By Jaime Rivera | October 9, 2013 2:27 PM
As Joe Levi always says: “This is a great time to be alive.” The reason why is because this is definitely the era of experimentation. For those of you that remember pagers, two-way pagers, PDAs and even regular cellphones, you’ll notice just how incredibly things have evolved in a little more than a decade. Most of these devices were held-back by either technology or imagination, but even though these products don’t exist any more, their legacy continues in features like text-messaging, PIM data on our smartphones, and obviously regular phone calls.
On the other hand, there are products or form factors that don’t exist any more, and that haven’t really left a legacy anywhere. I can think of cases like desktop companions for smartphones, which never really took-off, from companies like Motorola or Palm. Form factors like the dual-display Kyocera Echo also come to mind as designs that never really became popular. Pico projectors on phones, which were just too cool for their battery life, never took off either. None of these ideas were bad, but they were simply not important enough to gain traction. Things we like to call gimmicks for the most part.
According to Wikipedia: “a gimmick is a unique or quirky special feature that makes something “stand out” from its contemporaries. However, the special feature is typically thought to be of little relevance or use. Thus, a gimmick is a special feature for the sake of having a special feature.” It’s pretty much doing something because they can, but not really because anybody needs it.
As we saw Samsung unveil their new Galaxy Round yesterday, man, I seriously just started scratching my head. I can think of a ton of things that I’d love for our OEMs to fix on the existing smartphones, and yet, these companies are infatuated in building things we don’t really need. With this, I’m not trying to criticize Samsung. It’s always great to have one company out there that’s willing to throw all the money they can into research and development, but Samsung is really the only company that also tries to sell you these half-baked ideas.
I’ve been trying to think of reasons why I’d ever need a phone with curved display. Also, how can this curved display make my experience with the phone any better? I do remember my times with the Galaxy Nexus, even though this was a different type of curve on the display, and still, I can’t tell you that it enhanced my experience with it in any way. So these are the reasons why I think this product is most likely going to be a gimmick that won’t be remembered in a couple of years:
Round phones are uncomfortable
As some commenters and even our own Taylor Martin have pointed out, having a curved 5.7-inch display has the advantage of allowing you to hold a bigger phone more comfortably. It’s assumed that it’ll allow some fingers to reach the opposite corner of the display in an easier way, which sounds logical. Sadly, I disagree with that. At 3.13 inches, this Galaxy Round is almost exactly as wide as the Galaxy Note III, which is 3.12 inches wide. If curving the display would’ve made this phone less wide, then I’d agree. You could hypothetically reach corners easier because they’re slanted towards you, but on a phone that big, that would depend on how comfortably you’ll be able to grip the bottom portion of the phone, how big your hands are, and how slippery the materials are.
Now, the reality of most users is that we really only spend half our day with our phones in our hands. The rest of the day, the phone is in our pockets. The only comfortable way that you can carry this phone in a pocket is to have the display face your leg, which poses some interesting challenges. If you’ve got thin legs, the phone will most likely not be a problem to carry this way, but if you have thick legs like I do, those curves will most likely drill into your skin more than you’ll be comfortable with. That said, I’ve learned not to do this with any phone because this’ll make the display more prone to your sweat on a hot day, and just imagine those two humps sticking out of your pants if you carried the phone the other way around.
I also wonder how those curves will match the average face. With the speaker grill snuck within the curves, I don’t really think this phone will provide you with the best calling experience, though obviously this will require that we test it before we judge it.
I also found it hilarious that Samsung’s already existing “Glance” feature is ported on this phone when you rock it, and I mean rock it like if it were a rocking chair. This means that if you rock it to your angle, it’ll give you instant information from notifications and the time. Cool idea for some, sure, but not when you can already do this with every other Galaxy phone without even needing to touch the device. Why would I prefer rocking and holding a phone for a couple of seconds, when on a Galaxy S 4, all I need to do is hover my palm over it for less time? Again, gimmicks.
Round phones aren’t smart
On of our commenters on YouTube said it best yesterday: “If you sit on it, RIP Galaxy Round”. You’ll definitely need to do more than just sit on it, but I don’t think this phone will handle falls any better than current smartphones. If the device falls on the rounded tips, the weight concentration of the whole chassis over them will most likely shatter the display on its first or second fall. And if it falls on its back, the inverse concentration might dent the back significantly. I can also imagine how that back plastic will look after you keep rocking that phone for a week. If you’ve ever played with your phone by spinning it over a table, you’ll understand how bad plastic can scratch on any surface you slide it on.
The bottom line
Again, I’ve got to hand it to Samsung. They try because they can, and they haven’t always lost. All of us at Pocketnow made fun of the Galaxy Note when the company launched it, and now all of us have Note II, and we all want a Note 3. If the company wasn’t bold enough to give it a try, we would’ve never know what we were missing. Samsung does things because they can, and sometimes this is better than not having somebody experiment at all. All airplanes look the same today, but that wasn’t the story 50 years ago.
I could be wrong. It could just be that the Galaxy Round is the next best invention to come to smartphone land, but I still can’t see a reason for that. So do me a favor and tell me in the comments if you think I’m wrong, and why, or if you think that this is the next gimmick to come to hardware as well.
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