Friday, June 3, 2016

The Edge of a Galaxy is Not a Fun Place to Play (Opinion)


Starting with the Samsung Galaxy Round in 2013, Samsung started toying with the idea of a curved screen on a smartphone. They had been teasing the concept of curved and/or bendable screens for a year or so before that at events such as CES (Las Vegas; Consumer Electronics Show) or IFA (Berlin; Internationale Funkausstellung). Unfortunately, their first attempt (the Galaxy Round) was not successful. Tucking their tails, they evolved to the idea of only curving the screen slightly around the edge of the phone, as opposed to the whole screen being bent like a taco.

In 2014, Samsung released the Galaxy Note Edge. This time, they had a more welcomed response from consumers. It had a screen that curved around the right side of the phone. It stretched the 2560 x 1440 Quad HD display to 2560 x 1600, which provided a full HD screen with an extra 160 pixels dedicated to the "Edge". Their hopes were to provide a little more room for the owner to become more immersed in the Samsung app ecosystem. I say it that way because at that time, you could not utilize any third party apps, only Samsung apps. That included shortcuts to contacts for text, phone call, or email.



The next year of evolution involved an S line variant called the Galaxy S6 edge. This time they curved both sides of the screen. The smaller screen size helped with the handling in that it was easier to stretch your thumb from the opposite side. However, the apps were still limited to the Samsung ecosystem. Later that same year, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S6 edge+. This was a phablet sized phone with a screen size of 5.7 inches, the same as their Note series at the time. 

Let's jump one more year, to spring 2016, and now Samsung brings forth the Galaxy S7 and, you guessed it, the S7 edge. However, they bred the two variants together to make a 5.5 inch, non plus, phone. But again, both the left and right sides of the phone are curved in a convex manner. This time though you can use some non-Samsung apps in this edge space of the screen.

Samsung believes they are on to something. Obviously, because they continue to build an edge phone. It looks really cool on display in the store. The color choices for the phone pair with the glass front and back along with the curve to make it a very good looking device. However, I'm not convinced.

I'm not convinced that the world needs this curve, this edge. I'm not convinced that looks are a reason to give up any practical usage of a very expensive device. One could argue, that smartphones have become a staple for everyday communication and socialism. So important that if a gimmick, such as an edge, were to hinder any use of the phone, that gimmick is pointless.


During my use of any of these edge variants, there was one major flaw in common with them all, accidental touches from the palm of my hand. Whether I used the larger or smaller screen sizes, whether I used it with my left or right hand (for the ones curved on both sides), the edge became a nuisance and the "cool" factor disappeared rapidly.

Some common, everyday, one handed, uses where the edge would get in the way include:
  1. Typing on the keyboard, either with one or two hands.
  2. Going for an app on the homescreen or app drawer, but instead sweeping out and choosing an edge feature.
  3. Reaching for the very top to pull down the notification shade.
  4. Swiping between pictures in the gallery.
The keyboard wraps around the edge allowing you to hit keys, the ENTER key, when you did not intend. Some icons, such as the trashcan, wrap around the edge and you can accidentally delete pictures. Thank goodness there is an undo option if only for a few seconds. The edge panel sweeping out, even if unintentional, renders all icons dumb where you only interact with the edge panel. There is a slim, translucent, tab peeking out ever so slightly from the edge. You use this to swipe the "edge panel" out to access the features and shortcuts. You can move this tab up or down along the side. However, when you stretch across the screen, your palm will cover a vast majority of the "edge" and more than likely you will touch this tab unintentionally.


I'd like to add that these are not just my opinions. I spoke with many edge users. Some kept the phone and decided to live with it, others couldn't afford to replace it, and some returned it within a few days to get the non-edge variant instead. Out of dozens that I interviewed, only one had no issues at all. Those odds are not very favorable.

Samsung did get wise and now had an option to disable the edge feature and that did significantly help the situation. But in doing so they helped prove my point about it being almost completely unnecessary and just a cool feature.

I'm very curious to hear your thoughts on the edge side of the screen. Leave your opinions and comments below.

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