Last week, we brought you a review of the Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung's new Galaxy Note derivative with a curved edge display along one side. Reviews on the device have been generally strong (we're fond of it, if the form factor and capabilities meet your liking), but one common complaint about the Note Edge is that the titular curved edge is only on one side of the phone. If you hold your phone in your right hand, the edge works well. If you hold it in your left, it actually degrades the experience of using the device.
Now, Xiaomi is apparently planning to offer a dual-edged phone -- neatly knocking that problem out for potential converts and putting pressure on Samsung's flagship devices.
The move underscores the problems Samsung has faced throughout 2014. After tearing through the smartphone market and swallowing most of its growth from 2010-2013, Samsung hit major snags this year. Sales of the Galaxy S5 were as much as 40% off projections. Samsung had increased production of S5's to 20% more than S4, only to be slammed by the sales drop-off.
The Xiaomi Arch is supposedly a concept product for now, which means we may see it on display at CES this year, but the company is touting the edges as places to display notifications, streaming data, and live updates. We suspect that how much this works or doesn't work will depend on the quality of that software support and the underlying ergonomics of the device itself.
How much of a threat this is to Samsung will depend on exactly how conceptual this "conceptual" device is. If Xiaomi is just flexing its marketing muscle, the impact on Samsung will be minimal. If, on the other hand, Xiaomi has a device that it's preparing to field that can credibly challenge Samsung, it will mean that the company's flagship product that it might have depended on to gain it a long-term technical advantage over the competition (and has likely invested in to do just that) will be surpassed in a matter of months.
That's not abnormal in the cutthroat world of mobile computing, where the entire industry expects 12-month upgrade cycles, but Samsung's investors have become used to a market in which the company owns the entire Android stack. Now that it's facing strong competition in multiple markets, Samsung is fighting to keep its high-end market by shuffling executives and launching fewer, more-focused products. We'll see if it works.