The Korean company has done the thing we’ve all expected for a while now, which is introduce a phone with a curved display. The Samsung Galaxy Round will be sold in Korea (at first) and features a 5.7-inch display that curves from side to side (as opposed to top to bottom).
What’s the advantage of a curved display? Heck if I know. Samsung doesn’t really say, either, except it mentions a “comfortable hand grip,” which seems pretty thin. Are we really complaining that our flat, rectangular smartphones are too hard to handle (too cold to hold)?
There’s more: The curved display of the Galaxy Round (which comes in a color Samsung calls Luxury Brown) enables two new features. The “roll effect” lets you activate a status display (time, battery, missed calls) by simply rocking the phone (that’s “rocking,” as in affecting a gentle side-to-side motion, not “rocking” as in Billy Squier). You can also switch music tracks or access photo albums by tilting the phone to one side or the other.
So OK. It’s hard to say if this is something significant or something Samsung did just because it could. I’m inclined to think it’s more the latter, as a curved display doesn’t present any obvious advantages and may have a few drawbacks (how does a curved display look and feel in a pocket?)
The larger issue is this: A curved smartphone is not a rectangular one, and all other smartphones are rectangular. Smartphones are increasingly commoditized—one rectangle is not that different from another. But a curved phone is distinctive, and that distinction is born from Samsung’s massive, as-yet-unparalleled industrial infrastructure. The company has made a curved smartphone not only because it can, but because so many other smartphone brands can’t. Only a few companies (Samsung being one, LG Electronics (066570:KS) being another) have the ability to make a curved Super Amoled (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display in any volume. So long as Samsung has something over cheaper Chinese brands, you can be sure it will do whatever it can—whether it’s truly functional or not—to separate itself from the pack.