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Galaxy S5 fingerprint sensor lets people shop with PayPal

While Samsung's new smartphone allows for digital payments with fingerprint authentication, what does this mean for Apple's iPhone?

Samsung's Galaxy S5.
Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S5 smartphone on Monday and it's full of bells and whistles, like a bigger display, improved camera, and built-in fingerprint sensor.

By no means is Samsung the first smartphone maker to debut fingerprint authentication, but it has done something different -- the Galaxy S5's sensor will also act as password protection for PayPal payments.

Samsung and PayPal announced Monday that they've partnered on the Galaxy S5 to let users pay for items password-free at all online and brick-and-mortar stores that accept PayPal. Users only need their fingerprint to buy goods.

This type of digital payment system could bring added security to users because their devices will no longer have to store passwords or login details, which are susceptible to theft. The only user information the Galaxy S5 has is a unique encrypted key that lets PayPal verify the customer's identity.

"By working with Samsung to leverage fingerprint authentication technology on their new Galaxy S5, we are able to demonstrate that consumers don't need to face a tradeoff between security and convenience," PayPal's chief product officer Hill Ferguson said in a statement. "With a simple swipe of a finger, consumers can still securely log into their PayPal account to shop and pay with the convenience that mobile devices afford."

Samsung's big competitor Apple debuted its fingerprint-reading technology on its iPhone 5S in September. The HTC One Max and Motorola Atrix smartphones also have their renditions of the technology.

While Apple doesn't appear to be planning any partnership with PayPal, it's believed the iPhone-maker may be working on its own mobile payments feature. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the company was intrigued with such a feature and that part of the thinking with the iPhone 5S's Touch ID was its possible use in payments.

"It's a big opportunity on the platform," said Cook.

While Samsung has beat Apple to the punch in rolling out retail payments via the fingerprint sensor, it's likely Apple's own vision for the technology will debut sometime in the near future.

For Samsung's Galaxy S5, the PayPal fingerprint authentication feature will be available in April in 26 countries worldwide, including the US, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Russia, the UK, and more.