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Samsung launches flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone

BARCELONA--Samsung unveiled Monday its new flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone armed with a fingerprint scanner and a built-in heart rate sensor to defend its place as the world's industry leader.

Taking center stage on the opening day of the world's biggest mobile fair in Barcelona, Spain, the South Korean giant simultaneously revealed a connected bracelet for health-concerned customers.

Samsung made about 30 percent of all smartphones sold in the world last year, nearly twice the share of archrival Apple, which traditionally skips the annual World Mobile Congress.

But Samsung, which announced its new devices on the sidelines of the Feb. 24-27 event, is nevertheless scrambling for new revenue sources as competition in mature markets intensifies.

In a struggle to stand out from the competition, including a rising challenge from China, Samsung showed off the Galaxy S5 with a light sensor on the back that gives a heart rate reading when the user touches it with his or her fingertip.

Though the case is plastic, as with earlier versions of the Galaxy series of smartphones, it is water and dust-proof, and has a leathery feel on the back.

The smartphone boasts a full high definition 5.1-inch screen, a 16-megapixel camera and, catching up with Apple, the home button doubles up as a fingerprint reader to unlock the device or to secure documents.

The phone has an extreme battery-saving mode that turns the display black-and-white and retains just six key applications.

To improve connections, it can combine a wifi signal and a mobile signal.

“With the Galaxy S5, Samsung is going back to basics to focus on delivering the capabilities that matter most to our consumers,” said Samsung mobile division chief J.K. Shin, who presented the device in an event that featured a musical prelude by a live orchestra.

Novel Smart Devices

Global smartphone sales surged 42.3 percent to 968 million units last year, according to industry research group Gartner Inc.

But the growth was powered almost entirely by developing markets, disguising a slowdown in mature markets such as Western Europe and the United States, which are the most profitable.

As a result, mobile manufacturers are showing off a string of novel smart devices to try to unlock new revenue streams.

The Samsung Fit bracelet follows that trend, with a curved touch-screen display and a heart-rate sensor to help give users feedback during exercise routines.

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The new device Samsung Gear Fit is tried out at the Mobile World Congress, the world's largest mobile phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain on Monday, Feb. 24.

(AP)

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