At IFA yesterday Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, which, as it happens, is the world’s first commercially produced smartphone with a wrap-around display. In a few years time (perhaps sooner) all of our smartphones will feature flexible displays, enabling foldable devices and phones that roll up, for instance. But for now we have the Note Edge.
But here’s the thing, calling the Note Edge’s screen a “wrap around display” is a tad misleading, as it implies the display wraps around the entire phone--or at least both edges – when this really isn’t the case. As you can see in the image below, the panel on the Note Edge wraps only around the right-hand side of the handset.
Still – no other phone on the planet has this feature. Samsung is once again first out the blocks with a smartphone that utilises next-generation screen technology. And because there’s nothing else quite like it in the public domain it really does have that whole shock and awe-thing going for it. This is a phone you could imagine Tony Stark using – and that’s the point.
But putting looks on hold for a moment, the Galaxy Note Edge is also an immensely powerful phone, featuring a 5.6-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. That’s a pixel density of 525ppi –– 25 more than the Galaxy Note 4. And if you’re wondering what the “+” means, it refers to the extra 160 rows of pixels used on the curved aspect of the display.
In addition to the crazy display specs it’s got a 16MP rear camera and a 3.7MP front camera. With Qualcomm’s quad core 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 chipset, 3GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, it’s packed full of some of the best components you could want.
Features for a 160 Pixel Screen
But lets put internal specs aside and get back to the big “wow” feature of the Edge--its wrap-around display. Just the curved edge part of the Note Edge’s display has a resolution of 2560 x 160 pixels. Though you might be tempted to assume it’s just a thin separate display bonded on to the edge of the main display, it is in fact one sheet of glass that curves at the end. However, the edge is clearly segregated from the main part of the display via its software.
So what does this sliver of curved edge display do? Samsung gave many examples at launch, but the primary use at present seems to be as an application launcher. In this use case scenario you could be in virtually any app and quickly launch another one by simply tapping its icon on the curved display edge. No need to return to your home screen.
Another scenario is the edge becomes a sort of toolbar fixed in place for third-party apps. Imagine a photo app. Now it can relegate its editing command buttons to the edge of the screen, giving you more space on the main display to see the photo you are working on.
A third scenario is the edge being used as a ticker/alarm clock. Indeed, Samsung allows the edge of the display to show the time when your phone is hibernating. This means it could be resting on your nightstand and you can simply glance at its edge without even needing to pick it up to see what time it is. Similarly, this type of notification centre could show a news or stock ticker, your Twitter feed, and notification alerts from various apps.
What About The Lefties?
Look, Samsung deserves some credit for building a beautifully designed phone with a killer-looking screen. But the thing is, it’s mostly gimmick. Yeah, the curved display looks cool as hell, but it’s not all that practical or useful. The Galaxy Note Edge is a proof of concept, an indication of what’s to come in the mobile space during the next couple of years.
But like all proof of concepts the Galaxy Note Edge’s display is more for show than anything else. I mean, seriously, are you going to buy a phone just so you can turn your head in bed and see a tiny clock reading on the edge of your phone? No.
Are you using that many apps with big complex toolbars that are taking up valuable screen space? It’s possible, sure, but then Adobe (or whoever built the app in question) would have to issue a huge update in order to make use of this extra bit of display, which doesn’t seem very likely given that the Edge is just one phone in a sea of thousands.
And for the love of all that is decent, Samsung, what about the lefties? A smartphone with a curved edge on only the right side makes the feature incredibly hard for lefties to use and makes holding a phablet even that much more difficult.
Samsung did indeed release one of the best phones it ever has yesterday. It’s just not this one –– it’s the Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy Edge is still a beauty, though, but the curved display is more an indication of where things are going than something you REALLY NEED RIGHT NOW.
And that’s okay, because in the not too distant future handsets and tablets, thanks to work from companies like Samsung, will look like this: