How wrap-around screens could define my dream phone
Three years ago, some of the gang here at Pocketnow took a shot at thinking-up our own dream phones: the specs, the form factor, the design of our ideal handsets. We had a designer produce some mock-ups and shared the results with you.
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to join in on all that fun back then – heck, at the time I wasn’t even a full-time writer here – but for the past couple weeks I’ve had this idea for a smartphone kicking around in my head, and I’ve been itching for the chance to share it with you.
Back when CES was still in full swing, we heard a little about some of Samsung’s possible plans for later in the year, and in particular what role wrap-around displays might take. The idea really picked up in earnest back in November, with the theory that Samsung would leverage some of its curved-screen know-how to create a smartphone where the display flowed seamlessly from the face, over to its edges.
Samsung already demoed a concept design like this a while back (as seen up above and to the left), where the screen spilled-over to the two long side edges, but when talking about it two weeks ago, one of the comments the post generated really caught my eye. Frequent Pocketnow commenter tre916 suggested that rather than the display wrapping over to the phone’s side edges, it might be a lot more useful to have the wrap-around bit extend to the phone’s top edge. As he put it:
If they put a curve on the top edge, with the little notifications there, then everyone could pull their phones out of their pockets and look at the top edge like it’s a pager. Let’s bring that back.
That. Sounds. Awesome. As I considered the idea more, my mind really started to run with it: if we truly wanted to make this convenient, so you could drop your phone in your pocket without giving it too much thought and still get these cool edge notifications, why not extend the screen to BOTH the top and bottom edges?
Once I got that far, my imagination started getting away from me. If we’re talking practicality – a phone that might be a realistic design within the next year or two – then I’m going to have to stop right here. But now that I have this crazy “dream phone” idea in my head, the sky’s the limit: why not give the phone a display that’s an uninterrupted loop: front, top, back, bottom, and around again?
“Stephen,” you begin to interject, “seriously? Don’t you know how many awful problems that would introduce – begging something to scratch the screen, and complicating any efforts to implement things like NFC or wireless charging?”
No, I admit: it’s fraught with the potential for disaster. But hear me out.
First off, I’d keep a sizable bezel along each edge – maybe even a solid centimeter. I’d also want these two “rails” – the non-display parts of the phone making up the long edges – both slightly thicker and longer than the display part of the handset. In effect, they’d act like a bumper case, raising the screen so it’s not actually touching anything when set on a flat surface.
We’d have to move USB, the headphone jack, mics, speakers, and any physical buttons to these edges, but I don’t see that as a deal-breaker; and you could still keep that headphone jack on the top or bottom segment of one of these rails without issue. The only really tight squeeze might be the main camera, but there’s got to be a way to fit one in somewhere.
With a little creative engineering, you could even keep a removable battery, sliding into place from the side. Maybe this is what I like best about this idea: it’s crazy, but not necessarily undoable-crazy.
Admittedly, the full rear display is a little excessive – and like I said before, I could live with just bottom-top-front, no problem. But then you lose this really cool always-ready-to-go aspect – that no matter how you pick up your phone, or how it’s laying on your desk, you’re always going to have access to the display.
That totally lends itself to some Motorola-style Active Display business, and we could either use phone sensors to detect orientation and keep messages on the top/front screen, or just have them sort of lazily cycle around, making their way through this infinite loop of pixels until you dismiss them.
I’m curious to hear what you all think about this concept, so please, let me know in the comments about your concerns, or just how you think this basic idea might be improved upon. Maybe more than anything I wonder if anyone else think a phone like this just might be the coolest thing ever, or have I let the allure of wrap-around displays get to my head?