Good news if you’re one of the three people in the world who absolutely needs a curved smartphone
Smartphones are either fat, thin, huge or tiny. But what they all are is flat. Except for the LG G Flex. The latest top-tier device from LG has a six-inch screen and is curved from top to bottom, resembling a slightly-warped factory defect.
What purpose does this bend serve? LG itself has a few suggestions: to fit the shape of your face better, to enhance viewing videos and to reduce the distance between mouth and microphone and ear and speaker. The price for all of this elaborate tech is £575, making the Flex one of the most expensive phones on the market. So does a curvy new look work? Or is LG kidding itself with this new “innovation”?
Out of Shape?
LG has talked up the G Flex’s dent, but you might not notice it straight away. The bend is actually very slight and only really noticeable when looking at the phone from the side-on. Still, it does slide along the side of your face as promised, although this is hardly the ergonomic miracle that Mankind has been waiting for.
From a design viewpoint the curve isn’t groundbreaking. It feels like a gimmick. It has no purpose except to differentiate it from the herd. LG hasn’t sold us the idea that this shape offers any truly tangible benefits. The loudspeaker is very clear and the microphone projects your voice when on a call but not noticeably more than it would on a flat phone.
Another touted feature is the phone’s “self-healing” backing. LG claims that light scratches on the plastic coating used on the back will disappear in moments. This claim was tested with varying results. Lightly running a fingernail over the device will produce a faint line that will soon disappear. However, when we gently pressed house keys into the backing and rubbed it, the faint scratches remained.
It might be called G Flex, but don’t think it is bendy and foldable. It will stretch ever so slightly when you press its sides. But it also feels like it could break quite easily if you applied much more pressure.
Some of the features from the LG G2, are also included here. The power and volume buttons are on the back instead of the sides. On the G2 the buttons got in the way of your index finger. The same is true here and the repositioning from the sides to back is just a gimmick. The power button will also light up if you have any new messages.
The six-inch screen puts the G Flex in the phablet range. So it is ideal for watching videos but far too big to fit comfortably in a pocket. It weighs 177g, which sounds like a lot for the phone but actually feels very light given the size.
The G Flex ships with Android 4.2 JellyBean,the most common version of Google’s operating systems. It’s a shame that the latest OS, Android 4.4, isn’t already running on the device out of the box but we expect that LG will bring it to the G Flex sooner rather than later.
The Flex doesn’t stray too far from the standard Android interface. LG has fitted custom icons to most of its apps. Other than that, the menus look like the simple grid of apps and widgets that you’ll find on any Android or iOS device. There are a few intuitive additions. Double tap the screen when it is in sleep mode and it will wake up.
LG has loaded the phone with gesture control but it can be confusing to keep track of what movements perform which action. You can pick up your phone and end up on a completely different screen by the time you’re ready to use it.
A few stylish additions to software to complement the hardware: The lockscreen shows an animated ocean scene which looks super on the OLED display. The water ripples when touched. Move your phone up or down and the view will display the sky or submerge beneath the waves.
There are 55 pre-installed apps. Some are useful (eg dictionary and language translator). But we’d prefer the option to install them ourselves. So LG has taken 32GB of storage space. Our review sample only offered 24GB.
Flexing its muscles
The G Flex uses Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor. With this kind of power the phone runs just about every app you can throw at it. Games with console-like graphics such as Modern Combat 4 and Real Racing 3 will run with fast load times and no slowdown or crashes.
The impressive 620 x 1280 OLED screen makes the G Flex a great viewing platform. It isn’t full HD but still offers detailed images and rich colours. But we fail to see how the curve in the screen enhances the picture.
The G Flex heated up slightly after about 10 minutes of use at the top end. It won’t be noticeable where you hold it. Even then, it doesn’t get hot enough to overheat or cause you any discomfort.
The 13MP camera isn’t great for a phone of this calibre. It shoots clear, detailed images and is perfectly acceptable. But it doesn’t compare to even the cheaper competition. The Sony Xperia Z1 and Nokia Lumia 1020 cost less and feature better cameras. The camera software allows you to focus images by selecting focus points on the touchscreen. Video records 1080p footage at 60fps, which is as good as it gets for smartphone cameras.
LG has managed to fit a 3,500mAh battery inside the G Flex. This is a lot of battery power but the phone eats it. Charged overnight, the power reserve was 15 per cent by lunchtime the following day. When managed properly the battery can power the phone for just under a day, making overnight charging essential.
The LG G Flex is an impressive phone with a powerful spec sheet and excellent display. The curve adds very little. It feels more like a gimmick than a major breakthrough. We can’t blame LG for trying something different. But this isn’t an essential innovation. Add the hefty £570 price tag and we have a very hard time recommending over other super phones such as the Xperia Z1, Nokia Lumia 1020 or even LG’s own G2 and Nexus 5.