So given the Galaxy Round is now on the market, at least in South Korea, when might other Samsung flexible display prototypes appear? Will any be a sales success?
Some analysts believe a large, curved smartphone like the Galaxy Round will be easier to store in a pocket than a flat rectangular phone. "A segment of users will pay the premium for a phablet-styled smartphone that is more pocketable," said analyst Kevin Burden of Strategy Analytics.
But the success of the Round will also depend on its price. "There is a market for every device out there, some much smaller than others," Burden said. "Volume won't come until this technology is in devices at prices that users have come to expect to pay for a premium smartphone."
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said Samsung understands its markets well, and knows that luxury, high-priced devices sell well in Asian countries but can be greeted more skeptically in the U.S. "The round display is more of a gimmick at this point until Samsung can show a true use case that makes it necessary" for users, he said.
The possibilities for other flexible technologies are even more exciting, Gold said. Among products under development are flexible circuit boards and flexible batteries. If an entire device is made flexible, it's theoretically possible it could be wrapped around a wrist or an arm, or rolled up and placed a purse or a pocket, he said.
"The possibilities are to be discovered, but [flexible displays] could lead to some interesting innovations," Gold said.
Given past history, it's possible Samsung will have its bendable smartphone prototypes like those shown at CES ready for market sometime in 2014, although Samsung hasn't offered a timeline.
Flexible technologies might open new product categories that Samsung could use, such as curved window panes that double as touchscreens for Internet access. Or the curved displays could be used in car dashboards or in appliances that incorporate Web browser touchscreens.
However the flexible displays are used, maybe what Samsung is first trying to do is open up our imaginations with its Galaxy Round.
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