Is Samsung throwing Apple a curve?

Samsung may be looking to make a bold design statement as Apple closes in on the South Korean electronics giant for global smartphone leadership.

This week Samsung has been teasing an image that may (or may not be) a phone with a curved display.  The shadowy image was released as part of an invitation for a March 1 “Samsung Galaxy Unpacked” event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The most prominent feature in the “what’s next” image is a bump that appears to show the silhouette of a curved display on an upcoming Galaxy device.

If that’s what Samsung has planned, it’s expected that the design (which may be a variant of a new flat-screen model) would go beyond products the company currently has on the market. Samsung already offers a Galaxy Note Edge with a display that “waterfalls” to form the right spine of the device. The spine’s wrap-around display extends the screen’s real estate for notifications and novelties — like a ruler — among other options.

And the company also released the Galaxy Round in South Korea back in October 2013. That has a fully curved concave display. The device, however, never made it to the U.S. – at least not through the typical sales channels. 

But neither the Round nor the Note Edge is a flagship phone like the Galaxy S5, which has a conventional flat display. So, it begs the question: Will Samsung put new curves on a new flagship phone?

Whatever happens, the product needs to wow customers to stem the exodus to Apple. The latest market data shows that Samsung is under assault from Apple for leadership of the worldwide smartphone market.

Last week, market researcher the International Data Corporation said in a statement that Samsung and Apple are now “in a near tie,” as Apple worldwide market share surges.

 “Apple reached a new quarterly shipment record in [the fourth quarter of 2014] and fell just short of surpassing Samsung for overall leadership in the smartphone market,” the IDC said.

Samsung profits are suffering, too. The company recently reported the first quarterly decline in profit in two years due in part to slowing smartphone sales.

Apple’s phone sales, meanwhile — led by the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — are swelling. The company topped analyst estimates, selling a whopping 74 million iPhones in the quarter that ended in December.

"An elevated consumer appetite for big-screen devices, as well as Apple's push into China and other countries, saw iPhone sales up 44 percent in the U.S. and up 97 percent in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Sales doubled year-over-year in China, Brazil, and Singapore," IDC said in the statement. 

"What remains to be seen is how long Apple can sustain this runaway growth," the researcher added.