Samsung’s unusual Galaxy Note Edge may not be widely available

Samsung debuted its wild and curved Galaxy Note Edge at the same time as the more predictable Galaxy Note 4, but it appears that one is a real product and the other is a limited-edition experiment. According to comments made by Samsung Electronics president DJ Lee (translated from Korean) the Galaxy Note Edge is “technology-intensive” to mass produce, and it is seen at Samsung as a limited edition device. It will be released in limited quantities in Korea first, and its reception there will determine when other countries receive the device.

Photo by Kif Leswing/Gigaom

Photo by Kif Leswing, Gigaom

The Galaxy Note Edge is defined by a curve on its right hand side that turns into a second screen for shortcuts and notifications. This type of display is new and probably isn’t easy to manufacture, even for a displays giant like [company]Samsung[/company]. Problems with production are one thing, but based on Lee’s comments, this may never be a truly mainstream product. For one thing, there may not be that many people hankering for a curved phone screen. Samsung has announced crazy devices in the past only to sweep them under the rug with a limited release in Korea, where the company remains wildly popular.

The limited quantities are a problem, because the jury is still out on whether the unique touchscreen is useful or desirable. One thing that could really help it is software designed specifically for the second screen, and Samsung has even promised an API for developing Edge-specific apps. But if nobody has the phone, nobody will want to develop for it.

The Galaxy Note 4 will go on sale in the United States in October (and even earlier in Samsung’s home country) but the Galaxy Note Edge still doesn’t have a U.S. release date, even though T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T have said they will sell the device. But I wouldn’t hold out for that — it sounds as if Samsung never intended to mass-produce it.