Feature

Is Samsung's Galaxy Round ahead of the curve?

Its 5.7-inch screen curls ever-so-slightly

Smartphones are getting big. Really big. And you can only expand screen dimensions so much before the things get too unwieldy. That may be why, in an apparent strategic pivot, Samsung announced yesterday a new curved OLED-glass smartphone called the Galaxy Round.

It's an intriguing concept. Rather than lying flat, the Galaxy Round's 5.7-inch screen curls slightly inward like a rolled piece of paper. Spec-wise it's about on par with Samsung's other flagships like the Galaxy S4 and the Note 3, with a 13 megapixel camera, 3GB of RAM, and a 2.3GHz quad-core processor.

But let's talk about that design! Samsung really seems intent on rocking the proverbial boat. One of the more unconventional features Samsung is promoting is something called the Roll Effect. The basic idea is when you have the phone lying on a nightstand, you can roll the phone over to show you glanceable information, such as the time or any incoming messages.

The benefits of a curved-glass screen aren't immediately clear. But the Round looks like something that could slip into your pocket rather comfortably, or at least better than, say, something like the Note 3 with its gigantic 6.3-inch screen.

Ergonomically speaking, most reviewers agree that rounded shapes feel better to hold, and the Galaxy Round's 5.7-inch display is still rather large. Perhaps the curve will make an unwieldy big-screen easier for one-handed swiping. I'd argue that the sweet-spot is somewhere closer to the 4.7-inch Moto X.

That said, the South Korean electronics company hasn't been shy about experimenting with curved-glass technology, although results have been mixed. Its gigantic curved screen OLED televisions, while gorgeous, failed to find a happy market. The TV set's hefty $12,000 price tag certainly didn't help, either.

Samsung will begin selling the Galaxy Round in South Korea on Oct. 10, with no word of a worldwide release to come. "Useful? Maybe," says Kevin C. Tofel at GigaOm. "Gimmicky? Probably." We'll see.

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