It’s never very long after a launch before Samsung starts thinking about its "next big thing," and for the Korean manufacturer, that "thing" may be a curved smartphone with a three-sided display.
Such a device would follow in the footsteps of the Samsung Galaxy Round, which was released in October exclusively to the South Korean market. With the Galaxy Round, Samsung commercialized its Youm flexible display technology for the first time. But the prototype device may just be Samsung’s first toe-dip in the water since it unveiled the Samsung Youm technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. A recent report from Bloomberg indicates that one of Samsung’s future devices will feature a three-sided display that wraps around the handset frontward and allows for an extended view.
Samsung also recently filed a patent for a device with a wraparound display. The patent application for “Method and apparatus for operating functions of portable terminal having bended display” was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. The accompanying images show a device that wraps around frontward and provides extra display space on its sides.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Round, which features a prominent vertical curve that allows it to rock on a flat surface, this new curved device lies flat and curves in the opposite direction. It possesses practical benefits over the Galaxy Round in that it utilizes the curved display for specific functions, whereas the Round more or less just shows off the Youm technology, coupled with some novelty software features.
Patent images show potential uses for the extended display, including navigation for an address book or e-book, a clipboard/storage area for items to be shared or used later, and a display area for the size of attachments in messages and emails. With the side displays serving these functions, more of the front-most display can be used for primary activity.
It remains unknown which coming devices will get this latest curved display technology. Early rumors suggested the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 would feature a wraparound display with Youm technology, but the device ultimately was released with a flat screen. However, the Galaxy Round notably features specs very similar to those of the Galaxy Note 3, including a 5.7-inch display. It is possible the Galaxy Note 3 was intended to feature a curved display, as Samsung was heavily focused on its flexible display development early in the year with product releases scheduled for April. The manufacturer reported that month that it had faced setbacks that delayed Youm development until much later in the year.
It is also important to note that not all company patents end up becoming commercialized products. But Samsung patented its Youm technology late last year, and despite the hiccups in its development, it has introduced the flexible or curved display to the market.
With a new release cycle quickly approaching for Samsung in 2014, it will be interesting to see if and how Youm technology is actually implemented. Currently rumors are circulating about the Samsung Galaxy S5 flagship featuring a 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and a 64-bit processor, and the Samsung Galaxy F, which may be introduced to the market with a metal exterior.
One source told Bloomberg the curved display device is more likely to be released within the second half of the year, which is typically designated for Galaxy Note flagship devices. This suggests a next-generation "Samsung Galaxy Note 4" could also be in the running to feature this technology.
Do you think Samsung’s three-sided display patent will become a commercialized product? Let us know in the comments below.
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Fionna Agomuoh is a Technology Reporter for the International Business Times, a vegan foodie, and a lover of Electric Dance Music.