Are curved displays the future of our phones?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| October 22, 2011

There’s no slowing down technology. And there doesn’t seem to be anyone slowing down the design aspect, either. While our phones are now rocking dual-core processors, our tablets are getting ready to rock quad-core processors, and our displays are getting so awesome that it’s hard to look away from them; our phones are looking better and better with each new release. That’s plenty apparent with the upcoming release of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, with its sleek looks and rounded edges. It also has a curved glass display, which is something you’ll either love or hate.

Five years ago, or even less, a curved-display for our smartphones would have been something people scoffed at. While all-touchscreen devices were something of a novelty all those years ago, and plenty of people out there probably thought they’d never catch on (why wouldn’t you want physical buttons, right?), we’re now in the market where there’s phones with no buttons at all, and a gentle curve to our display to really showcase where our aesthetic focus is headed.

I don’t make a lot of phone calls, and that’s why when phone manufacturers try to sell me a phone that’s comfortable to hold while I’m on a call, I don’t really pay much attention. In fact, when HTC was launching the original Hero (you know, that device that launched the HTC Sense craze), I didn’t pay much attention to the “chin.” Even when HTC execs and reviewers alike were pointing out how holding the phone to your ears was now more comfortable than ever, it didn’t make much of a difference to me. I actually thought the handset looked unique, and that was reason enough for me to buy it.

Of course, that all changed once I actually got the phone and started using it. Despite the fact I didn’t spend a lot of time on the phone, when I did I couldn’t help but notice how good it felt. While the majority of the phone was still that straight block-style, that little chin made a huge difference. It wasn’t a ridiculous angle or anything, but the subtle difference made a huge impact for me. And that’s why when I see new phones featuring new ways to be “more comfortable in your hand” while you’re on a phone call, I don’t just outright ignore it anymore.

But that has me wondering, which form factor is the best? When it comes to the original Hero and that small chin, to the Galaxy Nexus and the curved display? The reason I see the original Hero being so comfortable isn’t because the whole phone had a gentle curve, but because the majority of the phone still held the familiar form factor of a phone that we’ve used before, and the screen size was just right for two-handed usage. The chin didn’t make a difference on usage unless you were on a phone call, but I don’t think we can say the same thing for a curved display.

And that’s due to the obvious fact that the curved display is going to be something that you come to use every moment you use the phone. It isn’t like a chin that’s out of the way of general usage with the touchscreen (I forgot to mention that using the trackball with that chin was pure bliss, too). With the curved form, using the device in landscape will probably be super comfortable though, and with that large screen that may be the way that most people interact with their device.

To be honest, while I loved the chin on the original Hero, I don’t see a chin coming back to any high-profile device any time soon. With our phones getting thinner, and those displays getting even larger, I can imagine that we’re going to keep seeing flat devices, or more curved displays. If the Galaxy Nexus is a smash hit for Google and a champion of Android all over again (like the previous Nexus devices have been), then I can see other manufacturers jumping on the curved display bandwagon before too long.

Are you interested in a curved display-device? Or are you perfectly happy with your straight slab handset? Let me know in the comments below.

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