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Samsung exec: We're being more cautious with unproven device features

The Korean electronics giant will only use new technologies such as fingerprint and eye scanners if they work well, a US mobile exec tells CNET at CES 2014. That differs from past devices that included sometimes unreliable capabilities.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
2 min read

The Galaxy S4 includes features such as "Smart Scroll," which tracks a user's eye movement. Sarah Tew/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- Samsung has never hesitated to release to introduce far-out features in its mobile devices, but that may be changing a bit.

The Korean electronics giant is "becoming a little more cautious about integrating unproven technologies in devices," Ryan Bidan, director of product marketing for Samsung's US mobile business, told CNET here at the Consumer Electronics Show. That includes fingerprint or iris scanning or any other technologies the company has considered using in its gadgets, he said.

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"What we want to make sure is not only does it have a useful purpose, but does it have a good consumer experience that goes along with that," Bidan said. "When it makes sense, we'll integrate it, but we're not going to rush and do something that doesn't make a whole lot of sense for products."

Another Samsung executive, Young-hee Lee, the company's head of mobile marketing globally, told Bloomberg earlier this week that the company is considering using eye scanner technology in its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5. However, Lee also said it's uncertain whether the capability will actually appear in the device.

In Samsung's quest to dominate the mobile market -- and release features before its rivals -- it has often created capabilities that aren't as reliable as they should be. For instance, the company rushed to introduce the Galaxy S4 earlier than its predecessor, which meant engineers were tweaking features right up to launch. Some, such as the much-ballyhooed eye scrolling, got a lot of buzz but didn't work very well.

The company initially planned to include a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Note 3 phablet, people familiar with the device told CNET, which would have beaten Apple's iPhone 5S with the feature. However, Samsung scrapped the plan before the device's September unveiling because the technology proved to be unreliable, the people said.

Because the smartphone market is maturing, Samsung better understands what consumers really use and want in its devices, Bidan said. That doesn't mean future Samsung gadgets will lack whiz-bang features, but those features will have to work more seamlessly.

"We see where areas to differentiate are, and we want to be more focused in what those things are, how consumers experience them, and how we go out and talk to the market about them," Bidan said.

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