Samsung looking at iris scanning technology for S5

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Samsung looking at iris scanning technology for S5

Samsung Electronics will release its Galaxy S5 smartphone by April and is considering using iris scanning technology for the first time as it readies the new high-end handset to compete with Apple’s latest iPhones.

The S5 will be paired with a new wearable device that will be an evolution of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Lee Young-hee, executive vice president of the company’s mobile business, said in a Monday interview. Samsung will debut the new products together as it also boosts marketing of tablet computers.

“We’ve been announcing our first flagship model in the first half of each year, around March and April, and we are still targeting release around that time,” Lee said. “When we release our S5 device, you can also expect a Gear successor with more advanced functions, and the bulky design will also be improved.”

Samsung, which sells one of every three smartphones globally, is adding new features and models to fend off Apple in the high-end market and Chinese makers luring budget customers with handsets for $100. Samsung also will announce at least one other wearable device this year, Lee said without elaborating.

Samsung registered a design in Korea in October for eyeglasses that can show information from a smartphone and enable users to take calls.

Sales of the S4, the company’s current marquee handset, slowed after Apple released the iPhone 5S and 5C in September. The 5S includes a fingerprint-identity sensor, and Samsung is considering using an eye scanner in its top-end smartphone.

“Many people are fanatical about iris recognition technology,” Lee said at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “We are studying the possibility.”

Samsung this week posted its first profit decline in nine quarters as high-end handset growth slowed and the company paid employee bonuses. Operating profit was 8.3 trillion won ($7.8 billion) in the fourth quarter of 2013, falling from 9 trillion won from a year earlier, the company said.

Shares of Samsung have dropped 10 percent from its closing price on Dec. 23 as analysts scaled back projections for high-end handsets, erasing about $20 billion of the company’s market value. Samsung shipped 13 million units of the S4 in the fourth quarter, down from 17 million in the previous three months, Daewoo Securities said in a Dec. 23 report.

The Galaxy S4 may have fallen short of expectations because its design was too similar to the S3, Lee said.

“For the S5, we will go back to the basics. Mostly, it’s about the display and the feel of the cover,” Lee said.

The timing of the release is after February’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Samsung shipped 91 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, up 4 percent from the previous quarter, according to an estimate by KB Investment and Securities. The company, the largest maker of televisions and memory chips, is diversifying its product range and using its manufacturing scale to tap new markets.

Samsung’s next Galaxy Note handset may use a three-sided display so messages can be read from an angle. The latest model will be released in the second half of this year, aimed at the high-end segment.

The market for wearable devices may more than triple to about $30 billion by 2018, according to IHS Global Insights. Samsung will attempt to boost sales of its smartwatches by adding functions to check calorie consumption, monitor heart rate and measure stress levels, Lee said.

The company also sees more growth potential in tablets as it takes on Apple’s iPad line and Amazon.com’s Kindle devices. The tablet computer market will grow more than 15 percent annually, with more than 240 million units shipped last year, Shin Jong-kyun, head of Samsung’s mobile business, said Monday.

Samsung’s share of global tablet shipments doubled to about 20 percent last year, Lee said. The company, which shipped more than 40 million units in 2013, aims to drive sales growth of its mobile business, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the company’s operating profit, to fend off margin pressure from the slowing high-end smartphone segment.

Samsung announced its largest tablets at CES, unveiling 12.2-inch versions of the Galaxy NotePRO, which uses a stylus, and the TabPRO, which doesn’t. The largest screens allows users to split the display into four windows running different applications.

“We had put relatively fewer resources and focus on tablets, but from this year we will consider it one of our key major focuses,” Lee said. “We still have room to improve.” Bloomberg

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