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Samsung's curved smartphone: A big innovation or a novelty?

Matt Hamblen | Oct. 10, 2013
Is the Round's curved display significant technology or just a gimmick in a string of new Samsung products?

The flexible OLED ideas were introduced in January under the Youm brand, although Samsung didn't include the word Youm in describing its new Galaxy Round.

Other companies are also developing flexible displays, including Sony and Corning, the maker of the Gorilla Glass used in many smartphones today. At the IFA trade show in Germany in September, Samsung joined LG Electronics and Sony in showing off curved-screen TVs. Some were based on OLED, which is best known for producing blacker blacks to improve the viewing experience on a color display.

Samsung took nearly four years to reach the point of a production-quality Galaxy Round device. OLEDs emit their own light and as a result don't need a rigid, thick backlight like an LCD screen does.

Displays using OLED, (Organic Light Emitting Diode), are made of electroluminescent films of organic semiconductors that are usually 100nm thick. The semiconductors are usually fabricated on a glass substrate at first, but the glass is replaced with a flexible plastic such as polyethylene terephthalate to make a flexible display.

The Galaxy Round's display is flexible AMOLED, a variant of OLED, that refers to Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diodes. It is also a high- definition display.

Beyond the physical properties of the flexible display, Samsung has introduced software features that rely on the curved display. One is called Gravity Effect that lets a user tilt the device for viewing and another is Roll Effect for checking information such as date and time when the home screen is off.

It's unclear whether these new software features will become important to users or will get relegated to what some reviewers called superficial (and sometimes unreliable) add-ons like Smart Scroll, Smart Pause and Air Gesture that are part of the latest round of Samsung devices including the Galaxy S4 smartphone.

Samsung also touted the Galaxy Round's one-hand operation, which allows a user's controls to be moved to one side of the large curved screen for easier one-handed touches with a thumb. A multi-window feature also allows opening of more than one app on a single screen.

The Galaxy Round will also have other important hardware aside from the flexible display. There is a Qualcomm Quad Krait 2.3 GHz processor, the MSM 8974, along with 32 GB of storage and a microSD card slot for adding up to 64 GB. A large, 2,800 mAh battery is included.

A 13-megapixel rear camera is coupled with a 2-megapixel front camera. The phone will run over LTE networks and supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. Samsung Knox enterprise security and management software is also supported.

The Galaxy Round weighs 5.4 ounces, and is indeed large, measuring 5.95 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches.


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