Samsung revealed its new Galaxy S5 smartphone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. The Korean company gives the latest installment in the Galaxy S series a makeover rather than a complete overhaul, but will it be enough to dominate the competitive smartphone market?
The smartphone left some enthusiastic and others underwhelmed. Its new specs promise upgraded power-saving, security and camera offerings, but improvements seem incremental. It’s not so much a phone for a distant tomorrow packed with next-generation technology than it is a device for next month or next year. And while this may disappoint those waiting on Samsung to make the iPhone look like a brick, progress made with the S5 still impresses.
Judging the S5 by its cover, it’s a prettier device than its predecessor. The company’s president and CEO J.K. Shin called the phone’s dimpled back “modern and refreshing.” The S5’s casing also acts like a suit of armor, as the device comes furnished with a fingerprint security and IP67 dust and water resistance — meaning the S5 will work even after getting dunked in water for a half hour. The latter point drew a round of applause from the Barcelona crowd.
Other upgrades show Samsung’s emphasis on wearable and health-orientated technology. The S5 tracks users’ heart rates, and claims to be the first smartphone ever to pack a heart rate sensor. Samsung has also paid attention to enterprises’ ‘bring your own device’ needs and introduced KNOX 2.0, an update on its mobile security platform. In addition, the S5 has Near-field communication (NFC) connectivity, which will facilitate mobile commerce and payment.
Each of these up-and-coming sectors represent a massive opportunity. Mobile health revenues worldwide could reach $23 billion by 2017, according to PwC and GSMA. Global Industry Analysts forecasts the mobile security market could swell to $14.4 billion by the same year. And Juniper Research predicts in 2017, the volume for NFC transactions could hit $110 billion. Getting into these markets, and getting there first, seems a priority for Samsung.
Samsung’s market position is the envy of all other vendors whom the South Korean company watches from the apex of the industry. It battles strong competition in arch-rival Apple, but shipped nearly a third of all smartphones worldwide last year, more than double its Cupertino challenger. Though Apple’s 5s device debuted more than five months ago and Samsung’s S5 won’t hit markets until April, the smartphones share a lot of similarities, without even mentioning their inverse names. Now, the two devices both fingerprint security features and design elements like a drop-down notification center.
Samsung has updated and upgraded, but takes a risk in avoiding a knockout new feature which could potentially win new customers from Apple. Improving on a theme and going back to basics can be good cliches for a technology innovator on some occasions, but in the ultra-competitive world of smartphones, where the number one spot only lasts so long, it’s an interesting philosophy to employ.