Curves Are “In” with TV Makers: First Impressions from CES 2014

New devices often strive for slim and sleek looks. This year, some tech giants are flaunting curves.

The exhibits opened today for this year’s International CES in Las Vegas but, as usual, journalists got an early look Monday at a few of the gadgets that will be on display. The weeklong event is a frenzy of technology promotions, which so far has included a botched appearance at the Samsung presser by movie director Michael Bay. Gaffs aside, the show really is about the devices anyway.

Curved televisions (and even a curved smartphone), seem to be the next “thing” from the likes of LG Electronics and Samsung. Early versions of curved TVs started to pop up last year and now manufacturers plan to ship more models for retail in 2014. But are curved screens just another gimmick to push these already expensive products?

New features always hike up prices; there is also a subtle bit of evolution at play. Organic LEDs, or OLEDs, have increasingly been used to make television screens thinner and more energy efficient. The technology works without backlighting and can be made into flexible displays. Now some TV makers think consumers will flock to OLED screens formed into concave shapes.

The theory is that a curve will give TV watchers a more panoramic view, but that may also depend on the size of the screen. Some models of curved TVs are also promised to display 3-D content without the need to wear special glasses. (Go back a few years and 3-D technology was hyped loudly for televisions—then quietly slipped into the background.)

The folks at Samsung, whose domestic headquarters is in Ridgefield Park, NJ, threw some extra garnish on one of its new toys. On Monday the company debuted an 85-inch TV that can bend from flat to curved at the touch of a button. Yup, a bendable television.

The curved trend is coming to other gadgets as well. LG Electronics built its G Flex smartphone, unveiled Monday, with a notable arc to its form factor. The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, said the new phone would fit more naturally to people’s faces when they make calls. LG also claimed the G Flex will offer video viewing experiences similar to its curved TVs—just on a much, much, much smaller screen.

This is just a smattering of what is in store at CES; wearable gadgets, connected devices, and tons of other technology from startups and behemoths await.

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