Rumors of curved and flexible displays have flooded the Internet for well over a year now. Samsung announced its flexible YOUM OLED displays at CES 2013. Concepts and word of such flexible smartphones reach back even further, like the Galaxy Skin concept from late 2011.
It has long been understood that flexible displays would not initially bring flexible smartphones. Battery technology breakthroughs have introduced flexible cells. In smartphones, most other components, internally, are still quite rigid.
That’s not to say a flexible smartphone isn’t possible. Nokia made a kinetic phone prototype in late 2011, in which users navigated the phone through bending it rather than touching and swiping on the display.
But I’d be willing to wage the end product wouldn’t be nearly as polished or futuristic as our imaginative minds would like to believe. It wouldn’t be a smartphone that magically wraps around your wrist like some whimsical renders suggest. Instead, the real world use – for now and the relatively distant future – for flexible displays is durability and ergonomics in the traditional candy bar form factor.
Last week, word spread of a possible LG smartphone with flexible components, the LG Z. And just days before that, Samsung confirmed a flexible smartphone would launch in South Korea in October.
Late last night, that smartphone was made official as the Galaxy Round. The Round utilizes a flexible Samsung OLED panel, and it features practically all the same Note 3 specs, minus the S Pen.
We knew this smartphone would come in a rigid shell and would merely sport a curved design. But we imagined the curve totally different. We assumed it would be curved vertically, along the length of the phone. Instead, the Galaxy Round is curved along the shorter edge, from side to side.
Honestly, the Samsung Galaxy Round looks like someone took a rolling pin to the Galaxy Note 3.
— Eric Zeman (@phonescooper) October 9, 2013
Initial reactions across Twitter and in comments certainly weren’t enthused, excited, or even remotely positive. There was some laughter and a lot of jokes made about how it’s “curved the wrong way.”
But is it? The curved glass on the Nexus S was great. It made reaching the top and bottom corners of the display somewhat easier by bringing the top edge down, every-so-slightly.
There’s more to this wrongly curved display than you might initially think. And the more I think about it, the more practical uses it actually has. We love phones with curved backs; they contour to the shape of your hand. But when in pocket, the Round will also contour to the shape of your thigh. Useless? Probably. But still pretty cool.
Samsung has also developed a roll effect, where the user can peek at the phone’s status by pulling one of its edges towards the surface it’s sitting on. Reaching the far edge of the display should be easier with this curve, as well. And as commenter PeteBeast noted, it could add some durability to those face-down drops of flat surfaces, as it would reduce the surface area to two points along the two long edges of the display.
It’s easy to immediately throw the towel in on something different and new without ever trying it. But, personally, I’m reserving my final opinion until I get some hands on with it.