|(Review) Reading news on the curved Galaxy Round is a dizzying experience
The Galaxy Round phone created some buzz in the tech circles when Samsung announced it earlier this month, but no one in the downtown Seoul cafe where I played with the curved screen smartphone asked me about it or even gave a curious glance, Youkyung Lee of AP.
That is likely because the curve is so subtle it is not apparent without a close look.
At first glance, the Galaxy Round appears similar to the Galaxy Note 3 phone, which also has a big display measuring 5.7 inches diagonally. I could see the Round's left and right edges were raised slightly only when viewed from the top or from the bottom.
After handling the device for about 20 minutes, it became clear why Samsung shied away from putting a more dramatic curve in the display.
Reading news articles and Twitter messages made me feel light-headed after just a few minutes, especially with the phone in an upright position. Sentences weren't level and looked skewed, hampering my reading experience.
It's less of a problem, but still one, with the phone placed horizontally.
Perhaps this is an optical distortion that I'd get used to after a while. But given that computer screens, laptops and smartphones are mostly flat, I wouldn't want to constantly switch my eyes back and forth between a curved display and flat screens everywhere else.
Aside from the price tag of more than US$1,000, the mobile reading experience was the chief problem I found during my brief hands-on. When watching videos or browsing pictures on the Round, I noticed little difference compared with flat displays.
According to Samsung, curved displays are a step toward mobile devices that are foldable like a map, which explains why the Round generated excitement in tech circles.
It says inflexible curved displays have benefits for users. None of them, however, seem transformative.
Samsung's promotions for the Round say the curve makes it easier to grip the giant phone. But when answering calls, I could barely notice a difference from a flat screen.
Two new features make use of the display's curve only when the Round in screen-off mode is placed on a flat surface, allowing it to be rocked like a cradle. Tilting the device to one side displays its battery status, time, missed calls and unread emails. But to check emails, I had to unlock the Round and go to the home screen.
The second feature is music playback. You can skip to the next song or go back one by tapping the right or left corners of the display. This feature is useless when listening to music on the move.
All this points to the Galaxy Round being an experiment for Samsung and not a product meant to be sold widely.
The Galaxy Round appears built to test its potential.
For consumers, there is little reason to pay 1.09 million won (US$1,027) for the Galaxy Round.
Samsung said the Round's overseas release schedule is still up in the air.
But that should not matter as I would wait to see the next generation.