The Mystery of the Inscrutably Curved Smartphone Screen

Don’t you wish someone had the courage to tell the Emperor he’s naked? What am I talking about? Curved smartphone screens. Think about it — over the last few months, there’s been a lot of chatter about Apple, Samsung, LG and others getting ready to launch smartphones with curved screens. Sounds cool, but what the heck is the point?

Before writing this I asked several executives in the wireless industry for their opinion. I thought that I must be missing something. After all, companies are all excited about offering this, and the media seems excited to write about it. The problem is they’re all saying the same thing: They don’t get it either.

Handset makers are lousy at PR. They should do a much better job of explaining what the heck this is all about. After all, if customers don’t get it, and executives don’t get it, and investors don’t get it, what’s the point?

Where Are the Curved Apps?

Even if the handset makers like Apple, Samsung and LG put a curved screen smartphone in every customer’s hands, what will that do? Will it change the experience? Will the customer be able to do anything different or new? What apps are screaming for a curved screen?

The simple answer is none of them.

Perhaps the point is coming down the road. The best I can figure is this has something to do with the future. It’s about paving the roads before the cars that need them are built. You know — a build it and they will come scenario. That’s what the industry did with the entire smartphone revolution. One step at a time.

With smartphones and apps, they explained till they were blue in the face. No one cared — not until the first iPhone rolled into the marketplace six years ago, anyway.

Is that why they are still keeping mum about curved screens? Who knows? Curved screens are not a big deal today, but perhaps this is about preparing for tomorrow.

Keeping Up With the Competition

OK, I’ll bite. So what’s the world going to look like tomorrow? What kind of world requires curved screens? Anyone? Anyone? Oh no. Now I’m starting to sound like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller.

What’s clear is that handset makers are moving rapidly in the same direction, so there must be a there, there, right? None of them want to be left behind in the dust. None of them want to occupy a marketplace where competitors with curved handsets are speeding ahead.

Wait, I know. Perhaps it’s like the big curved-screen TVs we’ve been hearing so much about. If so, perhaps we can look at those and see what is the point and compare. So… what’s the point of these big curved-screen TVs? Back to square one.

Perhaps this is a problem with business in the public marketplace. Privately held businesses don’t have to continually rush to do something new so they can sell more this year than last. Public companies need to sell more, year after year, to keep investors happy and stock prices up. If they’ve maxed out on sales, they had better come up with something else or they are in trouble.

Perhaps that’s the starting point for interest in these curved screens. That was the point with the entire smartphone revolution right? Everyone had a cellphone. So how can we earn more? Smartphones and apps, that’s how. Is this more of the same thing?

The Next New Must-Have Thing

It will be interesting ito see how the industry finally starts marketing these curved screens and how it turns them into something everyone needs. I’ll bet that’s exactly what the manufacturers have in mind.

So we’ll have to keep our eyes open. Let’s see who introduces one next and consider how they could change our lives — what new features they might bring to the marketplace.

When will the manufacturers finally start telling us about the benefits they will bring? If they have some secret plan in store for these curved screens, they should spend some time and money to educate the marketplace — don’t you think?

Just in case you’re waiting for someone to say it, allow me. Hey, Emperor! Put your shorts on!

Jeff Kagan

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

1 Comment

  • I guess you’ve never face muted or hung up on someone when you’re cheek touched an iPhone. Not to mention make-up and other smudging that a curved (presumably concave) screen would help with.

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