Smartphone makers have been experimenting with different types of curved screens, but Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge is the one that makes the most sense so far.
The biggest challenge for companies that make Android phones is differentiating them from the competition. Displays have long been a focus, with companies offering different screen sizes and resolutions, and now curves are part of the mix.
Until now, neither Samsung nor LG have had much success with curved displays—few people have heard of the Galaxy Round or LG’s G Flex. But this time Samsung may have got it right.
On the Galaxy Round the entire screen is curved, but on the Note Edge it’s only the part that wraps around the sides of the device. The idea is to create an area a bit separate from the rest of the phone that offers quick access to frequently used apps, alerts, and functions like the camera shutter.
I can’t say I was completely won over after testing the Note Edge at Samsung’s launch event at IFA, but the basic idea holds much more promise than previous efforts. It shows that curves can be more than a gimmick.
How to best use the edge of the screen will be a learning experience for Samsung and for app makers. There’s a fine line between information that’s useful and that’s simply distracting. A news ticker on the devices shown at IFA fell into the latter category, for example.
Samsung has published an SDK that app developers can use to make use the curved part of the screen. But given that the phone likely won’t sell in huge volumes, it may have a hard time attracting them, since developers prefer to focus on the biggest selling devices.
Many of the specs on the Note Edge are carried over from the Galaxy Note 4, including the 2560 by 1440 pixel resolution, Snapdragon 805 processor and 16-megapixel camera, all of which add up to a very capable smartphone.
How widely Samsung plans to sell the Note Edge remains to be seen. It said the device would be available in “select markets … later this year,” suggesting the market may not be that big.
Pricing wasn’t immediately available, but the cost of the device will be key. In the end, I don’t think consumers will be willing to pay a lot extra for the curves, even if Samsung has shown they can be a bit more useful.