* New Galaxy S5 has bigger screen, fingerprint sensor
* Products mark shift away from 'eye-popping' technology
* Questions on whether subtle features can grab customers
* Samsung shares up 0.6 pct, in line with market
(Adds reaction from Seoul, details on Samsung strategy)
By Paul Sandle
BARCELONA, Spain, Feb 24 Samsung Electronics
unveiled a new smartwatch and fitness band along
with the latest version of its Galaxy smartphone on Monday,
demonstrating how the battleground for innovation is shifting
from the hand to the wrist.
The world's biggest smartphone maker set a trend less than
six months ago for wearable devices that link to mobile handsets
with its Galaxy Gear watch, which has seen rivals like Sony
and Huawei follow in its wake.
The switch in focus also underlines the challenges the South
Korean firm is facing. Low-price Chinese rivals are churning out
products that look increasingly similar at a time when
smartphone sales have started to ease, taking a toll on
To fight back, Samsung is taking a less glitzy marketing
approach to control costs. It has also performed a U-turn,
abandoning its previous heavy focus on sweeping hardware
improvements to highlight more subtle features in its devices
and accessories in a bid to appeal to a wider audience.
"With the Galaxy S5, Samsung is going back to basics," JK
Shin, co-chief executive and president of Samsung's mobile
business, told an audience of Samsung employees, partners and
media at the annual Mobile World Congress technology trade show
in Barcelona. Samsung will roll out the S5 globally on April 11,
with pricing details yet to be disclosed.
"Our consumers do not want eye-popping technology or the
most complex technology," he said. Instead, the want beautiful
design, a better camera, faster connectivity and technology that
would help them keep fit, Shin said.
Market expectations for the new S5, one of Samsung's marquee
product launches this year, remain subdued given its comparative
lack of innovation.
"The Galaxy S5 has great features and will probably sell
well due to massive marketing support," Forrester Research
analyst Thomas Husson said. "But is the total product experience
it offers differentiated enough to continue the sales success
story? Is it enough to bet on fitness and fingerprint sensors to
beat Apple - rooting the experience in people's daily
lives? I don't think so."
The Galaxy S5, which will be available in April, has a
slightly bigger screen than its predecessor, at 5.1 inches
compared with 5 inches, improved camera technology and better
protection against water and dust, Samsung said.
It also has a fingerprint scanner on the home button, which
rival Apple introduced in the iPhone 5S last year. The function
can be used to protect data and provide security credentials in
"It's very unlikely for the S5 sales to top its predecessor
S4's performance during the key initial sales period," said Lee
Seung-woo, an analyst at IBK Securities in Seoul. "I think sales
would come in fewer than 20 million units in the first three
months of the launch."
At a relatively low-key launch event in Barcelona, Samsung
also unveiled the Gear 2 smartwatch, which runs on the Tizen
operating system rather than Google's Android software,
and a stripped-down version called Gear 2 Neo, which doesn't
have a camera.
The devices can monitor the wearer's heart rate, a function
used in increasingly popular health and fitness apps, or
The Samsung Gear Fit, also targeting the fitness sector, has
a heart rate monitor, too, as does the Samsung Galaxy S5 itself,
a first for a smartphone, Samsung said.
The Gear Fit has a curved touch-sensitive screen and its
features include a pedometer, Samsung said.
Shares in Samsung, Asia's most valuable technology company
with a market value of $204 billion, rose 0.6 percent, versus a
0.7 percent gain in the wider market.
(Additional reporting by Miyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by David
Evans, Jan Paschal and Kenneth Maxwell)