Samsung and LG's battle to be seen as the planet's innovator-in-chief took an odd turn this week, with both companies announcing plans to launch a mobile phone with a significantly curved screen.
The apparently "flexible" display technology that's been promised for years will soon arrive in an unnamed LG model and inside the Samsung Galaxy Round, although, as everyone always has to point out, these phones won't bend. The screens have been pre-bent in the factory, but hard stuff like batteries and cases mean these flexible screens don't actually flex.
Anyway, with Samsung and LG both trying to pretend they came up with the idea of this seemingly needless tech innovation first, the internet's level of background cynicism exploded to new highs.
On our trawl through the curved display comment threads we saw Samsung's phone compared with a hip flask, a Pringle and an ashtray, with hardly anyone saying it resembled a nice idea for a telephone they might like to buy.
Wrong way Round
What with Samsung going further than LG in actually showing off a curved product, the majority of the internet's smug guffawing was pointed in its direction. The word "gimmicky" pops up frequently when reading peoples' thoughts about the Galaxy Round, with Cnet reader RomeoJDR giving Samsung some free business advice, suggesting: "Spending the resources to use a high grade polycarbonate or some other material viewed by the majority as 'premium' would go much further in sales than the time and effort took to come up with this gimmicky design change."
A person calling him or herself "wtrhzrd" for some reason responded with a surprisingly heavy and rigid defence of plastic-based mobiles, pointing out their advantages over the so-called premium glass and complaining about the way reviewers unfairly criticise plastic phones, saying: "'Feels cheap' is about as lame a statement as there is on tech reviews these days. Holding the phone during use feels no different than any other phone using different material. But they have to break something out that's different for their "reviews" so the back material is it."
Over on The Register, there was a glimmer of positivity regarding the Galaxy Round. User Buzzword commented that: "Perhaps the curves help it fit in the pocket better, wrapped around one's thigh" - which makes sense as long as you remember to put it in the right way, else it might wedge itself in so tight you'll have to go to A&E to have your trousers removed.
Don Jefe responded with a complaint about this critical pocket orientation issue and the additional brain power carrying a Galaxy Round may demand of the user, saying: "It seems like a backward design decision to reduce use options by half. Thinking about how to carry something that previously didn't require thinking about isn't a Great Leap Forward in user friendliness."
Two Rounds don't make a right
A man with a vendetta against all mobile users used publicity generated by the Galaxy Round as an opportunity to get on his soapbox and do some anti-mobile campaigning over on Sky News, with Mick G ranting that: "...if someone is caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, confiscate their phone and fine them plus 3 penalty points on their licence, the second time they are caught, confiscate their phone AND their vehicle and fine them plus add 9 penalty points on their licence."
What about if it was a cute bendy phone that was so flexible it could be wrapped around a driver's head, Mick? Or what if a phone had an ear-shaped hole in it, so it could be worn on the ear, like an ear hat? What then? Five penalty points and a stern look? Mick had a friend in TaineNZ, though, who suggested we should: "Bring in cameras to check for people on their phones, make some money out of the morons."
The way the comment threads veered wildly off-topic is rather indicative of how little enthusiasm there is for the curved display tech out there. Can anyone see the point of it? Over on The Verge, reader Miserablism claimed they might help with the unwanted "tenting" issues caused by larger devices, saying: "The curve follows the contour of your leg and/or buttocks. As a result, the protrusion or bulge is reduced. The problem with larger area phones is how much they tent your garments."
Engadget reader js73091 suggests Samsung and LG's minor shaping innovations are coming because there's simply nowhere else to take the super-powerful rectangular object format, saying: "2012-13 will be seen as the era where the phone industry officially ran out of ideas and started hiring consultants from the men's razor industry. From now on, it's more blades, moustache trimmer and lubrication strips, perhaps ribbed... for her pleasure."