While CES 2014 may have been underwhelming in comparison with prior years' shows, we've still seen a number of interesting new developments this week, as well as new rumors emerging. One rumor now circulating originated during a Bloomberg interview at CES with Lee Young Hee, Samsung's vice president of its mobile devices unit. During Hee's interview, she seems to have dropped hints that the company's next version of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5, could offer iris scanner technology.
While few details were offered, Hee confirmed that the Galaxy S5 is likely to be released in March or April of this year, following Samsung's typical release schedule. Along with the Galaxy S5, she indicated that the company will likely unveil an updated, less bulky version of its Galaxy Gear smart watch.
Whether the S5 will actually include iris scanning technology as soon as March remains to be seen. Hee's remarks indicated the company is studying the new technology, but she remained non-conmittal as to when it might be incorporated. Based on that information, it seems that an iris-scanning Galaxy phone could still be a long way from reality.
The Age of Biometrics
Taking a step back, we see that there have been a handful of trends emerging at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, and one interesting trend certainly involves the use of biometrics to increase data and device security. Apple actually initiated the biometrics trend months ago, when it released the iPhone 5S with a built-in fingerprint scanner. Google's Nexus 7 tablet has also been using biometric security, in the form of facial recognition. Now, if the hints dropped by Lee Young Hee turn out to be true, Samsung may soon follow suit with an eye scanner.
So, which is better, fingerprint reader, facial recognition, or iris scanner? Iris scanning -- which quickly analyzes the most complex tissue structure in the human anatomy -- tends to be more accurate and secure, although some consumers may balk at having their eyes scanned. When compared against facial recognition technology, at least one government study in 2012 found that iris scanning was more accurate and came back with results faster.
However, the real determining factor may not be the theoretical accuracy of the technology, but the practical application. For example, the Nexus 7, which has been widely praised as a leading tablet, has performed very poorly with regard to its facial recognition system for our staff. In fact, the facial recognition feature tested so poorly, it was nearly useless and became an impediment to using the otherwise good-quality Android tablet. So, if the rumors of Samsung's iris scan are true, the big question will be its implementation.
Alongside The Flagship
During the CES interview, Lee Young Hee also mentioned that a newer version of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch will be coming out around the same time in early or mid 2014. While the firm is focusing on improving the display and cover of the Galaxy S5, it is hoping to release a "more advanced" and less bulky version of the Galaxy Gear.
Overall, based upon announcements from CES so far, it seems as though 2014 is shaping up to be an important year in the wearable tech industry. And, since Samsung's competitors will also be entering the smartwatch market this year, it is important that Samsung solidifies the Galaxy Gear's early foothold. Samsung is already the most popular smartphone company in the world, as it controls 32% of the market, and no doubt, it will seek to preserve that market share.