quarta-feira, 9 de outubro de 2013

Samsung Galaxy Round: The First Curved Display Smartphone

Rumors that Samsung is developing a smartphone with a curved display have been around for a while, and now it's official: The Galaxy Round smartphone has been officially unvieled. To be released only in Korea for now, this smartphone is curved in the center, the first one to ever accomplish such a thing. Other than the funky curved design, the Galaxy Round is almost identical to the Galaxy Note 3 sans the Wacom digitizer and S Pen inclusion. Whether this smartphone represents the future of technology or is just a gimmick, we'll find out.

If you're trying to imagine how the Galaxy Round feels like, just imagine a Note 3 and bend it on the middle, and that's pretty much it. The Round also has a faux-leather textured back, where a 13MP camera is placed, and on the front there's the same 1080p 5.7" display, except, well, the display is of "Super Flexible AMOLED" variety, which means the display is bend down in the middle like the rest of the device. Ergonomics are also similar to the Note 3: The Round also has that less curvy, more rectangular, Galaxy S2-esque design, and it's 7.9mm thick and weighs 154g. Under the hood there's a beastly Snapdragon 800 SoC (Quad-core Krait 400 @ 2.3GHz + Adreno 330 GPU), whose modem supports LTE-A connectivity. The curved nature of the Round apparently caused Samsung to reduce battery size slightly to 2,800 mAh in comparison to the Note 3.

Samsung has coupled a few software features to go with the curved display, although the new features don't necessarily require the curved display. There's a new "roll effect", where if you rock the phone left or right, a window with battery status, date, time, and maybe some other info pops up on the screen. Another new feature is the "gravity effect", which is triggered also by rocking the phone with a finger, triggers a music-oriented UI to appear onscreen. Called the Bounce UX, it allows you to easily select and play/pause a song. Both the roll effect and the gravity effect work even if the phone's display is off.

What potential advantages does the Galaxy Round have? Well, not many. The phone's curved nature will fit more comfortably in your hand (although that could be accomplished without curving the entire smartphone, for example, the Moto X with its curved back), and there's a small chance the new software features will actually be useful to you. This is by no means confirmed, but the curved glass might actually give the device more durability by making the glass more resistant to impact. And, well, bragging rights, of course. I mean, who else would have a curved smartphone?
Now, for the disadvantages: The slightly smaller battery may lose you a few minutes of battery life, and while the round design is hand-friendly, I can imagine it'd feel pretty damn awkward if placed inside tight pockets. Also, until such time when the device comes out and we can actually test it, there's no way to guarantee the curved display won't make movies and games look somewhat distorted.

But it all comes down to this: Is the curved display technology really useful? So far, the answer is no. It doesn't really change anything aside from ergonomics, and Samsung is going to have to implement a number of software features that can only be achieved through the curved display if they want their technology to sell. The Roll Effect and Gravity Effect are just not useful enough to justify buying this device. Once we start seeing flexible smartphones you can actually bend, then things might get interesting, and while the Galaxy
Round is by no means flexible, it does show that Samsung's engineers are very capable, and are edging towards achieving a truly flexible smartphone.

At best, Samsung's new smartphone is an innovative design, and is a step closer to genuinely flexible smartphones. At worst, the Round is a gimmick and brings pretty much nothing more than an interesting shape to the smartphone. Obviously, though, Samsung isn't considering this smartphone a flagship that's supposed to sell millions of units. While Samsung did give it very flagship-like specs, the fact that the Round will only be sold in Korea indicates that it's rather an experiment. Will it become an unexpected worldwide success, like what happened to the Note series, or will it be a total failure? Only time will tell.

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