Samsung Unveils S6 Phones, Mobile Wallet
Samsung Electronics rebooted its premium Galaxy smartphones with the S6 and S6 Edge, using a three-sided screen, as the company tries to reverse profit declines and a slide in market share.
Shares surged to their highest in eight months.
The devices unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday include payment software that makes them compatible with about 90 percent of card readers. The phones, which feature metal bodies and a fingerprint reader for added security, will go on sale in 20 countries starting April 10.
Samsung is trying to regain competitiveness after Apple in September released iPhones with bigger displays, a market segment pioneered by the Galaxy S line.
The Edge model has a screen that extends onto the right and left sides of the phone, adding real estate to access applications and enabling a feature that causes the phone to glow along the edges to alert a user to calls or texts even when placed face down.
“We codenamed the project ‘Zero,’ and what we meant by this was to get back to the fundamentals,” David Kang, vice president of marketing at Samsung, said in an interview. “Everyone from design, marketing and engineering took a step back.”
Samsung shares rose 4.9 percent to 1.423 million won, the highest since June 10, in Seoul on Monday. The benchmark Kospi index gained 0.6 percent.
The S6 models will go on sale worldwide, including China, where consumers wanting bigger devices that perform the roles of phone and tablet computer are flocking to local brands.
The S6 devices will have a 5.1-inch front screen, the same size as the S5. They run on Samsung’s own 64-bit chips, which are based on ARM architecture, and operate Google’s Android Lollipop software.
The main camera has 16 megapixels, with a five-megapixel front-facing camera, and includes a “bright” lens that improves nighttime photos.
Both phones will be available in gold, white and black. The S6 also comes in blue, while the S6 Edge also comes in green.
The phones have high-speed and wireless charging capabilities. Users will get enough power from 10 minutes of charging to watch video for two hours, Samsung said. The battery, though, is not user-removable, as was the case with earlier Galaxy S devices.
“If you look at the phone, it is a complete evolution,” Kang said. “Everything from the glass, the colors, the finishing, metal — it is a total new direction we’re taking.”
Samsung Pay will be available starting in the third quarter in the United States and South Korea before being rolled out globally. Samsung has partnered with MasterCard and Visa and is in discussions to work with companies including American Express, Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase.
Samsung bought LoopPay last month to help it develop technology for mobile payments. LoopPay makes it easier for retailers to accept payments via smartphones.
“Samsung will need to bundle more content, software, and services to truly differentiate in the high-end smartphone segment,” said Thomas Husson, a vice president with Forrester Research.
“What matters is not whether the S6 has a curved screen or not, but what types of new services and partnerships Samsung will announce around the device.”
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