Samsung debuts wearables and latest Galaxy smartphone

BARCELONA, Spain Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:06am IST

1 of 2. New Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone (L), Gear 2 smartwatch (C) and Gear Fit fitness band are displayed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Albert Gea

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BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics unveiled a new smart watch 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.

JK Shin, chief executive officer and president of the IT and Mobile Communication Division at Samsung Electronics, said the devices were designed to make life easier for consumers in areas like fitness, rather than dazzling them with new technology in the handset.

"Our consumers do not want eye-popping technology or the most complex technology," he told an audience of Samsung employees, partners and media in Barcelona.

They instead wanted beautiful design, a better camera, faster connectivity and technology that would help them keep fit, he said.

Samsung's Gear 2 smart watch, which runs on the Tizen operating system rather than Google's (GOOG.O) Android software, can monitor the wearer's heart rate, a function used in increasingly popular health and fitness apps, or individual programmes.

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, the South Korean company said.

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, it said, which can be used to protect data and provide security credentials in a swipe.

Analysts said the improvements in the fifth iteration of the Galaxy S, which has sold more than 200 million units in total, were more incremental than in previous devices, showing it was becoming harder to innovate at the top end.

Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson said, "The Galaxy S5 has great features and will probably sell well due to massive marketing support.

"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 (AAPL.O) - rooting the experience in people's daily lives? I don't think so."

It will enter a market that has seen slowing demand at the top end, where Samsung is already in fierce competition from Apple Inc and Chinese vendors.

(Editing by David Evans and Jan Paschal)

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