The Galaxy Round created some buzz in 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.
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 $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. (continued...)
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