsung suffered seven consecutive quarters of decline in operating profit from the October-December period in 2013, aggravated by the flop of the Galaxy S5 smartphone introduced 2014. But the Galaxy S7 edge, which debuted this past March, proved a major success, leading the company's operating profit to increase about 20% for the April-June quarter.

Observers put the model's success down to features that are not available on iPhone models, such as the waterproof design, use of a power-saving electroluminescence display and the ability to save data on an SD card.