LG G Flex

By Seán O'Sullivan - May 11th, 2014


90% of the decisions that went into your phone’s design were likely pulled from the matrix of factors that the market responded favourably to. On-board cameras, downloadable apps, and headphone ports are standard, but once upon a time, they were bold experiments to test the market. Scroll wheels, dual screens, and 3D displays all failed to make traction, so they’ve been consigned to the scrap heap, with plenty of room for the next idea that doesn’t catch on.

When you pull out a device that prominently sports something that isn’t standard, prepare yourself for a lot of “why” questions. After two weeks of using the LG G Flex, I’ve found myself having to justify the merits of its eponymous curved screen to a multitude of interrogators. LG insists that it’s because it is a shape that better fits one’s arse pocket (it does), that the curved screen reduces glare (yep), and that it follows the curvature of your face to make it easier to hear the earpiece and be picked up by the mic (em, sure?) – though, to be frank, the answer that seems to end the conversations quickest is “because they can, and it’s cool.”

The curvature of the phone requires no real adjustment – it’s not so kinked as to warp the image, and the shape does make the phone easier to pick up, and fairly comfortable to hold. The back is treated in a plastic that’s a bit slimier than I’d like – LG insists that it’s a self-healing coating that will fill in superficial nicks and scratches, but mine picked up plenty of signs of wear after a few days of casual use. The phone does have a certain amount of flex to it – it can be pushed flush to a surface if weight is exerted on it, which can initially be disconcerting to feel it creak, but the build quality does inspire confidence.

I feel like playing Pong.

Inside, it’s basically running the same guts of the LG G2, which reviewed very favourably late last year – only now it’s powering a 6″ Plastic OLED running at 720 x 1280, resulting in a PPI of 244. This is much lower the G2, which boasts a whopping 423PPI, but the resolution is certainly not cause for concern. What did trouble me during my time with the phone was the amount of ghosting that took place – scrolling from one home-screen to the next would leave the ephemera of the previous screen’s apps visible for a second or so, and when watching videos with stark contrasts, I found it distracting. That said, one of the effects of this artefacting is that the screen takes on a grainy, papery quality when displaying text, which I found more comfortable to read on than the sharpness on my Nexus 5.

The ergonomics of this phone take some getting used to – I have larger than average mitts that find a 5″ screen perfectly comfortable, but the G Flex’s 6″ is difficult to manage one-handed. Because LG seems to have thought of everything, there’s a software hack that’s not bad: a one-handed mode that will scoot the phone’s navigation buttons to the left or right with a flick, and a dedicated keyboard that will anchor to the left or right with a tap of an on-screen button. The one-handed keyboard is cramped enough that it’s worth the long-press and a few taps it takes to swap back to full-size when both hands are at the ready; but it’s a godsend when you wish to peck out an email in the subway while simultaneously remaining upright. The position of the volume and power keys on the back take some retraining to get used to, and I found it awkward to find the appropriate button when trying to adjust volume in my (very full) pocket without taking the phone out – but there’s no denying that the placement makes a lot of sense when you’re on a call, given where one’s fingers generally go to support a phone to their head.

In general, this LG-skinned version of Android 4.2.2 ran very well. The only sluggishness that I felt was when waking up the screen, which LG has tried to mitigate by firing the notification LED when the tap-to-wake gesture is successful. The G Flex sports the full suite of custom apps that you would expect from LG, (my favourite being Quick Remote, which puts the IR blaster on the back of the phone to great use). The sheer amount of clutter on the notifications tray and in the settings do make me pine for stock Android, but it can be customized into sanity with a bit of effort. There’s limited support for multitasking, either by splitting the screen in half, or a window overlay, but none of it fit into my usage style.

The button layout takes some getting used to – but it’s not so bad.

With the LG G Flex running on Rogers LTE I was getting absurdly high speeds in downtown Toronto, peaking 70mbps down, and 22.5mbps up. At these speeds (and with the horsepower of the phone), webpages loaded snappily, videos were ready to go with little delay, and I was able to suck down Netflix videos to distract me away from the plodding streetcar journeys. Historically, I have been inclined to disable LTE radios to maintain battery life, but the G Flex lasts an astonishing amount of time, handily getting through a full day of excessive use, and lasting two days of casual use with the “battery saver” mode kicking in when the battery level is low. While on calls, the incoming and outgoing audio is crisp and clear, with effective noise cancellation in busy environments.

Don’t be concerned that the G Flex is a one-trick pony – the flexible curved screen is certainly the most obvious feature, but the folks at LG have yet again demonstrated their prowess at building incredible hardware. While the screen quality doesn’t impress the way its smaller siblings do, the G Flex can boast top-tier specs, quality hardware, and a reliable ease of use that few phones can offer, which should appeal to anyone regardless of whether they want to be able to say they owned a curved screen before everyone had one.

The LG G Flex is available now on Rogers, starting at $199.99.

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