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Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+: Do we really need a bigger curved-screen phone?

It's still just a rumor for now, but if this one pans out, the world could soon see a larger version of Samsung's exquisitely-curved S6 Edge. The question is: isn't one enough?

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge could get a larger sibling soon. Josh Miller/CNET

The big, curvy rumor that Samsung will release a larger version of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is gathering some cred. According to The Android Authority, a handset widely purported to be the Galaxy S6 Edge+ has now cleared the FCC, the first action that must be passed before any electronic device can be sold in the US. (That doesn't mean that the S6 Edge+ would only line US shelves, of course. This is assumed to be a global device.)

So far, the whispers and leaks point to a handset with a 5.7-inch screen that curves over on both sides, an Exynos 7420 processor and 3GB of RAM.

While this alleged S6 Edge+ measures up to the same size we expect for the Galaxy Note 5 -- the other big-screen phone we've heard will be announced and released in the exact same time frame -- it's said to lack one major feature of its sibling: the Note 5's signature stylus.

That means we could essentially be looking at a device that's just about the same thing as the existing 5.1-inch Galaxy S6 Edge -- down to the processor and RAM -- but with a bigger body and screen. Without the added feature of a stylus to differentiate the two devices, that raises the question: why even make an Edge+?

Samsung hasn't announced anything official yet, so in truth we don't know what the Edge+ will or won't have, if that's what it will be called -- or if even such a device exists. But if the rumors are true, it makes me think like this...

More popular than expected

Normally, blockbuster phones are the ones that inspire iterations after the original. Is the S6 Edge, which Samsung announced in March, really popular enough to warrant a variation so soon?

Samsung wouldn't comment on the Galaxy S6 Edge+, or on sales numbers for 2014's single-curve Galaxy Note Edge and the Galaxy S6 Edge. (A Samsung representative responded: "We don't have any numbers at this point [that] we have shared publicly.")

But we do know that the S6 Edge has proven harder to get one's hands on. Production delays didn't help carriers stock their shelves to sate buyers' demands. It's possible that the S6 Edge+ coming out now is a concession to buyers who hunger for a round-edged statement phone.

Samsung's profit strategy: The Apple effect

One take is that Samsung is using the S6 Edge+ to get back on track with profits. It may seem counterintuitive to release four major phones on the market (the S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Note 5), but Wayne Lam, an analyst at IHS Technology, says Samsung is laying the groundwork to stymie its seven-quarter profit loss and compete more effectively with Apple.

"This is very much a backup strategy for Samsung after their miscalculations on the Galaxy S6 Edge go-to-market strategy." Wayne Lam, pointing out that Apple's sale of the iPhone 6 and larger iPhone 6 Plus helped justify the higher price (and therefore greater profit).

Apple's strategy of selling two iPhone sizes at the same time may have helped boost profit. CNET

Instead, the S6 Edge's more expensive manufacturing process cut out of its profit on the phone, despite the S6 Edge's greater cost.

"With a physically larger S6 Edge Plus," Lam said, "Samsung is better positioned to sell a new smartphone design at the "right" price so that they can get back on the path to a profit growth."

Not everyone quite agrees.

Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester, says Samsung indeed needs to keep offering new and different phones to differentiate itself from rivals like Apple. "One way to do that is more frequent hardware updates," Gillett said, "But that will drive up costs because it will make production runs smaller, and increase the number of models. It's not an auspicious move."

Note Edge proved a point. Who's this Edge+ for?

Even if the strategy makes sense, people will still have to want to buy the phone, and the costlier curves are more cosmetic than functional. They're emblematic of Samsung's display innovation. (LG plays in this area too, with two G Flex phones and a dual-curve prototype.)

A little background. The S6 Edge, which has two rounded sides and debuted in March 2015, followed and refined the Galaxy Note Edge , the November 2014 smartphone that was the company's first commercial experiment outside of Korea for a curved-screen design. (The earlier Samsung Galaxy Round sported a concave screen.)

Samsung's Galaxy Note Edge is a phablet with a twist. Sarah Tew/CNET

I came out in favor of the S6 Edge's elegant lines. To me, this is a bold design that actually works . In general, response from other reviewers was similarly positive. The general consensus was that the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge offered a winning mix of specs and swanky metal-and-glass materials that far surpass the cheap plastic feel of generations of Galaxy phones before.

After the Note Edge, Samsung really pulled back on the sorts of things you can do on the Edge Screen. It's pretty clear to me that Samsung proudly built the arresting designs first and developed what to do with them after.

How the Galaxy Note Edge got its edge: Samsung designers tell all

In the S6 Edge, you can use only one rounded screen at a time, for a sort of glorified speed dial. As much as I enjoy the S6 Edge, I'm not yet sold on the concept of this large, curve-screen "phablet."

On the other hand, the S6 Edge is one of the only mainstream phones that actually looks and feels different than the vast sea of iPhone clones. And Samsung, no doubt, is hoping that may be enough.

Article updated July 17 at 9:20 a.m. PT to includeanalystForrester's comment.