Is a three-sided display the display of the future?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: August 7, 2014


When it comes to the next big innovative change to come to smartphones, it would seem that a lot of manufacturers are putting an emphasis on making changes to the display. You have displays that are clearer, displays that are bigger, displays that are curved, and now possibly we have displays that have... three sides? As bizarre as that might sound, a tri-sided display might not be as far-fetched of an idea as one might think, as rumor has it that our friends over at Samsung might have such a trick up their sleeve.


Smartphones with more than one display haven’t exactly won our hearts over en masse yet. There are phones like the Kyocera Echo, which featured two LCD screens that were used side-by-side when flipped out; you also have the YotaPhone, another dual-screen device that has one LCD screen and one eInk display on the reverse side. Both are unique ideas, both never made it very far. So if the lesson here is that if two screens can’t make it, how are three screens supposed to do it? Magic, maybe?


Three screens sounds pretty complicated, but when you see what it could actually mean, it starts to make a little more sense:



Really, it’s not three whole screens. It’s more like one entire screen and two screenlets tapering off to the side of the phone. An invterted curved display, if you will. You might look at this design and think “What can you really get done with a display like that?” The answer is that, potentially, you could do a lot with a screen like that - at least when it comes to shortcuts and buttons.


This won’t be the second or third display that lets you watch The Super Bowl, The Office re-runs, and the Home Shopping Network all at the same time; these two “extra” displays would be more likely used for switches and commands. I’m talking your power button, volume rockers, shortcuts to your most frequently used applications, and probably notifications if you so choose to use it that way. In theory, it seems like you could get a lot of potential use out of it given that necessities like the power button and volume rockers would no longer be a permanent fixture, and therefore could make more room on the main display for more important things when you don't need your power button or volume rocker present. The more practical side of me, however, wonders how anybody would manage to pull this off without making it our hands' worst nightmare.


Assuming these side panels are indeed interactive and respond to touch, I have a bad feeling that our palms and fingertips plus these two extra “screens” would become quick enemies. Most people grip their phones using the sides of the device. How are we supposed to grip the sides of the device if it’s always going to power my phone off, turn my volume up, open up my texts, etc.?


Of course, I imagine there is a perfectly logical solution to this. Still, just thinking about this type of change sounds nothing short of bizarre. I’m not quite sure if I would consider three screens to be truly innovative or just another idea trying to stand out as being different - and although it may indeed be different, does it really have room to grow in this industry?


I wouldn’t say I’m dying to get my hands on a device with “three” screens, but it does sound like an interesting concept that is worth checking out if nothing else. Who am I to say it wouldn’t work before even seeing it in action? I don’t have high hopes for it, no, but I do think it will at least spice things up a little if the rumors pan out to be true. Who knows? We might even see this unique design appear with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which is right around the corner from its debut!


So, what are you thinking about not one, not two, but three usable screens? Do you think this is a design you can get behind, or is this just another gimmicky move? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


Images via G For Games, IB Times, The Verge