Will the Galaxy S8 have a flat display, or is Samsung going all-in on the edge?
Update: We're revisiting this article following recent reports that Samsung may indeed go all-edge in the Galaxy S8 line.
Unless the past several weeks of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 leakage have been part of some elaborate trolling campaign, it's looking like the next member of Samsung's popular Galaxy Note family will feature a curved "edge screen," like the Galaxy S7 edge.
If that happens, it raises an interesting question about the future of the Galaxy S line: Is Samsung going all-in on edge? Could this year's regular Galaxy S7 be the last flat flagship?
Sure, there's some semi-useful software behind it, but the edge screen remains mostly an aesthetic feature, and like anything of that nature it has its admirers and its detractors. The prospect of only a curved Note 7 being available has already irked some on the forums, with burry photos of a flat-screened Chinese Note 7 prototype giving hope to those wanting a more traditional design.
Expect even more controversy if there's no flat Galaxy S8 in the following year.
So let's break down how it might happen — and why it might not.
The case for an edge-only Galaxy S8
It's really hard to differentiate in the high-end space, and Samsung, with its curved SuperAMOLED panels, is in a unique position to offer one of the most eye-catching smartphone design features in years. People didn't buy the Galaxy S6 edge because they wanted to swipe in and launch apps a bit more quickly, or because they wanted to measure stuff. They bought it because it looked cool, and it looked cool in a way that no other phone could match.
The Galaxy S7 edge sold because it looked cool, not because people wanted to slide out edge panels and start measuring stuff.
More recently, it's been combined with curved glass on the back, and ever softer angles around the aluminum frame. The Galaxy S7 edge's omnidirectional curves contribute to a pleasing organic design that give the illusion of razor-slim bezels. It has an almost otherworldly quality when you pick it up for the first time in a way that the regular S7 somehow lacks.
The success of the original S6 edge reportedly took even Samsung by surprise, and as such it was the S7 edge that took center stage in this year's lineup. Ads promoted the "Galaxy S7 edge / S7," with the flat S7 consistently playing second fiddle to its larger sibling in the public eye.
So if "edge" is a big enough deal to make it into the Galaxy Note line — let's forget about 2014's ill-fated, one-sided Note Edge for a minute — then why not go all-edge next year? Even if Samsung keeps a smaller model around, it would surely make more sense to transition to an S8 and S8 Plus (the "edge" distinction no longer being needed) than to leave the smaller model without such an appealing selling point.
Some may bemoan the slipperiness of the S7 edge, the problems with accidental touches, but you can't argue with the success of edge. And that's why it could be here to stay.
The case against an edge-only Galaxy S8
Edge screens are popular and beautiful, but they're also expensive and difficult to make. Back in the days of the Note Edge, we're told, yields of the curved glass were extremely poor, which one source says is why that model only had one edge screen. Samsung has obviously gotten better at producing curved glass screens over the past couple of years, but it's still easier and more cost-effective to slap a traditional flat pane of Gorilla Glass on there and call it a day.
A smaller, cheaper, flatter GS8 lets Samsung position a more expensive GS8 edge as a 'premium' flagship.
This allows Samsung to sell the smaller of the two handsets at a lower price, keeping the "edge" model as the true flagship. Such a clear distinction in price would be difficult to maintain if both models used curved screens. (Unless Samsung simply jacked up the price of the larger model for the sake of it, of course.)
The company must also know that curved screens aren't universally adored. The curved Note 7 could well be a blip on Samsung's roadmap . (After all let's face it — Note devices don't sell in the same numbers as a Galaxy S.) For a series of devices aimed at the mainstream market, it makes sense to offer a conventional non-edge display that everyone can hold, without the color distortion and other compromises that often accompany a curved panel.
Ultimately, it's about choice. And as successful as edge models have been for Samsung, it might be foolish to go all-out with curved screens across its entire high-end lineup.
Do you think the Samsung Galaxy S8 will be edge-only? Share your thoughts down in the comments!