Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Round: few new features, but posh design

The Samsung Galaxy Round is the first phone to use a curved display

By , IDG News Service |  Hardware

What different advantages can a curved screen bring to a smartphone? Well, not a whole lot. But Samsung's newest smartphone, the Galaxy Round, comes off as a posh device that may be the company's best looking handset yet.

Earlier this month, the electronics giant unveiled the Android phone, calling it the world's first to feature a curved touchscreen display. It has top-of-the-line specs, and includes a few software features that leverage the phone's curved design.

Most of the world won't see the phone anytime soon. Samsung, for now, only plans on releasing the handset to its home market of South Korea for the whopping price of about US$1,000. On Wednesday, the company made the Galaxy Round available for hands-on use at one of its offices in Seoul.

In a way, you could describe the Round as a curved version of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, as the two handsets share nearly identical features and the same design style. Both have a full HD 5.7-inch screen, a fast processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and even the same leather-like synthetic fiber covering the back.

But despite their similarities, the Galaxy Round feels and looks different. The phone is slightly lighter at 154 grams, as opposed to 168 grams, and is easier to grip with its curved back. It's one benefit of using Samsung's flexible displays, which the company says weigh less than traditional displays. At the same time, the phone feels sturdy and its curves are more pleasing to the eye, when compared to the flat exterior of the Note 3.

Consumers, however, don't have to worry about the phone rolling off a table or even wobbling. The device's display is not as round as its name suggests. The arch is quite subtle, and contours more at the edges. When placed on a table, the Round remains stationary. But due to its curved backing, Samsung included a few software features that activate when a user tilts the phone on its spine.

One of them, called the "Roll Effect", automatically turns the screen on and displays the time and date, when the phone tilts toward the user. A similar feature allows the user to cycle through songs played on the device. A tilt toward the right side will forward to the next track while a tilt toward the left will restart the current song.

When put into practice, the two functions are easily activated, but sometimes it took a harder tilt to cycle through music tracks. Both features, however, can only activate if the phone is laid on a table. A third function works when viewing the phone's image gallery. A soft touch to the screen's center, and a flick of the wrist, will display a sidebar showing the other photo albums stored on the phone.

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