Smartphone designs have come a long way. Just a decade ago, it was amusing to see a phone with a touchscreen. Today, we have phones in all shapes and forms. Oppo has just showcased a prototype with ‘waterfall screen’ design. And I think it’s a design that will never make it into the mainstream. Here’s why. There are two parts to a phone design: Aesthetics and Function. The waterfall screen design that Oppo showcased on its prototype achieves the aesthetics part exceptionally well but the functional part-not so much.
A History Lesson: Samsung’s Curved Phones
If there’s one company that knows about curves on a phone screen, it has to be Samsung. They have been playing with the curve screen design starting in 2014 with the Galaxy Note Edge.
All of the company’s flagship phones since Galaxy S6 up to the most recent flagship- Galaxy S10 have curves on both sides of the display. Here’s an interesting thing that you may not have noticed; Samsung has been reducing the curvature of the curves of the screens each year. The Galaxy S10 has significantly fewer curves on the sides of the display when compared to the curve on the Galaxy S6 display.
While aesthetics are important, function is more important. When people started complaining about the drawbacks of the curves on the side of the phones, Samsung realized that they had to choose function over form.
What’s Wrong With Curved Screens On A Phone?
The curves on the sides not only make holding a phone difficult but also registers accidental touches. In addition to that, the text/video on the edge of the display is difficult to read and the viewing angle leaves more to be desired on the sides.
Let’s also not forget that your curved phone screen is more prone to damage in case of a drop. Since the glass screen is stretched to the edge, when a phone is dropped, the screen will more than likely hit the concrete instead of the side rails.
To make matters worse, replacing a phone with a curved screen costs a lot more than it would cost to replace a flat-screen phone.
Reasons Why The Oppo Waterfall Design Will Fail
There’s no volume rocker or power button on the sides
The prototype Oppo phone with the waterfall design had its power button on the top which really isn’t an issue. But there was no sight of the volume buttons on the phone. And it is really worrisome.
Having tested a couple of modern cars with the volume button as a part of a touch screen, I can say that it isn’t a very solid idea. There’s no tactile feedback and you can’t reach the button by feel alone. If Oppo is planning to take this route, get ready to be disappointed.
Say bye to phone cases
With the waterfall screen design phone, don’t expect to see a lot of phone case options. Since the screen will be extended all the way to the side, there will be no usable space for the phone case to hold on to. It clearly can’t cover the sides of the phone as the curve area will be blocked. One thing’s for sure; phone case manufacturers will have a nightmare developing a proper case for such a phone.
Holding a phone with no proper rails on the sides is uncomfortable. Having used the Galaxy Note 9 as my daily driver for almost a year, I have felt that it’s not as comfortable to hold as the iPhone X. And a lot of it has to do with the curved screen.
With the Oppo Waterfall Design phone, things will be worse. The all-glass design may sound great on paper but it really isn’t going to be very functional.