Rock-a-bye Samsung Galaxy Round has something to prove (hands-on)

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At long last, we got our hands on the Samsung Galaxy Round, the world's first (deeply) curved display smartphone.

What exactly does that mean? It means that instead of the slight vertical bend seen in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Samsung Nexus S, this smartphone features a horizontal curve much like a half smile.

It's being sold in Korea right now, in brown, with flashier colors (and perhaps in more markets) coming later down the line. In the US, you can get it through retailer Negri Electronics, for an impressive $1,130.
Samsung has been working on its curved display for some time, showing off Youm (as said curved display is called) at CES this year, and various other iterations in years before.

Previously, the curved display technology -- which is a different thing from actual curved glass like Corning's Willow -- has been a project without actual physical form. In other words, the flexible display technology ghost has long existed before the technology had a body.

Design and build

The most eye-catching and unique feature is that huge curve, that eyeful of a smile that's unmistakably laughing at you for ever doubting it in the first place. It bends lengthwise in a vertical arch that looks deep enough to send the phone rocking like a cradle.

How does a curved smartphone feel? In the case of the Round, not much different from a non-curved one. The curvature is gentle, and so subtle that some editors at CNET asked whether the phone display was curved at all, or if it was the body design. The stitched-leather-style textured back’s roundness minimizes the phone’s width a bit: for a 5.7-inch-screened device, it’s got good hand-feel.

LG's rival, the G Flex, curves its OLED display top-to-bottom, while the Round opts for side-to-side. It felt comfy tucked into my pants pocket, and pressed against my cheek. And the 1080p OLED display comes across vivid, crisp, and beautiful. Having an arced display serves to reduce some glare in portrait mode. But, in my hands, the curved screen made vertical typing a little more cramped than it should have been.

It’s clear that the curved display of the Galaxy Round is aesthetic more than essential. But, in a large phone, it does seem to help manage the discomfort of an otherwise wide, flat rectangle. We're also not sure yet if the bowing helps or hinders video playback, reading Web sites, and gameplay, but we'll get back to you on that after more extensive testing.
Samsung started with a Galaxy Note 3, then bent it.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
 
On the features side of things, the Galaxy Round hangs out with the high-end crowd. It has a 5.7-inch, 1080p HD display; runs Android 4.3 (with Samsung's Touch Wiz interface, of course); and has Samsung's big-phone staples such as Multi Window (think split-screen) and one-handed operation modes, just like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 does.

With dimensions similar to the Note 3's, the Round is slim at only 0.3 inch thick and weighing 5.4 ounces. It should feel substantial for its size, without weighing you down.

Additional features

Samsung includes two very new features, one called "roll effect," which we know little about, except that if you rock the phone on its axis, it'll trigger a glance screen with the date, time, missed call, and battery information. This works even when the home screen is in sleep mode.

The closest Samsung's gotten to this before? A ticker in the Samsung Galaxy Continuum, which displayed a running digital display below the main screen. This movement instead is a dramatically different gesture that basically kicks the lock screen awake long enough to give you some basic stats without unlocking the phone.
Another new Samsung feature, the "gravity effect," promises to expand the role of gestures by adding rocking the device with a finger to see a music-focused interface that highlights your tunes.

Seemingly gunning for HTC, the Bounce UX, as it's called, turns on music player shortcuts even while the screen is off. While the player is going, pressing one side of the screen plays the previous track, and pressing the other plays the next track, and you can use tilt controls to trigger video playback.
It sounds logical, but it may also be a little confusing for people who have to remember to use it in the first place.


Cameras and video

As do the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Round has a 13-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, plus a 2-megapixel camera up front. Also look for 1080p HD video capture, which is standard on higher-end Samsung smartphones.
 
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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