Are Edge Phones the Way of the Future? And What’s that Edge For??!

by Dan Forster - , Last Updated on February 14, 2015, Thoughts

Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge has been on shelves for a couple of months now, and by all accounts is rapidly becoming a must have device. But is this just another gimmick? As smart phones become more and more similar, manufacturers are looking for ways to make themselves stand out. We’ve seen curved screens from LG, the standardisation of waterproof mobiles from Sony with their Xperia series. So what of this Edge? We’re taking a close look at the Galaxy Edge to see if this is really the way of the future or just another useless feature. And what is that Edge for anyway?!

The Note Edge Basics

Before we get to the star feature, let’s take a look first at what the Galaxy Note Edge is all about. And it has to be said that edge or no edge, the Note Edge is bringing some impressive specs to the table. A quad core 2.7 GHz processor and 3 GB of RAM make for a speedy and responsive device. A 5.6 inch Super AMOLED screen makes for second to none picture quality. A 16 MP rear facing camera and a 3.7 MP front facing video chat camera mean that photo quality is great too. All in all, Samsung have given us the kind of device that they’re famous for: high spec, excellent performance and good looking to boot.

And that could be part of the problem. It’s tough to say whether the Note Edge is selling well because it’s innovative and that edge is a selling point, or whether it’s selling well because it’s just a great phablet with solid specs. That being said, consumers do have the option of going with the Galaxy Note 4, which is fairly similar in the spec stakes. So maybe we need to look at that edge after all…

About the Edge

The edge is by far the most distinctive and noticeable feature of the Galaxy Edge, as you might expect. Basically, the right hand side of the screen continues and curves right around the edge of the phone, rather than stopping at the bevel as it would on a normal mobile. And that makes for something that looks and feels pretty space age. But what’s the point?

In basic terms the edge acts as a tool bar. You can design it to show what you want it to show, whether that’s your notifications, apps that you open most often, the time, or anything else that you’d like. You can even run a ticker along the edge, to keep up to date with the stock market or your Facebook feed. That’s all very well and good, but what is it really for? Does that edge offer you something that a normal phone notification bar or lock screen doesn’t?

What to Do With the Edge

The answer to that is both yes and no. Yes, there are some smart things you can do with the edge. Once you open the camera app, for example, camera controls move to the edge, meaning you can snap a picture with an edge icon, and your viewfinder is uncluttered. You can also use it in a similar way to control your music apps, with all the appropriate buttons appearing on the edge so that you can use your main screen for other things.

The notification aspect is interesting in that it’s a similar concept to the old two screen flip phones, where the external screen told you who was calling or messaging so you didn’t need to open your phone and activate the main screen before decided whether or not to respond. And launching apps from the edge is certainly more convenient than scrolling through endless home screens to try and find what you’re looking for.

All of these tasks could be done on the main screen, however, so it’s not that Samsung are really offering us anything new. However, the edge is a recent release, and app and game developers haven’t really had a chance to develop anything that really takes advantage of the edge yet. This means that it’s perfectly possible that the edge will become indispensable at a later date thanks to secondary innovation.

Downsides of the Edge

And the edge isn’t without it’s problems either. If you’re left handed you’ll either be forced to switch hands when holding your phone, or resign yourself to constantly opening apps or deleting notifications when you pick your phone up. Even as a right hander, the chance of you hitting something accidentally when grabbing for your phone is pretty high.

Then, of course, there are battery issues. Samsung have tried to combat this by including a massive 3000 mAh battery, but the truth is that the edge means more screen space which in turn means more juice drained from your battery and more frequent charging.

So Is This Innovative or Not?

It’s a tough call. Yes, in a way the edge is innovative. It changes the way you use your mobile, and that’s innovation. But it doesn’t yet really do anything that a regular smart phone doesn’t do, so whether the edge is going to be truly innovative is going to depend on how secondary developers respond to the challenge of that extra screen space. So the jury is really still out on whether or not the edge is going to be game changing.

Is it the way of the future? Again, that’s going to depend on whether or not the edge becomes truly necessary or just another feature. Rumour has it that Samsung are going to including edge technology on the new Galaxy S6, and other rumours are saying that other manufacturers are working on the same kind of technology. What will perhaps become the real legacy of the edge (and something far more useful) is the idea that displays can wrap around a phone, rather than being limited to a square in the middle of a smart phone face. This would result in smaller phones with larger screens, which is what most of us are looking for.

However, with flexible screen technology getting better all the time, there’s a good possibility that smart phones as we know them are going to change for the long term- the phone of the future being nothing more than a roll up screen. And if that’s the case, then Samsung’s edge technology is nothing more than the dying gasp of the solid display mobile.

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