Samsung sharpens focus on image-conscious audience with curved screen
October 1, 2013
Samsung's prototype of a phone with a bendable screen
Samsung’s expected launch of a curved screen later this month could open up new ways for marketers to reach users, and it is also another example of how Samsung is trying to gain an edge over the competition by being first with new innovations.
Samsung is reportedly rolling out a phone this month that will feature a curved screen that includes a strip along the side of the device that sticks out of a folio case to display notifications and content when a device is closed. Given the manufacturer’s innovation, the industry will be closely watching what impact the curved, flexible screen will have, including on marketing opportunities for brands.
“I think Samsung is trying to define a new market, which it may own, rather than going after a market,” said Nitesh Patel, London-based senior analyst for wireless media strategies at Strategy Analytics.
“It’s clearly looking to attract users that are looking for something different and with a bit of a wow-factor,” he said.
“For marketers, I can see an opportunity for some more creativity in mobile advertising and marketing perhaps playing on the curved screen. More obviously though, the consumers going after curved screens are likely to be fashion or image-conscious, that want to be different and look cool, which should appeal to marketers that are interested in targeting that bunch.”
From lock-screen ads to more personalized push notifications, marketers are increasingly having to be a bit pushier these days to grab a consumer’s attention.
Samsung's curved mobile device will give marketers a significant boost in opening up a critical area of the device for push notifications and SMS messages.
Although details about the new phone are limited, Samsung showed a prototype of a curved device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, giving marketers an idea of what they can expect.
A sidebar juts out of the device when the device is closed within a case, which can be leveraged by marketers with push notifications and SMS messages to keep a brand top-of-mind for a consumer.
The prototype shown at CES
“Marketers now have some real estate that they didn’t have before – you could say that this is a new place to advertise,” said Michael Morgan, analyst at ABI Research, New York.
“It’s a thing where you don’t have to wait for the consumer to be engaged with the particular app at a particular time,” he said. “It’s about being able to collect information while the entire phone is not open.”
Samsung was at the forefront of mobile innovation with the launch of its line of Galaxy devices that have gained substantial market share and consumer interest with bigger screen sizes.
As the product lifecycle continues to become shorter for consumers, Apple and Microsoft are two other manufacturers that have taken clues from Samsung to make their own products bigger as well.
However, while Samsung is working towards a more curved smartphone approach, Apple is taking the opposite approach with iOS 7, which embraces a flat design.
“All smartphones currently feel and look very similar,” said Boris Metodiev, senior analyst at Yankee Group, Boston.
“The company that launches flexible screens first will very likely keep the innovation for itself until the other makers catch up, enabling it to differentiate its devices from the competition and profit from the inevitable frenzy,” he said.
“Even after flexible screens become a commodity and an expected feature of all new phones, the first maker will likely profit by supplying them to its competitors, since it will have proven means of mass-producing them.”
Another mock-up of a Samsung phone with a curved design
A flexible screen will let the devices work on any type of surface whereas they can only work on a flat surface currently.
According to Mr. Metodiev, this will spur development of more curved wearable devices such as bracelets that offer consumers new experiences.
The bendable type of material will also cut down costs for Samsung with manufacturing, which will increase the distribution of the product while also setting the price of the device lower for consumers.
The curved design on Samsung’s mobile devices falls in line with other design trends that Samsung has been building on other devices, too.
For example, Samsung is designing televisions with rounded corners to give consumers a more immersive experience, which the company could translate to mobile phones as well.
Samsung is also one of the manufacturers most focused on wearable devices with the recent launch of the Galaxy Gear smart watch.
Samsung’s new devices will reportedly use plastic instead of a glass product, which will make the devices feel lighter and thinner.
Plastic screens also give the devices more protection and prevent against cracking, which will be a big plus for consumers.
“If they use the fact that the screen is curved, that could be interesting,” said Andrew Borg, research director for mobility and collaboration and the mobility center of excellence at Aberdeen Group, Boston.
“If they do something like that where they exploit the curved surface with adaptive use of the display, that could set them apart,” he said. “The fact that it’s curved is not that interesting – it’s what they do with the curve that would be interesting.”
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York
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