BARCELONA, SPAIN: Sony unveiled a waterproof phone that can take ultra-high-definition video. Nokia introduced three Android smartphones aimed at emerging markets. Lenovo announced one with an all-glass exterior.
Yet the spotlight Monday was on Samsung, which announced a successor to its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone. The Galaxy S5 will feature a heart-rate monitor, a fingerprint sensor for security and a sharper camera with faster auto focus.
Samsung’s glitzy announcement during the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona made it harder for other phone makers to get noticed. Samsung had several times the attendance of either Sony’s or Nokia’s events. An orchestra opened Samsung’s event as blue spotlights moved up and down the aisles.
“It’s increasingly difficult to get attention for your mobile device in a very crowded marketplace,” said Dan Hays, U.S. wireless advisory leader at the consulting firm PwC.
It’s even more difficult when one of the competing devices comes from Samsung Electronics Co., which announced the new phone a day after it unveiled two new computerized wristwatches, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. Samsung also announced a fitness band Monday. Apple is the only company that might be able to overshadow Samsung, but it isn’t attending nor announcing anything at the show.
Roger Entner, an analyst with the Recon Analytics research firm in Boston, said the S4 and its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, were both blockbuster phones and have helped Samsung surpass iPhone maker Apple Inc. as the world’s largest smartphone maker. According to Gartner, Samsung had a 31 percent market share last year, compared with 16 percent for Apple. No other company had more than 5 percent.
Despite all its marketing power, Samsung will have to give people a reason to upgrade. There’s a notion that phone improvements these days are incremental rather than innovative.
Samsung tried to shatter that notion by highlighting features not found in other phones. That includes a heart-rate sensor to complement its upcoming wearable fitness devices. The S5 is also among the first to have a fingerprint sensor for security, though that’s already in Apple’s iPhone 5s.
Samsung also has been updating phones by making their screens larger. The S5 continues that trend, with a display that measures 5.1 inches diagonally. By contrast, the S4 was 5 inches and the original S from 2010 was 4 inches. The iPhone’s screen has stayed steady at 4 inches since 2012.
Meanwhile, Sony Corp. said its new Xperia Z2 smartphone will have noise-cancelling technology that works with an in-ear headset sold separately.
Nokia Corp. is targeting emerging markets with its Nokia X line of phones, starting at 89 euros ($122).
Lenovo Group Ltd. announced three new smartphones, including the $269 glass-exterior S850 targeted at “fashion-conscious users.” The other two phones promise longer battery life.