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Samsung unveils S6 phones, mobile wallet to challenge Apple

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Samsung Electronics rebooted its premium Galaxy smartphones with the S6 and S6 Edge, using a three-sided screen, as the company tries to reverse profit declines and market-share losses to Apple Shares rose to their highest in eight months.

[LONDON] Samsung Electronics rebooted its premium Galaxy smartphones with the S6 and S6 Edge, using a three-sided screen, as the company tries to reverse profit declines and market-share losses to Apple Shares rose to their highest in eight months.

The devices unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday include payment software that makes them compatible with about 90 per cent of card readers. The phones, which feature metal bodies and a fingerprint reader for added security, will go on sale in 20 countries starting from April 10.

Samsung is trying to regain competitiveness after Apple in September released iPhones with bigger displays, a market segment pioneered by Galaxy S models. The premium Edge model has a screen that extends onto the right and left sides of the phone, adding real estate to access applications and enabling a feature that causes the phone to glow along the edges to alert a user to calls or texts even when placed face down.

"We codenamed the project 'Zero', and what we meant by this was to get back to the fundamentals," David Kang, vice president of marketing at Samsung, said in an interview. "Everyone from design, marketing and engineering took a step back." Samsung shares rose as much as 3.8 per cent to 1,409,000 won, the highest since June 12, in Seoul on Monday. The benchmark Kospi index rose as much as 0.7 per cent.

The S6 models will go on sale worldwide, including China, where consumers wanting bigger devices that perform the roles of phone and tablet computer are flocking to iPhones. That momentum helped propel Apple into a global tie with Samsung in the fourth quarter and helped contribute to a third straight decline in Samsung's quarterly earnings.

The S6 devices will have a 5.1-inch front screen, the same size as the S5. They run on Samsung's own 64-bit chips, which are based on ARM Holdings Plc's architecture, and operate Google's Android Lollipop software. The camera has 16 megapixels and includes a "bright" lens that improves nighttime photos.

Both phones will be available in gold, white and black. The S6 also comes in blue, while the S6 Edge also comes in green.

The phones have high-speed and wireless charging capabilities. Users will get enough power from 10 minutes of charging to watch video for 2 hours, Samsung said.

"If you look at the phone, it is a complete evolution," Mr Kang said. "Everything from the glass, the colors, the finishing, metal - it is a total new direction we're taking." Samsung Pay will be available starting in the third quarter in the US and South Korea before being rolled out globally. Samsung has partnered with MasterCard and Visa and is in discussions to work with companies including American Express, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Samsung bought LoopPa last month to help it develop technology for mobile payments. LoopPay makes it easier for retailers to accept payments via smartphones.

"Samsung will need to bundle more content, software, and services to truly differentiate in the high-end smartphone segment," Thomas Husson, a vice president with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc., said in an e-mail. "What matters is not whether the S6 has a curved screen or not, but what types of new services and partnerships Samsung will announce around the device."

LONDON