Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday February 10, 2014.
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LG is out to break the mold when it comes to smartphones, and it has no choice in the matter. There's never been a mold quite like the LG G Flex to follow, so the large imprint and an unavoidable curve stand out from the norm. That's both the selling point of the device and potentially a weakness because it requires potential users to make adjustments to the way they think about and operate smartphones. So which is it: virtue or flaw? Let's find out.
Hardware and Design
The LG G Flex's marquee feature is it's large display with an unorthodox vertical curve. Before someone even gets a chance to take note of that strange composition, eyes are drawn to the sheer size of the device. The G Flex has staggering dimensions of 6.32 x 3.2 x 0.33 inches, so it is both tall and wide despite having reasonable slimness in terms of depth. The curve also helps the phone to feel slightly less gigantic, and I use the word slightly with triple underlines. The phone still feels very big, but it is manageable because there's a natural sweeping motion when moving with thumbs from bottom to top, and the light 6.24 ounce body makes it possible to adjust to the top of screen with less effort. I didn't find the shape to be awkward when putting it in my pocket because it curves to your backside. I typically keep devices in my left pocket and the only issue I ran into was the large size meant I couldn't also have my Constanza wallet in the same pocket.
The back of the G Flex takes cues from last year's G2, including its rear button setup. Though LG wisely makes the buttons a tad wider and taller, you might still face a troublesome dance that occurs when trying to hold the phone with one hand, grip the sides, and then reach up to access the buttons. Either master this dance or get in the habit of holding the phone at a higher point. As for the texture of the phone, it's once again plastic, though there's a new self-healing coating to fight scratches. The material feels better than the G2 and less cheap. As for the effectiveness of the coating, I did notice that the light scratches that occurred when I first got the phone disappeared a couple of days. LG admits that deeper intentional scratches won't be fixed by the coating, so don't abuse the phone in an attempt to show off or test durability.
Another change from the G2 to the G Flex is that the entire power button doubles as an indicator for notifications. I often choose to put the G Flex on its face, so having flash lights on both the front and back is a pleasant surprise. I was also pleased with the sound quality of the speaker that is on the lower back of the device. The sound was loud enough to be heard in my bedroom despite some noisy neighbors outside my window, and it didn't have an issue with harshness. There are better speakers out there, but the G Flex is more than acceptable.
Years of research led to curved OLED panels, and the G Flex is the first smartphone to take advantage of those efforts. A 6-inch curved OLED HD display with 720p resolution offers an odd experience. For the first few days that I used the G Flex, I loved the way that the curve diminished glare, and the comparatively low pixel density didn't bother me that much. I believe the G Flex would have been better with a 1080 display instead of the 245 pixels per inch available in its current form, but it's passable and not as big of an issue as it has been on other devices.
LG says the curve has a "cinematic" effect that I never seemed to pick up on when watching video and found a little jarring when using it for web browsing or reading. I was also a little concerned with the odd reaction my eyes had to the screen. For a few days, I saw a very noticeable blue hue only in the lower half of the screen, but I checked with colleagues who also had the G Flex and I was the only person who ever had a problem. The issue eventually went away, so I'm inclined to believe this was either an isolated incident or a temporary problem from bending the screen too much. More concerning was the strange effect of remnants of pixels remaining on-screen. For instance when watching a movie in Netflix, there was a ghost-like outline of where the playback controls and navigation buttons were layered on the screen for a solid 10 seconds. That didn't happen often, but it happened often enough for me to notice it and get annoyed. My final conclusion is that the G Flex screen is comfortable to touch yet has some shortcomings because of a lower resolution and ghost pixels.
Performance and Key Specs
LG stuck to the script of what works when it comes to internal specs. It once again relied on a 2.26 GHz quad-core processor (Snapdragon 800) and 2GB of RAM as its main lifelines. The performance was both fast and consistently smooth with the exception of the ghosting issue and the lock screen not loading its widgets instantly. Whether gaming, watching video, or transitioning between apps, the G Flex is as fast as any non-Nexus Android phone on the market.
- 2.26 GHz quad-core processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800)
- 2GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage (24.12 GB accessible)
- 6-inch OLED 720p display (1280x720, 244.7ppi)
- HPSPA+ and 4G LTE (Band 1,2,3,4,5,7,17)
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
- 13-megapixel rear camera, 2.1-megapixel front camera
- 3,500 mAh battery (non-removable)
- 6.32 x 3.21 x 0.33in (160.53 x 81.53 x 8.38)
- 6.24oz (176.9g)
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.