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Several new phones coming, but all eyes on Samsung

BARCELONA, Spain — Sony unveiled a new waterproof phone that can take ultra-high-definition video. Nokia introduced three Android smartphones aimed at emerging markets. And 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 announcement during the Mobile World Congress wireless show made it harder for other phone manufacturers to get noticed. Samsung had several times the attendance of either Sony's or Nokia's event on Monday. 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 the Gear 2 Neo. Samsung also announced a fitness band on Monday. Apple is the only company that might be able to overshadow Samsung, but it isn't attending or 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 blockbuster phones and helped Samsung surpass iPhone maker Apple Inc. as the world's largest smartphone maker. Samsung had a 31 percent market share last year, compared with 16 percent for Apple. No other company had more than 5 percent.

The only company that comes close to matching Samsung's muscle is Apple. The iPhone's debut in 2007 showed the world that phones can do much more than calls and messages. Since then, each new iPhone release has taken on an aura of a rock concert, with the most devoted Apple fans lining up at stores for hours or days to buy one.

Sony Mobile president Kunimasa Suzuki said that with Apple and Samsung so dominant, the real battle is for No. 3. He said marketing must be focused by country and product line.

"It doesn't mean we just directly compete with the big giants," he said.

Still, Samsung will have to give people a reason to upgrade. Hence, 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 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 at 4 inches since 2012.

Several new phones coming, but all eyes on Samsung 02/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 10:54pm]
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