Thursday, 10 October 2013

Samsung Galaxy Round, a Curved Note 3

Just recently, news broke that the Galaxy Round is being released for sale in Korea. While Samsung can claim that they are the first to create a commercially sold curved AMOLED display, Samsung has made phones with curved displays before, although such curves were achieved through curved glass, not curved displays. Smartphone OEMs are no strangers to curved glass, as such designs were extremely popular in 2012, because it made for no detectable ridge when swiping off of the screen, but came at the cost of increased susceptibility of the glass lens to damage.

While this Galaxy Round is not likely to suffer from such issues, this formfactor will likely carry a few idiosyncrasies. But first, the specs. The phone is almost undoubtedly running an MSM8974 SoC with the higher 2.3 GHz bin, as 8974AB seems to be confined to the Xiaomi Mi-3 for now, and the presence of LTE-A means MDM9x25. The back seems to be adopting the same design as the Note 3’s, with a faux-leather texture, although it appears the speaker has been moved to the back of the phone and the Wacom digitizer is gone, most likely due to volume constraints imposed by such a shape, as effective volume goes down compared to a conventional slate like that of the Note 3, which explains why the battery is now a 2800 mAh, 10.64 WHr unit instead of the 3200 mAh, 12.16 WHr unit found in the Note 3. Beyond these changes, the phone appears to be largely identical in hardware to the Note 3. Despite the curve, the AMOLED display should be largely identical in behavior compared to its flat counterpart.

Of course, Samsung has also released new software to take advantage of the rounded design, such as rocking the device to check glanceable information such as missed calls and notifications when the device is asleep. Various other motion features also take advantage of the phone’s design that allows it to roll left and right when placed on a table, such as music controls and gallery navigation. While currently unique to this phone, the Galaxy Round is far from the only smartphone on the market that behaves in a similar manner when placed on a table, with phones like the HTC One coming to mind. While a curved back makes for better ergonomics, such design is not limited to devices with curved displays, as evidenced by both the Moto X and LG G2.

Possibly one of the biggest issues that could happen with this phone is severe issues with screen protectors, cases, and other accessories due to its unusual curve, although it would only be a matter of market demand to find solutions to such problems. Although Samsung should be applauded for being the first to make a curved display, it is difficult to understand the utility of such a device, due to the lack of any killer feature in the device, which was a large reason for the success of the original Note line, as the Wacom digitizer feature arrived during the height of the Draw Something fad. While it will probably fit well in a pocket, and the motion features are neat, neither really justify the reduction in battery capacity nor the deletion of hardware present in the Note 3, which affects core experience for the sake of minor features. While the market ultimately determines what products are successful or not, the fact that this is only being sold in Samsung’s home market speaks volumes. This device seems to be a continuation of Samsung’s strategy of targeting as many formfactors as possible (as well as being an exercise in productizing internal Samsung technologies), in the same vein as the Galaxy S4 Active. It also seems to be that this device is most likely to end up in a similar situation as the Galaxy S4 Active, merely repeated in the Note line.