The gadget world moves fast, and tech innovations almost never keep pace with the wild ideas designers and engineers dream up.
Some companies like Apple like to wait until technologies are mature before integrating them into products. Others like Samsung take a different approach and throw many things at the wall in hopes a few will stick. Neither approach is wrong.
With the launch of Samsung Galaxy Note7, the best smartphone you can buy in my opinion, it's worth taking a look back at how Samsung turned its "gimmicky" and "niche" curved-screen edges into a signature design element on its flagship phones.
To understand the Note7 design, we need to take a trip down memory lane back to 2014. Instead of a just a single Galaxy Note 4, Samsung also released the Galaxy Note Edge. The Note Edge was the first Samsung smartphone with a curved edge.
Technically speaking, the Note Edge had two separate displays: the main flat portion of the screen and the curved edge panel that ran along its right side.
Samsung touted the Note Edge as the ultimate productivity phablet combining the Note 4's S Pen stylus and dual-app multitasking features in Android with a bent display that could provide quick access to app shortcuts and notifications.
Samsung changed the conversation from being "Why own a big phone?" to "Why own a phone that looks like every other phone?"
Though Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal really liked it, the phone's extra $100 premium over the regular Note 4, asymmetrical design and wider width — not to mention the panel's limited third-party support — ultimately doomed it.
The Note Edge was written off as a gimmick by many. iPhone fanatics, who were just starting to get behind the idea of a phablet with the the iPhone 6 Plus, laughed at it.
Samsung may have failed with the Note Edge in terms of selling it in large volumes, but it succeeded by implanting its futuristic design into the public consciousness.
By launching the Edge Note, however proof-of-concept it was, Samsung changed the conversation from being "Why own a big phone?" to "Why own a phone that looks like every other phone?"
One foot in and one foot out
In early 2015, Samsung aggressively moved to turn the Note Edge's single-curved edge panel into a real differentiator between it and other phones.
But as usual, Samsung had one foot in and one foot out. It couldn't commit to such a radical change.
And so we got the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge at the same time. The two phones were identical save for the dual curved edges on the S6 Edge. And again, the S6 Edge commanded a $100 premium over the flatscreen model.
Mashable ended up concluding the regular S6 was a better phone than the S6 Edge on account the extra hundred wasn't worth it just for the curved-glass aesthetic. And not just that — the S6 Edge's "Edge" features were also less useful than the vision the Note Edge laid out since it didn't even have shortcuts to apps, only shortcuts to five of your contacts.
Months after the S6 Edge's release, Samsung still wasn't sure what to make of it. There were reports the regular Galaxy S6 didn't move the needle and Samsung underestimated the demand for the curved model. And by the time Samsung got the mix right, consumers had moved on to either an iPhone or one of the many cheaper midrange phones that started to offer premium design and features for a lot less.
Maybe it was the extra premium or maybe the Edge features were too gimmicky. Whatever the reason was, there was one thing consumers couldn't ignore about the S6 Edge: It looked hot as hell — like a device from the future. Samsung just needed a better reason to hook people in on the curved glass beyond mere looks.
One thing consumers couldn't ignore: The curved edges on the Edge phones looked hot as hell.
In the second half of 2015, the company release the Note 5 and S6 Edge+. Once again, the two phones were virtually identical internally.
But Samsung sent a mixed message to consumers again. While the Note 5 was marketed as a phablet for power users (it's got the S Pen, after all), the S6 Edge+ was marketed as more of a phone for consuming entertainment.
The distinction would have worked if not for the fact the S6 Edge+ had additional Edge panels like the app shortcuts that were missing on the S6 Edge. With the extra features, the S6 Edge+ was arguably well-suited for productivity, too... minus the S Pen, of course.
A firmer stance on the Edge
The benefits of the Edge's curved screens were better marketed this year in the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
As before, Samsung kept the specs the same on both phones. But this time, there were good reasons to buy the Edge model over the regular one: a larger screen, useful Edge features and a larger battery. Samsung finally justified the $100 premium.
Anecdotally, I've seen more S7 Edge's in the wild than I've seen the smaller S7, which isn't a surprise.
The appeal of the S7 Edge goes beyond its curved-glass features. Like its Edge predecessors, it's more fashionable than flatscreen phones, which all look very similar at this point. The Edge's curved glass sides literally give it an aesthetic edge over the iPhone.
The curved screen edges are no longer an experiment, a gimmick, a nasty bend that catches unwanted reflections for the sake of design.
As I wrote in my Note7 review, Samsung's curved glass has evolved quite a bit over the past couple of years and it's finally culminated into the phone's gorgeous design.
For two years, Samsung wasn't sure if the Edge's curved screen would stick. With most critics giving the Note7 rave reviews, it's pretty obvious now that merging the Note7 with the Edge was the best decision Samsung's made in years.
The Note7 gives you all the productivity features of the S Pen and Note series and all the power-user features from the S7 Edge.
Samsung's Edge is now the thing that makes a Samsung phone a Samsung phone and everyone knows it.