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Samsung's curved smartphone: A big innovation or a novelty?

Matt Hamblen | Oct. 10, 2013
Is the Round's curved display significant technology or just a gimmick in a string of new Samsung products?

samsung galaxy round (3)
The Samsung Galaxy Round

The first curved display smartphone, the 5.7-in. Samsung Galaxy Round, goes on sale today in South Korea for 1 million Korean won, equal to about $1,015. Whether the device, which runs Android 4.3, ever goes on sale in the U.S. or Europe is unknown.

Analysts predict a small group of early adopters in the U.S. will favor the Round's distinctive look, but only at half that price. If anything, a curved display could be as intriguing to buyers as the new iPhone 5S encased in metal with a shade of gold.

Is a curved display a significant innovation? Or, is Samsung just doing what it always does: Churning out product after product to prove that it can do so faster and more efficiently than anyone else? Maybe both.

Samsung has shown it can release unusual new products quickly. In the past three months, new Galaxy Tab tablets have arrived, most recently the Galaxy Note 3 with its digital stylus and phablet-sized display that's also 5.7-in. The company also introduced, to mixed reviews, the $300 Galaxy Gear smartwatch that works with the Note 3 in early September.

Samsung seems to want to release a mobile product to serve every conceivable niche market of consumers. Maybe that's Samsung's way of achieving a marketing edge over Apple, which releases new tablets and smartphones on a fixed timetable.

It's worth noting that its strategy has worked, helping make Samsung the largest phone maker in the world. It's not the flat, relatively straightforward product-innovation-and-release approach of many vendors (Apple included). You could call it skewed, or "curved," marketing -- a fitting approach for launching a new curved display smartphone.

As to whether a curved touchscreen display is a significant advance in technology, there's also plenty of evidence. Samsung is already designing many bigger -- arguably, more important -- uses for its flexible OLED displays.

At International CES last January, Samsung showed a prototype smartphone fitted with flexible OLED that wrapped around part of the device to cover the left and right edges. If the phone were lying face down on a table, messages could be displayed along the edges.

A four-minute YouTube video from a CES stage presentation shows Samsung executives describing that smartphone prototype along with another foldable smartphone prototype with a flexible display. Samsung even had a USB stick prototype at CES with a display that could be rolled out the side like a scroll, and then rolled back in when no longer needed. An ad in the video also depicts how future "bendable, foldable and rollable" displays might be used in products in the real world.


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