Curved-screen smartphones: Innovation or another marketing gimmick?

Samsung and LG are bringing curved screen technology to smartphones with the Galaxy Round and G Flex

The LG G Flex
The LG G Flex

Following in the fading hype of 3D display technology are new smartphones that feature curved displays. To find out if there's merit to the curvy form-factor, we handed around the first curved-screen smartphone in Australia to the people in the Good Gear Guide office. Were they for or against the upcoming trend?

Samsung drew first blood in Korea with the Galaxy Round, but LG jumped ahead in the local market with the G Flex. The validity of a curved screen — whether on smartphones or televisions — continues to be debated.

Good Gear Guide is currently reviewing the LG Flex, and showcasing the curved-screen smartphone around the office stirred up a range of different opinions. After we tossed chairs, keeled over pot-plants and severed our editor’s hand, we compiled our findings.

"It's the banana phone."
"I just want to straighten it."
"Cool, it can follow the curve of my bum."
"Does it bend the other way?"
"Oh my God, it can stand on its own."
"Does it do anything?"
"It's bigger than mine. I do think it's cool."

These are just some of the reactions we heard when people handled the LG curved smartphone in the office.

Image quality

The general office consensus was that watching movies on a curved screen smartphone was better. It is hard to discern if the team was dazzled by the curve alone, or if the 1280x720 OLED display of the G Flex influenced people’s view of what a curved display can do. Either way, using the G Flex to watch a movie was about the most cinematic visual experience we have had on a smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Round
Samsung Galaxy Round

Research conducted by the experts at DisplayMate support the notion that curved-screens improve image quality by reducing reflections. Dr Raymond Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, compared the displays of the normal Galaxy Note III to that of the curvaceous Galaxy Round as part of his research.

In his report, Soneira said curved screens “aren't simply a marketing gimmick...Curved screens are a major and very important new display technology innovation, particularly for handheld smartphones".

He claimed curved-screens improve image quality through the use of optical effects. “[Curved screens] substantially improves screen readability, image contrast, colour accuracy, and overall picture quality, but can also increase the running time on battery because the screen brightness and display power can be lowered due to the reduced light interference from ambient light reflections”.

Samsung's Galaxy Round
Samsung's Galaxy Round

Comfort

Most of the GGG office agreed that curved smartphones are more comfortable to hold. A curved screen smartphone conforms to a shape that comes more natural to the hand. Pocketing a curved smartphone also proved more comfortable than its flat counterparts [Personally, it was more uncomfortable for me - Ed].

Despite the office fanfare for the curved screen, some caveats were mentioned. Office peeps raised concerns over the large size of curved screen smartphones. The two available smartphones that have curved screens, the LG G Flex and the Samsung Galaxy Round, are 6in and 5.7in, respectively. Not everyone wants a smartphone the size of a phablet.

LG G Flex
LG G Flex

Privacy

Neighbouring commuters and onlookers will have a harder time sneaking a peek at your curved screen smartphone. Whether your smartphone curves inwards from top-to-bottom like the G Flex, or from side-to-side like the Galaxy Round, the subtle curvature will make it that much harder for other people to see the screen.

Magic mirrors

Some people place reflective screen protectors on their smartphones and use them as a mirror. If you’re hoping to do this with a curved-screen smartphone, you may be disappointed. Curving a smartphone screen contorts the reflection it makes. On the G Flex, everything is elongated. We imagine the Galaxy Round’s curve would produce a stout reflection.

The Galaxy Round curves from left to right
The Galaxy Round curves from left to right

No hands

An additional perk celebrated around the office was the G Flex’s ability to stand on its own; an additive that enriched its playback experience. The curved screen helped the phone stand on its side to allow us to watch widescreen videos, but it wasn't stable — if the table was accidentally bumped, the phone fell. The symmetry of the phone allows it to stand, as does the lack buttons along the sides. Still, a little built-in kickstand would be a sweet addition.

Obstacles and innovations

Curved-screen smartphones don’t sit flush against a table, and this means middle of the smartphone will be taking the brunt of pressure when it is sitting idle. As a result, the centre of its back case could get discoloured over time.

To overcome this, LG has fitted the G Flex with a ‘self-healing’ back cover. Minor daily wear-and-tear scratches diminish within minutes due to what LG calls "elastic coating". LG Product Manager Josh Corrin compared the self-healing back cover to the technology used on a car’s bumper bar.

Final thought

We’re all for the option of having a curved screen smartphone. Curving a display is a feat of technology, and although this innovation might not be for everyone, we do believe it holds great promise for heavy users of multimedia.

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Tags lgGalaxy FlexsamsungGalaxy RoundCurved OLED

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Tony Ibrahim

Tony Ibrahim

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