The rumors were spot on. On Tuesday, Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy Round, which it's proclaiming as the world’s first (deeply) curved display smartphone.
What the heck does that mean? I'll tell you. 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 different and will arrive in Korea first, in brown, with flashier colors (and in perhaps more markets) coming later down the line.
Samsung has been working on its curved display for some time, showing off Youm (as said curved display is called) at CES 2013, and various other iterations in the years before.
Previously, the curved display technology -- which is a different thing than 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
Luckily for Samsung, 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, the Round is slim, at only 0.3-inches thick and weighing 5.4 ounces. It should feel substantial for its size, without weighing you down.
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.
Samsung includes two very new features, one called "roll effect," which we know little about, except that if you tilt 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 rocking the device with a finger to see a music-focused interface that highlights your tunes.
Seemingly gunning after 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 while pressing the other plays the next track, and you can use tilt controls to trigger video playback.
It sounds logical, but it may also a little confusing for people who have to remember to use it in the first place.
Cameras and video
As does 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.
The Galaxy Round features a 2.3 GHz MSM 8974 quad-core processor, 32GB internal storage, 3GB RAM (second to the Note 3), and an up-to-64GB microSD card slot. The 2,800mAh battery should amount for a fair number of running hours, but your battery longevity depends on how frequently you use your phone for heavy-duty tasks.
Pricing and availability
So far, Samsung has announced the Galaxy Round for Korea in the brown shade, with more colors -- and hopefully more markets -- coming "soon."
It isn't clear how much the Round will cost, but with top-tier specs similar to the Galaxy Note 3, look for a high-end price to match, and first adopters to test the Round's first-round try-outs.
Gimmick or something more?
It still isn't entirely clear what the benefits are of a display that's so deeply, horizontally curved like the Round. Maybe it will fit your cheek -- or your pocket. Maybe it's because there's less surface area to shatter if you drop the phone and it lands on its face. Or maybe it's just because Samsung has the cash to experiment.
Either way, CNET is keeping an eye trained on the so-far-unpriced Samsung Galaxy Round and will share some hands-on experiences with the unique device as soon as we humanly can, fun little software addenda and all.
In the meantime, share your own view. Is a deeply curved display wonderful and future-thinking, or frivolous and unimportant? Would you like to try it out? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.