360 re­view: LG G Flex

the bendy revo­lu­tion is upon is, but Can LG turn a cor­ner with its banana kick of a phone, the G Flex?

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

It’s big, it’s curved, it’s quad­core but is the G Flex too lit­tle, too un­du­late?

Leading the new and rather novel curved-screen smart­phone in­sur­gency, LG’s G Flex could be a har­bin­ger of a new gen­er­a­tion of flex­i­ble phones and por­ta­ble de­vices in all man­ner of ex­cit­ing shapes and sizes…

Al­ter­na­tively, it could be a gen­tly kinked mo­bile that fits to your face slightly bet­ter when mak­ing calls and gives some ar­guable ben­e­fits when watch­ing video, but is other­wise in­dis­tin­guish­able from any other rea­son­ably high-end smart­phone. But which will it be?

Ac­tu­ally, it’s not like the G Flex is even the first bowed phone. Sam­sung’s Galaxy Nexus hit in 2011 and had a dis­tinctly non-flat screen. Since then, the same firm has re­leased the Galaxy Round, which arcs hor­i­zon­tally like a toi­let roll that’s been cut in half. The LG’s bend is more no­tice­able than the for­mer and more sub­tle than the lat­ter, with the huge, six-inch dis­play tak­ing a cres­cent moon-like ap­pear­ance.

So, yeah, it’s a bit bent. At 177g it feels sur­pris­ingly light but nei­ther cur­va­ceous­ness nor clever use of ma­te­ri­als can dis­guise the fact that this is a big phone. It’s the ele­phant in the room, al­most lit­er­ally, and that size af­fects most key as­pects of us­ing it, from typ­ing to tak­ing pic­tures to watch­ing video. Some­times it’s a bless­ing, some­times some­thing of a curse.

Build qual­ity is not bad, al­though plas­tic has per­haps been em­ployed a bit ov­er­en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. Around the back there’s LG’s much trum­peted “self-heal­ing” ma­te­rial, which wards off the at­ten­tions of keys and coins. But while scratches dis­ap­pear af­ter a few hours, any­thing more sig­nif­i­cant is there to stay. The look is sim­i­lar to LG’s last hand­set, the G2: nei­ther unattrac­tive nor par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing.

There are plenty of pos­i­tives, though, es­pe­cially if you favour the ph­ablet­tier end of the phone-to-tablet size spec­trum. The six-inch POLED (Plas­tic or­ganic LED, obvs) curled dis­play may be 720p res­o­lu­tion rather than 1080p, but while you may no­tice some pix­e­la­tion and fonts can seem a lit­tle less crisp than on full-HD phones, colours look fan­tas­ti­cally rich and

con­trast lev­els are great. The plas­tic screen should be far less prone to cracking, too, and it’s an­other fac­tor that keeps the weight down.

LG has tried to com­pen­sate for the G Flex’s con­sid­er­able size by pro­vid­ing a bevy of fea­tures that al­low one-handed us­age, like plant­ing a smaller key­board to one side of the screen. How­ever, it’s still hard to use with­out em­ploy­ing both hands; send a long text and your wrists tire by the end, as the Flex threat­ens to forcibly re­move it­self from your sin­gle mitt. The kinky screen is sup­posed to make the phone eas­ier to hold, but we beg to dif­fer. On a smaller de­vice this could be cor­rect, but at this size it be­comes moot.

So what is the curve ac­tu­ally good for, then? Me­dia view­ing an­gles, for one, hence the TV in­dus­try’s grow­ing in­ter­est. But while watch­ing video is un­doubt­edly a great ex­pe­ri­ence on the Flex, is that be­cause the screen is six inches across and as vi­brant as OLED screens al­ways are, or be­cause it has a slight wob­ble to it? The jury’s out.

Away from the head­line fea­tures, LG’s skinned ver­sion of An­droid 4.2.2 is iden­ti­cal to that used on the G2.Among the range of ex­tra fea­tures are the abil­ity to split apps across the screen and Slide Aside, which lets you eas­ily swap be­tween open apps. Some ad­di­tions, no­tably Quick Re­mote and KnockON, are gen­uinely use­ful (see over the page for more fea­tures). Many feel like un­nec­es­sary clut­ter, though, and with no mi­croSD slot, the fact they’re tak­ing up space in the stor­age is irk­some.

Else­where, specs are again sim­i­lar to the G2. There’s a healthy 2GB dol­lop o’ RAM, a blis­ter­ing 2.26GHz quad­core pro­ces­sor and 32GB stor­age, which is good de­spite be­ing non­ex­pand­able. It’s speedy and smooth to use, a sit­u­a­tion that’s prob­a­bly helped by the lack of a full-HD dis­play and its pro­cess­ing de­mands. That lack of pix­els also as­sists bat­tery life, which al­ready has a head start over the G2 thanks to the em­ploy­ment of a cus­tom-built, curved 3,500mAh unit. As a re­sult, you’re look­ing at some se­ri­ously im­pres­sive run time.

On the back you’ll find what seems to be the same cam­era as on the G2. It’s a mid­dling 13-megapixel ef­fort with slow and lag-prone soft­ware that could use an up­grade, and a ten­dency to strug­gle in low light. Yet it does have some neat soft­ware fea­tures in tow. It shoots 4K footage, for one, though you best play it back on your TV, as the Flex’s non full-HD screen won’t do it jus­tice.

There’s also the abil­ity to zoom in and track a spe­cific ob­ject when shoot­ing video, and you can also use an “au­dio zoom” to boost the vol­ume of spe­cific shoot­ing sub­jects. Both these fea­tures re­quire ex­tremely steady hands and very slow move­ment, so if you’re hop­ing to track the singer at a gig, best think again.

The G Flex is a solid phone, if a tad too big for us – al­though we’re aware there’s a swing to­wards pav­ing slab-sized hand­sets. That said, we’d put this be­low the Sony Xpe­ria Z Ul­tra and Galaxy Note 3 in the ph­ablet peck­ing or­der. The one thing that might sway you is the non-flat­ness of the screen, but as USPs go,

the g flex’s curve is dif­fer­ent but won’t change your life as much as the size will

slight dis­play cur­va­ture is up there with hav­ing the lock but­ton on the back, which this also does. It’s cool and dif­fer­ent but it’s not go­ing to change your life rad­i­cally. The size, lack of full-HD and aver­age cam­era per­for­mance are likely to be more im­por­tant to most users.

The G Flex feels like LG is putting its fin­ger up to the wind. With its “self-heal­ing” back and curved dis­play, it hints sug­ges­tively at a fu­tur­is­tic de­vice that rolls up when you don’t need it and is im­per­vi­ous to harm. We’d pay big for that phone, but un­for­tu­nately this isn’t it. If, how­ever, you’re a curve-lov­ing early adopter with their heart set on a more ex­pen­sive but un­du­lat­ing G2, dive right in. $999, lg.com/au

The G Flex. An only child,

wait­ing by the park?

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