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Claims surface that Apple will follow Samsung, LG into curved smartphone screens

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 12, 2013
Larger screens draw more power, but curved displays could compensate by reducing reflection, says expert

A curved screen cuts down on ambient light reflections in several ways, said Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies and a long-time display expert. In turn, that has an impact on one of the pain points of smartphones: Battery life.

"[A curved screen] improves screen readability, image contrast, color accuracy, and overall picture quality, but can also increase the running time on battery because the screen brightness and display power can be lowered due to the reduced interference from ambient light reflections," Soneira wrote in an analysis of the Galaxy Round's screen published on his company's website.

Soneira was bullish on flexible screens, contending that they would have "a profound effect ... starting in the very near future" on display-based devices like smartphones and tablets.

Singh was skeptical, and instead speculated that while smartphone applications would be a niche at best, companies like Apple, Samsung and others were dabbling with flexible displays for other reasons.

"I think a lot of these companies may be seeding curved displays, in terms of manufacturing and 'field tests' through products like the Galaxy Round, for use on future wearable products, such as smartwatches," Singh said. Rumors have tracked an Apple smartwatch, dubbed "iWatch" by wags, for years, with some Wall Street analysts, disappointed that their predictions didn't come true in 2013, now forecasting an introduction next year.

U.S. mobile carriers have priced the Galaxy Note 3 between $250 and $300 with a two-year contract, or 26% to 51% more than the lowest-priced iPhone 5S. That led Singh to bet that, like Samsung, Apple would charge more for any larger smartphone.

"Given their business model, Apple's already gone as far downmarket as they can possibly go," Singh pointed out. "So a larger iPhone would either have to replace their flagship 5S or create a tier above that, starting at $749 [unsubsidized]."

Apple sells its 32GB iPhone 5S at that price without a subsidy, or $299 with a two-year contract.

Singh put his money on the latter. "I think certain sections of their core audience may prefer the 4-in. form factor," he said. "This also fits with their propensity to continually look upmarket, a strategy that carries its own risks."

 

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