Samsung may not hang its future on smartphones, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally phoning it in now. Case in point: its new Galaxy Note Edge smartphone with curved glass display.
There’s no denying that the Edge is a sleek, stunning smartphone. Its beauty comes at a cost, though: a wallet-thumping $400 with a two-year contract, or $700 without contract. The price tops the company’s well-received Galaxy Note 4 by $100 (on contract). That’s a hefty sum for your average smartphone user. Then again, this is not an average phone.
At its core, the Edge is essentially a Galaxy Note 4, but with a twist: a curved display that bends over the phone’s right edge. The bend allows for a thin, secondary screen, which provides extra controls, notifications and other features.
It’s a thing of beauty. And the ancillary display adds more function too—that is, if you hold it correctly.
It’s A Beauty …
Like the Note 4, the Edge features an S-Pen stylus, fast charging, fingerprint scanner, 32GB of memory, microSD card slots, 16 megapixel camera, as well as Samsung’s own stock apps, like S Health, S Note and S Voice.
The difference obviously lies in the additional display. Years ago, Samsung experimented with a supplemental screen in the doomed Samsung Continuum. But it appears to have learned a lesson from that flop—mainly, that it’s hard to beat curving glass for sex appeal.
The Edge’s AMOLED Quad HD technology displays great-looking graphics, and the 5.6-inch size of the main display only shaves a slight bit off the Note 4’s 5.7-inch screen.
But that’s enough to make room for a bonus display that houses settings, some built-in tools, ticker-style information or a scrollable, customizable list of your favorite apps. You can roll through as many as seven panels.
The screen also offers some app-specific options. Launch the camera app, and you get camera controls that sit at a comfortable angle, for easy reach.
Notifications, custom messages and other information can spread out onto that side, so they don’t interfere with whatever app you’re using on the main display. That can include things such as stocks, weather forecasts, Yahoo news headlines, tweets, song info or music controls during playback. You can change the look around, or even slap a teeny Edge-specific game there.
The device comes with a couple of delightful surprises as well, including a 4-inch ruler on the skinny display, plus a clock perfectly angled to show the time when the device—and you—are in sleep mode.
Samsung intentionally designed the Edge so that a palm resting on that right-hand sliver of screen shouldn’t set off any actions. In my own experience, it worked pretty well. Perhaps once, my palm launched something. Most of the time, the apps and features saved themselves to kick on to intentional finger taps only.
Then I switched hands.
… And A Beast
It seems obvious that grabbing an asymmetrical device would pose some challenges. But Samsung adjusted the touch control and designed the screen to flip upside down, so it can work in either hand.
It’s creative. But make no mistake—it’s not a solution. The topsy-turvy action is a workaround, one that’s not going to work for everyone.
In my right hand, there were few errant taps. But in left-handed mode, my fingers naturally tended to rest on the inclined glass. Over and over, I set off a cacophony of app launches and other unexpected behaviors.
A rep stepped in to inform me I was holding it wrong. (Cue Apple joke.) He took the phone from my hand, turned it upside down and handed it back to me, with the home button now at the top. “There,” he said. “This is how you’re supposed to hold it.” In this orientation, with my left palm on the edge, everything worked well again.
So intentional gripping is apparently key. Too bad I tend to manhandle my phone, often digging it out or pawing at it to answer calls, respond to texts or fire off a quick photo, with whatever hand I have free. I guess that means I’m not exactly the ideal user of this sleek device.
A Ticker Tape Parade
Even if the Edge is not perfect, at the very least, it’s a refreshing change of pace—one that could get better over time.
Samsung just released developer tools for the Edge’s ancillary display. With this, app makers may dream up some creative new uses.
Whether they can overcome the practical reality of grabbing hold of a phone with an angled, touch-enabled edge isn’t quite clear. But based on the number of developers I saw crowding around the gadget at the Samsung Developer Conference this week, it looks like some are very interested in giving this ticker a parade of cool, new uses.
Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite