These days, most modern smartphones are equipped with a ton of genuinely-useful features that convenience and connectivity to our lives. However, the road that brought us to this situation is one paved by bad ideas and sometimes even worse executions. To put it another way: the path to the smartphones of today was paved by expensive and experimental products like the Samsung Galaxy Round.
Yes, Samsung actually called it that.
Before we had thin-bezel displays, triple-lens cameras and AI-enhanced processing power, we had curved form factors like that found in the Samsung Galaxy Round. And as far as tech trends go, arched designs were a brief one. They were only really around for a year or two before manufacturers moved on from them and tried to pretend they never happened.
Try to track down information about the Galaxy Round today, and you’ll struggle to find anything through official. Samsung has practically scrubbed it off their official website. And given the phone's commercial fate, that's not a huge surprise. Though it pales in comparison to the fiery demise of the Galaxy Note 7, the Samsung Galaxy Round was a major misfire for Samsung.
However, there’s actually a really good reason that we should remember devices like the Samsung Galaxy Round. After all, those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
Released in October 2018, the Samsung Galaxy Round boasted a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series chipset, 3GB of RAM and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. More importantly, it boasted the world’s first curved AMOLED display in a smartphone.
Importantly, and unlike the Infinity Display found in the modern S8, S9 and Note 9, the Galaxy Round's display and design curved itself towards the user. Yikes. I don’t know about you, but when I look at pictures of this thing, I can almost *feel* the discomfort. The poor ergonomics involved are almost perceptible on a visual level.
In total fairness though, the device did have its fans. At the time, CNET said in its review of the device that "the arched shape is an unexpected improvement.”
Meanwhile, in PC World’s own hands-on, Michael Kan conceded that “while the handset is nice to hold, consumers outside of South Korea aren’t missing much from Samsung’s newest phone.”
The Galaxy Round launched exclusively within South Korea in late 2013. And if you were an Aussie interested in buying one, import costs came close to $1200. Though paying this amount for a flagship device is almost normal nowadays, this was a particularly high asking-price for any smartphone at the time.
And if the idea of spending $1200 on this concave nightmare of a phone doesn’t thrill you, you aren't the only one. According to Korean news source Daum.net, fewer than 10,000 Samsung Galaxy Round smartphones were sold in the device’s first 40 days on sale.
Though adorned with this hideous curved form-factor and shudder-inducing arched display, the Samsung Galaxy Round was far from the only curved flagship smartphone of its kind.
In similar misguided attempt to capitalise on the misguided attempt to make curved TVs cool and mainstream, LG also tried to offer their own smartphones with a curved displays and form-factors. Their first effort was called LG G Flex.
Like the Galaxy Round, the LG G Flex featured curved OLED display. However, unlike the former, it opted for a horizontal curve akin to that of a banana. And like the Galaxy Round, the LG G Flex struggled to find its target customer.
Part of this was down to the marketing around the G Flex. Or, rather, one specific bit of marketing that The Guardian called “more disturbing than the act of taking your mum to see Nymphomaniac on Mother's Day.”
Moving on from whatever that was, the convoluted point I’m trying to make here is that Galaxy Round is genuinely a really interesting and important bit of modern smartphone history.
Yes, it was a commercial failure. Yes, it is - compared to the sleek flagships of 2018 - icky-looking. Those things said, it arguably built the foundation upon which the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9 are built upon.
Without the Galaxy Round, there wouldn't necessarily be an Infinity Display. Learning how to do curved displays poorly eventually taught Samsung how to do them right. It represented an inflection point in the way they deployed that technology. This, in turn, changed what we expect from today's smartphones.
And as we sit on the verge of foldable smartphones, you have to wonder if a similar story is about to play out.
We’ve said it before: the first foldable smartphones are probably going to suck. The second generation though? That’s probably when the good stuff is going to kick in. And mistakes like the Samsung Galaxy Round are how we get there.