Curved Smartphones: Just a Gimmick, Or the Next Big Thing?

Does a bent phone have a place in your pocket, or is it all a marketing ploy?

By Florence Ion
Fri, January 31, 2014

IDG News Service — Smartphones can't get any bigger. Talking on today's 5-inch-plus models borders on trying to hold a small tablet up to the side of your head. So what's a phone manufacturer to do to differentiate its phones from all the others? Bend them! These new curved phones might seem gimmicky, but if early models catch on, they'll become the next hot commodity.

LG and Samsung are first to market with their curved mobile devices, the G Flex and the Galaxy Round, the latter of which is only available in South Korea. While we're glad they're not evangelizing even bigger phones,A we're still left pondering the practicality of a phone with a curve in it.

So what is the deal with these new phones? Does their unusual shape actually make the phone better to use, or is it all just a marketing ploy to sell more devices? We talked to the experts to find out whether curved smartphones really have a place in your pocket.

Two phones, both curved

Samsung and LG are currently the only mobile manufacturers that sell smartphones with curved displays, and they have entirely different design approaches. LG's 6-inch G flex is curved vertically, while Samsung's 5.7-inch Galaxy Round is curved horizontally. Also, while both display components are technically flexible displays, they're actually placed underneath a curved panel of glass. If you delve into the nitty gritty of specifications, you'll notice that the Galaxy Round is basically a tuned-up version of Samsung's phablet-sized Galaxy Note 3, while the G Flex is a rounder LG G2 smartphone, complete with volume and power buttons on the backside. Both displays are OLED.

Do curved phones fit your face better?

Remember what talking on the phone was like? Smartphones have been long advertised as app-based mini computers, with the voice functionality taking a backseat, but LG says it curved the G Flex specifically to fit the shape of the average person's face--just like a regular phone. "The average length of a person's cheek is 107.97mm," wroteA Kwan-woo Park, Team Leader for the G Flex Product Planning team,A in an email interview. "We curved each end of the phone to suit this measurement and reduced the distance between one's mouth to the microphone." The bend in the phone also helps solves the problem that many large-sized phones have: being too big to talk on. Rather than position the mouthpiece against the side of the chin, which is what usually happens with a smartphone larger than 5.5-inches, the curved body is meant to help position the mouthpiece by your mouth.

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