There’s a good deal more to this intriguing 6 inch phablet than the curved screen, but let’s talk about that, first, because if you’re considering this phone it’s likely the top drawcard. The same OLED process which is also yielding curved TV sets in the marketplace allows for its construction, and much like its curved TV brethren, the bend offers no actual benefit. The screen is no more readable, less reflective or somehow more immersive, and, because the curve actually adds to its overall depth it’s no more comfortable in a jeans pocket. I also found that during calls the curve can make it a tad irritating because it means that the speaker end of the phone presses against your ear at a sharp enough angle to cause slight discomfort.
Expect to see many more devices with curved OLED screens, from wearable to other phones and more. The LG G Flex is a pioneer for a new form factor that has yet to find a legitimate use, and we look forward to seeing more innovation.
The screen, however, has much more going for it than its bend. Thanks again to OLED, it’s lusciously vivid and bright, with perfect contrast and no discernible colour bleed – so text and icons against a black background do look rather spectacular. It’s not quite perfect, though, as there’s clearly visible noise in areas where the colour gradient blends. It’s instantly noticeable with the wallpapers LG ships as default. Surprisingly, the large screen didn’t prove to be too much of a power draw, with the Flex’s extremely generous 3500mAh battery able to keep the phone going during average use for at least two days. Judicious use of the phone and dimming the brightness make this a handset that can go for long hauls between charges.
LG has taken a relatively restrained path with its implementation of Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean). There’s little in the way of bloatware to slow things down, though the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU running at 2.26GHz was plenty powerful enough to make all tasks snappy and lag-free. The 2GB of RAM is what we would expect of a premium phone, and that helps it achieve premium performance, but we would have liked to expand the 32GB of storage – especially considering how well suited this device is as a media player. Unfortunately there’s no SD expansion, which is debatably this handset’s biggest weakness. On the upside, 802.11ac wireless is supported.
The extra adornments LG has added to the UI are well considered. We particularly liked the screen on/off mechanism, which is activated by a simple double tap on the screen. Another new addition is being able to access a media control centre by swiping outwards in opposite directions with two fingers. Q Slide, which started appearing on premium LG handsets last year, allows sizeable and moveable windows for apps and widgets, which can actually be quite handy given the large screen size and feasibility of running, say, a browser alongside a notepad.
LG has engineered the G Flex with a few clever touches. The power button (which also serves multi-functions) is on the rear of the phone, centre and near the top. A long press activates the camera and it flashes when face down if you receive an email or message. Next to it is an IR blaster, should you decide to use the G Flex to control your compatible devices.
Interestingly, the entire rear panel is built with a material which LG claims is self-healing. When scratches appear the plastic ever so slowly sort of melts back in to fill the crack, as long as it’s not too deep. In the battle of features, where smartphone makers sometimes need to resort to gimmicks to stand out from the crowd, we’d rate this, and most other G Flex features, as actually quite useable and impressive.
A 13 megapixel camera is included. Panning and zooming is noticeably laggy, though a software patch may fix that. The actual business of shooting is quite good, with a very quick shutter response. There’s also the ability to take a still photo in the middle of recording a video. Technically it’s just saving a frame at the time the button is pressed, so will use whatever image quality settings you were using at the time for video, but it’s still a time-saving convenience we appreciated.
This is LG’s best smartphone to date, and is a serious contender among the top tier of the market. Street prices vary enormously, from around $600 to over $1000, and if you can pick one up at a decent price you aren’t likely to be disappointed with it.