Bending it like these curvy smartphones

Updated: Nov 24 2013, 09:15am hrs
If trends in the tech world are anything to go by, your next mobile phone will look nothing like the one you are holding in your hand now. Welcome to the world of curved screens. The curved smartphone seems to be the next hot thing with the Koreans taking the lead. Samsung (Galaxy Round) and LG (Flex) already have two such handsets in the market, and the buzz is that Apple is developing two new iPhone models, which will include bigger screens with curved glass. According to Bloomberg, the two models, planned for release by Apple sometime in the latter half of 2014, will feature larger displays with glass that curves downwards at the edges. So is the curved smartphone something we will have to get used to It certainly seems like the next new trend in mobile devices, but the big question is how do consumers feel about the model, how easy is it to operate and, more importantly, view.

Those who feel positively about the curved versions say the biggest advantage is that it increases sound and voice clarity, and eliminates the deadspot (the small area where the phone is too far from the mouth and not close enough to the ear), which is why many people need to hold the device close to the mouth to speak and be heard. The curved screen, according to those who have tried it, enhances sound and voice clarity, and operates like a traditional phonethe curve allows you to replicate speaking into the receiver on a landline phone. Others point to the fact that the curved screen makes consuming media a much more enjoyable experience. A first-person report in Gizmodo said curved smartphones are not just a marketing gimmick, they substantially improve the display performance of smartphones. Going into some detail, the report says the curved screen has better screen readability in bright sunlight, increases magnification and also affords better screen privacy.

However, there is the other side, so to speak. The Galaxy Round created considerable buzz in tech circles when Samsung released it last month in Korea. At first glance, the Round looks quite similar to the Galaxy Note 3 with similar design cues. The only visible difference is the curved edge of the device and the absence of an S Pen. It bends lengthwise in a vertical arch that looks deep enough to send the phone rocking like a cradle. When the device sits face-up on a flat surface, the user can tilt it on one side to briefly light up the screen and glance at notifications and status. The same feature can be used while in the gallery or the music apps, and allows the user to scroll through photos or skip to the next audio track. The curve itself is subtle and its obvious why Samsung avoided putting a more dramatic curve in the display. Reading news articles and Twitter messages can make the user feel light-headed after a while, especially with the phone in an upright position.

Other tech writers have questioned the usability of the device and blamed it on Samsungs massive industrial infrastructure. The company, they say, has made a curved smartphone not because it can, but because so many other smartphone brands cant. The fact that Apple is rumoured to be working on its own version suggests that it doesnt want to be left behind if the devices do catch on, but that will only be known once the devices by Samsung and LG hit the international market. So far, they have only been introduced in Korea and a couple of other markets in the Far East.

The bottomline seems to be that the Round is an experiment for Samsung and not a product meant to be sold widely. Like the first generation of the Galaxy Gear (the wristwatch released last month that works in conjunction with some Samsung smartphones to display emails and other information), the Galaxy Round appears to be built to test its potential. Samsung can afford to do this because the huge success of its smartphones has endowed it with cash to spare. Apart from being the worlds largest seller of smartphones, Samsung has a separate and profitable business designing and making display screens, and has already produced and marketed a high-end TV with a curved screen. It has its own manufacturing plants and engineering staff. It can easily afford to indulge in a contest to see whether phones can look and feel different. Till then, the jury is still out on whether curved phones are really the way of the future.