The news, which the company shared at an event held in Korea, speaks to how competitive the smartphone market has become. Smartphones have matured quickly in recent years. Though industry leaders, including Samsung, have continued to tweak features, none of the devices introduced this year has offered a big leap forward in technology or, for that matter, features. Samsung hopes a device with a curved screen will help set its devices further apart from the competition.
Curved screens are not new. They've been available on HDTVs for a while now. Television sets don't move around, though, and don't typically face the trials and tribulations that mobile devices do. Samsung has had trouble keeping moisture out of its curved AMOLED displays. Moisture is easy to keep from traditional LCD screens, but it's more difficult with AMOLED screens, and especially curved AMOLED screens.
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The big question here is what benefit does a curved smartphone screen offer? It's hard to argue that it will improve viewing angles. Smartphones don't typically need the 170-degree viewing angles touted by TV manufacturers. Certainly the curve has to be gentle; Samsung likely does not want to make a banana-shaped smartphone that won't fit in users' pockets. The Samsung Nexus S, which debuted a few years ago, had a barely curved piece of glass covering a flat AMOLED screen. There's an important distinction here, though: the Galaxy Nexus used a traditional panel; the AMOLED element itself was not curved. This new device will have a curved AMOLED panel under curved glass.
Some suggest that curved screens are a precursor to flexible screens. Flexible screens, when they arrive, will have a much bigger impact on the smartphone and wearable device markets.
Samsung is also working on flexible screens that are unbreakable. It first showed off flexible display panels at the Consumer Electronics Show several years ago. In fact, many expected the Galaxy Gear smartwatch to have a curved, flexible screen. Instead, it has a traditional flat-panel screen. Flexible screens, like those that can be wrapped around your wrist, will push forward devices such as smartwatches. The worth of flexible screens for smartphones will be more limited.
Make it unbreakable, though, and that's a different story. Despite the advancements from companies such as Corning and its Gorilla Glass, the screens on mobile devices remain fragile and often break when they're dropped. Give users a mobile phone with an unbreakable screen, and they'll instantly see the value.