Curved Screen iPhone is an Idea that Falls Flat

Apple is planning on releasing an iPhone with a curved screen next fall, according to insider sources. That's an interesting idea since Samsung has already jumped on the curvy bandwagon, but it's also wrong. It doesn't make sense for Apple to warp the iPhone's screen.

Apple already has a great curved screen smartphone concept: The iPhone's flat screenApple already has a great curved screen smartphone concept: The iPhone's flat screen


According to Bloomberg's sources, Apple is hard at work on an iPhone with a screen with a convex curve that leaves the edges lower than the center. The new models will also include pressure sensitivity, and will be available with bigger screens at 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches.

Samsung introduced its Galaxy Round oversized smartphone in October, leading to the notion that Apple needs to copy the idea to stay competitive. The Galaxy Round is an Android-based smartphone with a concave curve in its body and glass. Setting the smartphone on its back leaves you with a smartphone that can wobble from side to side -- something that Samsung is touting as a feature.

Since Samsung has a curved glass smartphone, the argument goes, then Apple needs one, too. That argument also says Apple needs a bigger screen iPhone to compete, which doesn't exactly fit with the company's sales figures.

The big problem with making a curved screen iPhone is figuring out what need it fulfills, and the answer is: none. Bending the screen could potentially let Apple put a wider display in the iPhone without increasing the body size, but only if that doesn't require users to rock the phone back and forth in their hand to see from edge to edge. That feels more like grasping at straws to find a use for curved screens instead of addressing a pressing user need.

What does sound compelling is the idea of pressure sensitivity. From an artist's standpoint, that would give more control when using drawing and painting apps. In other apps, it opens new interface options, like touching part of the screen to perform one function while pressing the same place performs another.

Using touches and presses together could replace multiple swipes in some apps and improve economy of motion. In a Twitter app, for example, touching a tweet could show a conversation where pressing could let you reply, no need for extra taps and swipes.

Pressure sensitivity has the potential to add a new layer of complexity to user interfaces, so developers would need to be careful how they use the feature. That said, it's easier to find uses for pressure sensitivity in the iPhone than it is to find a place for curved screens.

Considering Samsung's track record with new features, curved smartphone screens feels more like a marketing gimmick than a great addition to the market. Apple seems to have a perfectly good curved glass strategy already. It's called a flat screen.