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?
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?