Feature Article

September 26, 2013

Samsung's Next Mobile Phones May Boast Curved Displays

Smartphones have a variety of different designs on hand, but there's a certain amount of commonality that exists in the field. Most mobile phones are really just flat slabs with some differences between each other; essentially strips of smartphone with varying control schemes. But Samsung has a little something different in mind for an upcoming line of smartphones, one that will change the face—and the shape—of smartphones from just flat...to curved.

Samsung, speaking at a launch event for the Galaxy Note 3 in Seoul, South Korea, noted that the new devices would used organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels using plastic, and would introduce said devices at some point in October. Beyond that, however, Samsung was keeping largely mum about the specifications going into said devices, as well as any plans to bring the curved-display phones to any market outside of South Korea.

Samsung has already been spotted with a line of prototype devices with screens capable of bending and flexing (see video below), which means the technology has essentially been mastered, but there were doubts on many fronts as to how such technology could be done sufficiently cheaply, reliably and quickly to make it a worthwhile market offering. Indeed, some analysts—like CCS Insight's Ben Wood—noted that curved screens weren't likely to do much for overall functionality. A curved-display smartphone would likely still function in the same way a regular smartphone does, but with the key distinction that it is curved, something that would do a nice job in giving Samsung a differentiation in the market. Wood elaborated that the phones in question are likely to be part of Samsung's Active lineup, thus the curved screen may have some value in making the devices more rugged.

While curved displays may simply be a way to differentiate a product in the short term—and may also provide some extra durability to the device somehow, if projections hold—that by itself would be a win for Samsung. Samsung is a big name in mobile devices, but to stay that big name, it's going to need regular doses of innovation to hold its position. Consider also the release of the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which may help to provide some further room for development in here. A curved OLED display suitable for a smartphone added on to a smartwatch system may mean some future upgrades to the Galaxy Gear as well. Strictly speculative, of course, but perhaps the classic “Pip-Boy” concept may be coming into play soon.

Either way, though, new smartphones from Samsung are just around the corner, though whether said devices will even make it off the Korean peninsula remains to be seen.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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