Samsung hopes to drum up interest for S5 with hands-on demos

The company hopes improved camera, print recognition and heart rate monitor will be enough to get users to upgrade

Samsung Electronics is laying the groundwork for the launches of the Galaxy S5, Gear 2 smartwatch and Gear Fit with hands-on demos in more than 61 countries.

If Samsung wants to continue to dominate the global smartphone market the Galaxy S5 needs to be a hit.

"The S5 is Samsung's most important smartphone model bar none in 2014 ... That it gets off to a good start and creates a trickle down effect for the rest of the portfolio is critical. If the S5 does well Samsung does well, and if it doesn't do so well, Samsung will have a tough year," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

The hands-on demos let users try the smartphone's integrated finger print recognition, heart rate monitor and improved camera, features Samsung hopes will be enough to get users to upgrade even though the underlying hardware has only received a smaller update.

Users that Samsung manages to convince can preorder the device ahead of the April 11 sales start.

The demos start on Friday in the US and Switzerland, and will then be expanded to countries such as Brazil, China, Germany and the UK. The Galaxy S5 will cost US$660 from T-Mobile in the U.S. and 899 Swiss francs ($1020) from Swisscom.

The Galaxy S5 was launched at Mobile World Congress in Feruary. The dust-and-water-resistant device runs Android 4.4, is powered by a quad-core processor running at 2.5GHz, and has a 5.1-inch screen with a 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution.

The improved camera can shoot 16-megapixel images with HDR. It has a fast autofocus and a feature called selective focus, which allows users to focus on a specific area of an object while simultaneously blurring out the background, according to Samsung. The company has also developed a new feature that turns the display black and white, and shuts down all unnecessary features to minimize the battery consumption. 

At Mobile World Congress, Samsung announced the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches, and Gear Fit smart armband, as well. They will also go on sale on April 11. The Gear 2 and Gear Fit will be demonstrated alongside the Galaxy S5, as Samsung continues to try to let its wearables ride on the coattails of the company's smartphones.

That Samsung's new Tizen-based smartwatches get off to a good start is also important to the company. This week saw more competition arrive in Motorola's 360 and the G Watch from LG Electronics, which are scheduled to go on sale a couple of months after the arrival of the new Gear products. They are both based on Android Wear, a customized version of Google's OS that it announced on Tuesday.

What Samsung does with Android Wear remains to be seen, but Google said it is working with Samsung on products based on the new OS.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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