It seems like only yesterday that Gadget Review was thinking about flexible screens… Oh, wait– it was yesterday as word got around about the possibility of LG introducing a flexible or curved screen. Well, it appears Samsung has beaten them to the punch, announcing yesterday that they’ll soon release the Samsung Galaxy Round, the first smartphone/phablet with a curved screen.
Notice I said “curved”, not flexible, which is a design technology that’s still a bit in our (near) future. The Galaxy Round will be solidly curved in order to rock and roll… back and forth, forth and back, and again and again. It does this not only to annoy those sitting next to you at the conference table during the big meeting, but rather to take advantage of a number of Galaxy-specific apps that Samsung will introduce to take advantage of the rocking/rolling motion the curved designed allows. With most of the necessary features in smartphones already covered, it now seems like only gimmicks will suffice to help differentiate a new device in the marketplace.
The special glass necessary to creating these new curved designs, created by Corning of course, is called Willow Glass… and it’s not intended to be folded up in your pocket, nor folded like a newspaper. People hear the word “flexible” tossed around and get very science fiction-y (and not altogether practical) ideas about real-world technology. What Corning means, and what many have missed in the ooh-ahh nature of the recent announcements, is that the flexing properties of the glass generally pertain to the manufacturing process of solid molded devices. That’s not to say the glass does not offer potential for truly flexible devices (still at large: flexible batteries, flexible CPUS, etc. etc.), it’s just not happening at this moment or perhaps even the next few years. It should be noted that Willow Glass isn’t as strong as the current Gorilla Glass (also by Corning) used today in nearly every mobile or desktop display. It will break if bent too far, and isn’t quite ready for primetime.
Samsung states that the “roll effect” of the slightly concave device will allow the Android-based OS skin to activate the status display, change music tracks and switch between photos. The phone will allegedly be more comfortable to fit in the hand, but beyond that, and the OS integration, it’s hard to see what the brouhaha is about. Is this a solution to a problem people are having with their smartphones? Note again, this is a curved screen, not flexible in the sense that you can bend it back and forth, and frankly, even though LG is promising just that very thing, I’m not even sure it’s necessary. Let’s face it, what is really needed in display technology is virtually unbreakable glass so that screen repair guys can be put out of business.
The Samsung Galaxy Round will be soon be available in Luxury Brown for the mere price of 1,089,000 won (that’s $1,013 US dollars to you and me), but alas, it will only be available in South Korea for now.
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.