Say Hello to Samsung's First Curved Smartphone

If you were intrigued by the commercial launch of Samsung's first curved OLED television in August, you're gonna love this.

On Wednesday, the South Korean electronics giant officially unveiled the Galaxy Round, the world's first commercially available smartphone to boast a curved AMOLED display.


Image source: SamsungTomorrow.com. 

The Galaxy Round sports a massive 5.7-inch display, is 7.9 millimeters thick, and weighs about 5.4 ounces. For reference, that's just a smidge heavier than the 4.7-ounce Galaxy S4, which has a flat 5-inch AMOLED display.

So what else, exactly, does the new curved phone offer, apart from its novel aesthetic?

Well, in addition to a "comfortable hand grip feeling to the user" (in Samsung's words), the device also incorporates a few nifty features revolving around its unique display, including what they're calling the "Roll Effect" allowing users to check information when the home screen is powered off by rolling the device towards themselves. 

In case you're having trouble picturing it, the folks at Samsung's official blog were kind enough to post a quick demo video yesterday, which already has more than a million views as of this writing:

In addition, users will apparently be able to cycle through their music (even when the screen's off), and scroll through pictures with a short right or left tilt of the device.

If you thought the latest iPhones were expensive...
Is that really so much more convenient than a simple swipe of today's traditional touch screens that people will flock en masse to the Galaxy Round?

Probably not, especially considering SK Telecom  (NYSE: SKM  )  will begin offering the device tomorrow for a sky-high retail price of around $1,000. Call me crazy, but Apple's decision to sell the 64 GB version of its iPhone 5s for an unsubsidized price of $849 suddenly looks a whole lot more reasonable.

But the Galaxy Round definitely has a certain novelty factor which you can bet many users will appreciate, and as of now Samsung has said it'll be exclusively available at SK Telecom, which is already South Korea's largest wireless carrier. 

Of course, that's probably the byproduct of supply constraints, considering Samsung's efforts to mass-produce flexible OLEDs are still in very early stages; over the short term, however, it should serve as a significant advantage for SK Telecom over its smaller South Korean rivals, LG Telecom and Korea Telecom Freetel.

What's more, assuming Samsung can continue driving efficiency improvements in its flexible OLED manufacturing processes, don't be surprised if it drops the price of the Galaxy Round in the near future, just as it did with its large-screen curved OLED televisions in early August.

This is only the beginning
Before you go rolling your eyes, it's worth noting -- and I've written many times before -- that we're only at the start of a multiyear revolution in electronic displays driven by OLED technology.

Consider LG Display's efforts, for example. In addition to launching their own large-screen OLED televisions earlier this year, LG Display announced on Monday  it would soon begin mass production of its own flexible OLED display lines, with plans to begin selling new smartphones with "enhanced performance and differentiated designs" beginning in 2014.

And though you may be questioning the utility of Samsung's high-priced Galaxy Round now, you can bet the technology will only continue to evolve from here. After all, OLED displays can not only be made flexible, but also can be built to be semi-transparent and nearly indestructible -- two key advantages with decidedly more useful implications. It'll undoubtedly take some time to hammer out the manufacturing nuances involved with building such displays, but I'm convinced it will happen eventually.

Here's where to invest
If you're looking for the best way to benefit from this trend no matter whose OLED-centric devices prove the most popular, look no further than OLED specialist Universal Display Corporation  (NASDAQ: OLED  ) .

Universal Display, for its part, has a virtual stranglehold on the OLED industry and earns revenue not only from licensing its intellectual property to businesses like Samsung and LG, but also from supplying a significant chunk of the materials necessary for electronics manufacturers to build OLED displays in the first place.

It's worth noting that Universal Display stock has endured a sustained campaign recently carried out by noted short-sellers who dispute the depth of its patent portfolio. However, I've already gone out on a limb to state that I'm not convinced the company's moat can be so easily traversed. Even so, these sorts of patent concerns remain a risk long-term investors in Universal Display can't afford to completely ignore.

In the end, though, as long as Universal Display's competitive position remains intact and OLED technology continues to advance on a commercial level, I'll be hanging onto my own shares with an iron fist.

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 10, 2013, at 8:35 PM, ScottAtlanta wrote:

    I guess what amazes me is how long it's taking for Corps to develop and release OLED tech. when there are functioning prototypes as evidence by online videos and conference displays. Yes I know it's not THE SAME as the finished product...but come on....you have, relatively speaking, nearly unlimited resources to work out the kinks.

    They demonstrate a rollable nearly paper thin OLED video display that can withstand hammer strikes. Yet they can't get this into a device to market?

    It does make me wonder about the influence of "product cycles" on withholding and limiting tech to bolster profits over time. I understand that Apple seriously limited the functions of Siri and they remain so today...with far greater potential untapped according to the originators of this software (If I recall my source info. correctly).

    Long OLED with hopefully not too long of a wait!

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 1:08 AM, flybywire54 wrote:

    A curved phone by people with warped business ethics . Hello and..... bye bye ..

  • Report this Comment On October 11, 2013, at 10:50 AM, sidneyleejohnson wrote:

    The short selling sustained campaign is not recent it actually started ten years ago when OLED was just in the R&D phase and Asensio fought its inclusion in a Merril Lynch nano-tech index. They short sold into what they considered a Hype fad at the time but for some reason the shorts sellers never bothered to exit when their original thesis evolved into failure as oled shifted from hype to Gartner Groups "slope of enlightment" Having missed a chance to exit in the 2008 lows; and post SEC crackdown on naked short selling, they quintupled down on their short positions in the rally brought by oled going to mass production and are now left trying to alter their thesis and the facts to support them by engaging in tortious interference to paint a window to jump out of the corner they painted themselves into.

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