After all the rumors, leaks, and hints, Samsung chose a random Tuesday evening to launch its bendy smartphone–the world’s first curved one, apparently. It’s called the Samsung Galaxy Round. Spoiler: It’s not round.
In fact the one surprising thing about the Round is that it has a curved screen that’s bent left-to-right across its face when you hold it in portrait mode–not across the other axis, which one would think would fit the user’s face a little better when you held it to make a call. The screen is a 5.7-inch unit, with full 1080p HD resolution, and the phone runs Android 4.3 on a 2.3 GHz quad core CPU. It’s got a 13 megapixel rear facing camera. And that’s about it for specs–basically it’s a smartphone…that’s curved.
To push the curved agenda a bit more, Samsung has included some UI tricks that purportedly are making use of its unique shape. When you have the phone laid on a flat surface, if you press on one of its raised edges to make the phone sit up a little a special UI event–the Roll effect–happens, bringing up a status screen that summarizes data like battery life, missed calls, SMSs and so on. There’s also what Samsung calls the “Gravity effect” that makes UI elements react when you tilt the phone in the air…and if that sounds familiar, then it’s because Apple has a not-too-dissimilar trick embedded into iOS 7.
But the big question is if this device is really an innovation or not, or if it’s merely another part of Samsung’s effort to spam the phone marketplace with an enormous variety of slightly different devices. It’s only having a Korean launch, with a price of about $1,000–and there’s no word on an international launch. But the Round isn’t really about making a curved smartphone. It’s about Samsung demonstrating its mastery of the tech inside it, ready to sell the hardware to all comers for use in mobile tech that may have nothing to do with smartphones.