Posted by Michael Kan 24 October 2013
Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy Round
We spend some time with a stylish and surprisingly non-ridiculous smartphone with a curved screen.
The Galaxy Round's designers have given it a slightly curved screen that clearly set of the Designed By Clowns Klaxon on Twitter, where it was roundly abused and ridiculed in a manner akin to red-tops going after a British Bake Off contestent who said something sensible and nuanced about gender politics in The Guardian.
Hyperbolics aside, we wanted to know what advantages can a curved screen bring to a smartphone? Well, not a whole lot, it turns out. But Samsung's newest smartphone, the Galaxy Round, comes off as a stylish device that may be the company's best looking handset yet.
Earlier this month, the electronics giant unveiled the Android phone, calling it the world's first to feature a curved touchscreen display. It has top-of-the-line specs, and includes a few software features that leverage the phone's curved design.
Most of the world won't see the phone anytime soon. Samsung, for now, only plans on releasing the handset to its home market of South Korea for the whopping price of about £600. Yesterday, the company made the Galaxy Round available for hands-on use at one of its offices in Seoul.
In a way, you could describe the Round as a curved version of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, as the two handsets share nearly identical features and the same design style. Both have a full HD 5.7-inch screen, a fast processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and even the same leather-like synthetic fibre covering the back.
For more on the Galaxy Round from nerdish point-of-view, watch the video below.
Despite tech similarities with the Note 3, the Galaxy Round feels and looks different. The phone is slightly lighter (154g vs 168g, exact specs fans) and is easier to grip with its curved back. It's one benefit of using Samsung's flexible displays, which the company says weigh less than traditional displays. At the same time, the phone feels sturdy and its curves are more pleasing to the eye, when compared to the flat exterior of the Note 3.
Users don't have to worry about the phone rolling off a table or even wobbling. The device's display is not as round as its name suggests. The arch is quite subtle, and contours more at the edges. When placed on a table, the Round remains stationary. But due to its curved backing, Samsung included a few software features that activate when a user tilts the phone on its spine.
One of them, called the 'Roll Effect', automatically turns the screen on and displays the time and date, when the phone tilts toward the user. A similar feature allows the user to cycle through songs played on the device. A tilt toward the right side will forward to the next track while a tilt toward the left will restart the current song.
When put into practice, the two functions are easily activated, but sometimes it took a harder tilt to cycle through music tracks. Both features, however, can only activate if the phone is laid on a table. A third function works when viewing the phone's image gallery. A soft touch to the screen's center, and a flick of the wrist, will display a sidebar showing the other photo albums stored on the phone.
These so-called 'tilt functions' offer nice shortcuts, but they could also easily be incorporated into any Samsung phone. Perhaps the company will do so in the future, but it's likely that most users will look at the features as novelties, much like how the Samsung Galaxy S4 will track facial and eye movements to help the user scroll through websites. Getting them to work on the Round can also take several tries at first.
In terms of looking at the phone's actual screen, the curvature can also be easy to miss. When facing directly at the display, the arch blends in and seems flat. It brings to mind how the electronics industry is also moving to televisions with curved screens. These TVs can arguably offer a wider field of view over traditional flat screens. But in the case of the Galaxy Round, it's hard to notice any difference, given that the phone already has a superb screen with its AMOLED display technology.
Save for the screen, nothing else inside the phone is curved, according to the company.
Despite that only the phone's aesthetics really set it apart from the Note 3, we like it – as it's a really stylish piece of product design that subtly stands out from the crowd. And if you don't like its dark 'luxury brown' coloring, a white version will be available in December (in South Korea only of course).
Samsung is staying mum on the future of its curved displays for smartphones, and we can't necessarily see this becoming widespread – but that's kinda the point of a distinctive device like the Galaxy Round.