Samsung: Galaxy S5 due by April, maybe with iris scanner

The Korean company's next-generation flagship Android phone will be more distinctive than predecessors. Also coming: a smaller, more powerful Gear successor.

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Stephen Shankland
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Samsung introduced the Galaxy TabPro, an Android tablet with a large 12.2-inch screen, at CES 2014.
Samsung introduced the Galaxy TabPro, an Android tablet with a large 12.2-inch screen, at CES 2014. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung's Galaxy S5 will be stylistically distinct from S3 and S4 predecessors, and the next-generation flagship Android phone could include an iris scanner when it ships in March or April, according to the company's mobile-products leader.

"Many people are fanatical about iris recognition technology... We are studying the possibility," said Young-hee Lee, executive vice president of marketing for Samsung mobile's division, in a Bloomberg News interview at the CES conference in Las Vegas published Thursday.

Iris scanners can identify a person based on patterns in the eye, and adding one would be a competitive response to the fingerprint scanner in Apple's iPhone 5S and HTC One Max. For the iris scanner to be more than a gimmick, though, it would have to work effectively to avoid criticisms such as those leveled at the HTC One Max's fingerprint authentication mechanism.

Samsung had planned to include a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Note 3, a phablet released in September, but backed off the idea because it wasn't reliable enough, sources have told CNET.

The S5 should look different, too: "When we moved to S4 from S3, it's partly true that consumers couldn't really feel much difference between the two products from the physical perspective, so the market reaction wasn't as big," Lee told Bloomberg. "For the S5, we will go back to the basics. Mostly, it's about the display and the feel of the cover."

The S5 will be released a year after the S4, in March or April, Lee said. At the same time, a successor to the Gear smartwatch will arrive that'll be less bulky and have more advanced features, according to Lee. Sources have told CNET that the Gear successor is due in March, including a higher-quality screen.

Lee also said a new Galaxy Note smartphone for higher-end customers will arrive in the second half of 2014.

Samsung Galaxy NotePro gives you something to write home about at CES 2014

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Although it is the dominant Android phone maker, Samsung is locked in a legal battle over patents with Apple and on Monday warned of declining profits because the smartphone market is saturated and because competition from the Apple iPhone is fierce.

In addition, the HTC One has helped show that Android phones need not be bland plastic slabs, the LG Electronics-built Google Nexus 5 is pushing costs down for high-end Android phones, and the Moto G from Google subsidiary Motorola is pushing costs down for lower-end Android phones.

Lee also said Samsung will focus harder on its Tab line of tablets in 2014. At CES, it introduced the large 12.2-inch Galaxy TabPro and Galaxy NotePro tablets. The NotePro includes a stylus, and both models will ship in the first quarter.

Updated at 2:53 a.m. PT to add details about Samsung's S5 and Gear plans.