Why Samsung is betting big on ‘curved’ smartphones

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung’s new smartphones are the best large-screened phones the company has made so far.

The new Note 5, for example, is thinner and more powerful than last year’s model. The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is super light and comes with a large high-resolution screen that curves on both sides.

When creating the phones, there was one core idea Samsung kept in mind: make bigger phones that are easier to hold.

“There’s quite a bit of physics involved,” Denison said. “There are only so many ways you can fit components into a package. But…if you take a 5.7-inch screen and curve it, it actually makes the device a little bit slimmer. It’s natural geometry.”

But there’s much more competition than there was four years ago when Samsung first launched the Note in the US.

Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, which is nearly the same size as the Note 5, has proven popular, and Apple is said to be working on its next large-screened iPhone model. Google launched its giant Nexus 6 earlier this year, which brings a smooth and clean version of Android to a massive 5.9-inch screen.

Samsung reportedly sold 4.5 million Galaxy Note 4 units in its first month on the market. Apple sold 10 million new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in its opening weekend, but it’s unclear how many of those models were the larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

So Samsung is betting big on its curved screen technology to compete with Apple, Google, and others.

Staying “ahead of the curve”

“In any industry there’s always competition,” Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung’s senior director of product marketing, said to Business Insider. “And that’s what’s happening. So we always have to stay ahead of the curve… We believe [the dual edge design] is a game changer.”

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is essentially a larger version of the Galaxy S6 Edge, which launched earlier this year. It has a sharp screen that curves on both sides and a glass and metal body. Although it looks exactly like the S6 Edge, Samsung says it’s been experimenting with larger-sized curved displays for quite some time regardless of whether or not the S6 Edge was successful.

“The tech team continuously works with different sizes,” Kolhatkar said. “It’s not like after the S6 Edge we were like okay let’s make a bigger one.”

Samsung made a curved version of its Note phone last year called the Galaxy Note Edge, which was rounded on one side. It was a more exaggerated curve that functioned as a second display for the phone, so you’d be able to read ticker-style alerts while the main display was turned off. It didn’t really catch on the same way the Galaxy S6 Edge did.

“We experimented with the Note Edge, that was our first attempt,” Denison said. “And it had a certain UI/UX [user interface and user experience] that we thought would resonate. But we were innovating, and we were the first ever to do that. So we listened to consumers.”

Write on the screen even when it’s turned off

Samsung, like most tech companies, usually test its products in focus groups before unleashing them into the world. The ideas that resonate the most with these focus groups usually make it to market, although not all of them prove to be a hit.

“Not everything we launch is necessarily successful out of the gate,” Kolhatkar said. “But as we get a positive response from the consumers, we keep innovating and improving on that particular feature.”

That’s exactly what Samsung did with its latest phones, especially with the stylus on the Galaxy Note 5. Samsung added a new feature that makes it even easier to take notes with the S Pen, since you can jot things down on the screen even while the display is turned off. These notes automatically save to Samsung’s S Memo app.

Kolhatkar briefly explained how this works:

“As soon as you move the S Pen, it recognizes that you are doing an action,” he said. “And that’s when the screen goes into standby mode. The Wacom display we use looks for input, and as soon as you start writing it becomes a memo.”

Overall, Samsung says it’s not worried about the competition – it welcomes it.

“We certainly love competing in open markets,” Justin Denison, Samsung’s vice president of product strategy, told Business Insider. “And we’re not shy about wanting to deliver more of our phones to consumers. And really what you heard today was our response to the market. It’s more our response to consumers than it is a competition.”

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