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By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. showcased its latest flagship smartphones in South Korea on Thursday, with price tags hovering below their predecessors in an apparent bid to better compete with rivals and improve its ailing smartphone business.
The world's top smartphone maker said the local price of the 32 gigabyte (GB) Galaxy S7 will be 836,000 won (US$690), compared with the initial price of 858,000 won for the 32GB Galaxy S6.
That of the 32GB Galaxy S7 Edge stands at 924,000 won, also down 5.6 percent from its predecessor.
Sales begin in around 60 countries on Friday.
Samsung Electronics said it focused on adding as many vital features as possible to the two smartphones.
The two high-end smartphone models, first showcased at a trade fair in Spain last month, come with improved batteries and are water-dust resistant. The company also brought back the micro SD card slot that had disappeared in the Galaxy S6 series.
Samsung said it has adopted what it calls a "dual pixel sensor" for the cameras of the two models for the first time in the industry, which will enhance the quality of photos to the level of high-end cameras.
"We tried to add as many core features as possible to the smartphones that are used every day," said Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung's mobile division.
Samsung Electronics also expects the smartphones to lend support in promoting its mobile payment platform, Samsung Pay, saying users can use more ATM machines locally to withdraw money.
The mobile platform supports magnetic secure transmission technology that works on traditional credit card machines. Like rivals Apple Pay and Android Pay, it also supports near field communication technology that requires a separate transaction device.
Samsung Pay, also operating in South Korea, is expected to reach China this month, eventually expanding to seven countries in 2016, including Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Britain.
Amid the slowing global smartphone market coupled with the soaring demand for budget handsets locally and globally, the new Galaxy smartphones are expected to play a decisive role in revitalizing sales.
Analysts, meanwhile, were divided if the new smartphones will immediately lend hands to the recovery of Samsung's suffering earnings.
"The expectations over a new flagship smartphone are weaker compared with last year," said Kim Byung-ki, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities Co. "This year, the strategy of reducing the production cost by minimizing changes in hardware may help in defending profitability."
Others said the Galaxy S7 lacked groundbreaking features as most of them were earlier expected in the market, while the limited changes in design will also induce buyers to focus more on price over features.
Samsung's IT and mobile business, which is in charge of smartphones, posted an operating profit of 2.23 trillion won in the fourth quarter, up from 1.96 trillion won a year earlier. But the sector's operating profit continued to remain well below the 6.43 trillion won posted in the first quarter of 2014.
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