Samsung unveils curved Galaxy S6 Edge, payments

Samsung has unveiled a curved screen smartphone and mobile payment system in an attempt to lead its fightback against U.S. rival Apple.

The South Korean electronics giant released the Galaxy S6 and curved S6 Edge at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as it looks to turn round its fortunes after a year dominated by the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the premium end of the market.

Both devices have a 5.1 inch screen with a 16 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front camera. But the screen on the S6 Edge curves over the sides of the smartphone.

"This phone is more powerful than every Galaxy device before. It is a new generation of design," Jean-Daniel Ayme, deputy president of Europe for Samsung, told CNBC in an interview.

"We are very confident that this device will be hugely successful," Ayme added when asked by CNBC how the S6 Edge would fare against the iPhone.

Both smartphones can be charged wirelessly, a feature the South Korean company teased last week in a blog post. Other features include a heart rate monitor and ability to view apps such as the time or stocks on the side screen of the S6 Edge.


Analysts said the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are a step up from the Galaxy S5 which was criticized for looking and feeling cheap, despite being Samsung's flagship product.

"These products deliver a completely new level of quality and design from Samsung which was something where they made a major misstep with the all-plastic Galaxy S5," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone, referring to the Galaxy S5's plastic body. The latest S6 range is made of metal.

"The products' three clear areas of differentiation - camera, screen and design - and have simplified software. The purchase consideration for consumers are clearer than before."

'Not revolutionary'

Samsung Galaxy S6
Ben Wood
Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung faced a tough year in 2014, losing its dominant position in both China and India to high-spec low-cost smartphone makers such as Xiaomi and Micromax. And in the fourth quarter of last year, Apple tied with Samsung to become number one smartphone vendor in the world by shipments, according to Strategy Analytics.

To top it off, the South Korean titan's cash cow mobile division reported its fifth consecutive quarter of decline in earnings in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The S6 Edge is Samsung's reply, but analysts said it would not lead to full-blown turnaround for the company's smartphone unit.

"I think it's an evolutionary, not revolutionary, step for Samsung, but it is the first step in stabilizing the company," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, told CNBC by phone.

Samsung Pay

As well as the devices, Samsung unveiled its mobile payments system called Samsung Pay. This will allow customers to store their card details in a "mobile wallet" and pay using their smartphone or any other Samsung devices.

Samsung said its payment system works using near field communication (NFC) technology. But unlike Apple Pay, Samsung Pay also uses magnetic strip technology in order for users to pay for items using their mobile devices. This, Samsung claims, will allow it to work with over 90 percent of the world's retailers.

Initially Samsung Pay will roll out in South Korea and the U.S. in the third quarter of this year, Ayme said, but could not say when it will be available globally. Samsung has partnered with Mastercard and Visa on its payments system and said it is looking to work with other companies such as American Express.