Posted by Chris Martin 07 February 2014
Do we really need curved screens? In a word, No
If you follow all the latest developments in tech, you can't fail to have noticed an increasing amount of devices with a curved screen, especially TVs and smartphones. It seems that everyone has forgotten that TVs used to have curved screens, albeit convex rather than the new concave trend, but everyone wanted to switch to a flat-screen as quickly as they could afford the latest Sony or Toshiba.
So why the rush back to curved screens? Is curved better than flat now?
I've seen plenty of examples of big-screen curved sets at trade shows and while their size and thinness are impressive, there’s no real benefit of the curve.
You might have seen LG's advert for its new OLED curved TV which says it is 'reflecting how we see the world'. Hang on, wasn't that the idea behind 3D? This must be an admission that 3D was a flop yet again, leaving manufacturers without an innovation to persuade buyers to upgrade.
As far as I can see, curved TVs exist only for the marketing hype. Having seen plenty of demo footage, I'm at a loss to work out how it looks any better than on a flat screen. I'm sure the only people who say it's more immersive are sitting bang in front of the screen, in the sweet spot. Even then, I’m convinced the effect is merely psychological.
And what about everyone else? Viewing these curved screens from the side puts you at a noticeable disadvantage since you can't see the image properly. So don't bother inviting people round for a movie night to show off your new purchase.
The latest development from LG and Samsung is TVs which convert from flat to curved at the touch of a button. That's an awesome trick but good luck affording one of those.
Curved screens aren't limited to TVs, with several smartphones and even other devices such as smartwatches sporting them. Later this year Archos will launch a smart wristwatch with a curved screen, although that's an E-Ink display so is a little different.
There are two key smartphones with a curved screen at the moment: the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex. I didn't really think either would reach UK shores. It seemed more likely that the Korean tech giants would trial the phones on home soil to gauge reaction. However, you can already pick up a G Flex in Carphone Warehouse.
At around £700 on a SIM-free basis or £57 per month on a contract, the G Flex is far from cheap so you've got to really want a curved screen to buy one. Admittedly, showing off a phone with a curved screen to my mates would earn plenty of kudos but that's something you can only do once.
The question, again, is what’s the real benefit of a curved screen? I’ve already had a good look at the G Flex at CES in Las Vegas and put the question to LG. The rep could only give me one reason for the curved screen: ergonomics. The device is supposed to sit in your hand better when you hold it and fit your face more conveniently when making a call. In my experience, neither of these are true.
The other argument is that, like curved TVs, it enhances your experience when interacting with the phone. In portrait mode, it simply makes no difference and in landscape the screen just isn't big enough for the curve to make gaming or watching videos any more immersive than a flat screen.
I haven't picked up the Galaxy Round yet, but the idea seems even dafter than the G Flex since it's curved from side-to-side rather than top-to-bottom. There's no benefit in portrait or landscape mode. In fact, I expect using the Galaxy Round in landscape mode will be worse than a flat screen.
I’m sure a few people with more money than sense will go out and get a curved screen phone to flash around but it will be a passing fad. It's an answer to a question nobody is asking. Show me a roll-up smartphone, and then we’ll talk.