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LG G Flex Review: should people care about curved phones?

I got to spend some time with the LG G Flex, and I came away with more questions than answers. The first things that crossed my mind was its ridiculously big 6-inch display and its awkwardly placed buttons on the back of the phone. However, beyond that, lies respectable features worth highlighting.

Basics

Pros 
  • Huge 6-inch OLED HD display
  • Excellent battery life (3,500 mAh)
  • IR Blaster
  • Dual Window
  • KnockOn
Cons
  • Bad user interface
  • Screen too big to handle with one hand
  • Too many pre-loaded apps (“bloatware”)

Design

Anyone with two working pair of eyes can see that the LG G Flex is a unique looking smartphone as it dawns a titanium silver color. With the G Flex, LG attempted to make the first curved phone that follows the contour of a person’s face, offering folks a more “reassuring grip” and fit while talking on the phone. However the supposed benefit of having a curved device went unnoticed to me, as it felt like any other handset while holding it to my ear — nothing special, or life changing here. Now one thing LG decided to do really a few months back (pre-G Flex), was remove the hardware buttons from the side of its devices to the back. So now the volume rocker and power button live right beneath the rear-facing camera. This move is a much different approach from every other manufacturer. The front-facing camera isn’t placed directly on top of the display in the center, instead it sits in the left corner. It has zero physical buttons on the front of the screen.¬†Overall, the LG G Flex isn’t an ugly phone, it’s a huge phone! Whether you like that or not is your preference.

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Features

One thing that LG shares with its country rival Samsung is they both load their devices with a trove of features, many in which are unnecessary. In LG’s case, it tends to mimic Samsung too much with an assortment of bells and whistles. There’s so many apps that aren’t needed, including Life Square, Quick Translator, and the long list of T-Mobile bloatware applications. Can you disable them? Sure. But it doesn’t excuse it being there in the first place. When it comes to gestures, LG kind of toned it back. They didn’t drown me with crazy features like Samsung with its Galaxy S family, instead what LG added was simple but helpful gesture-based features like KnockOn. Double tap the center of the screen and the phone will wake from sleep — no need to press the power button. Of course, having an IR Blaster to control your DVR or TV from the G Flex is a novel feature to have. Moreover the Pause Video feature where you simply flip the phone over to stop video playback is pretty good too. Another feature I found to be good was Dual Window, which allows you to use two apps at the same time in a split screen. Again, this is something you can see on Samsung’s Galaxy Note but with a stylus.

Performance

Any phone that carries such a massive battery in it has to have some high level performance to it. The G Flex comes with a huge 3,500 mAh cell inside that gives the handset lots of juice to last throughout an entire, and frankly, into the next day. With a battery like this you can do crazy intensive things all day like browsing and gameplay without worry. The particular LG G Flex I used was under T-Mobile, so I got to test out their network’s LTE and I walked away pretty impressed, albeit, I live in a metro area where coverage is more reliable than rural areas. I didn’t conduct any speed test but trust when I say that the data speeds were blazing fast. As for the way the phone performs when it comes to power, it’s also impressive. I’m not going to bore you death breaking down what kind of processor is in the phone, but what I will say is the G Flex can handle a big load when necessary. I didn’t notice any lag when transferring in and out of apps, and when I played graphic intensive games like Angry Birds Go!, and it still performed smoothly. If I were giving a score for each section, the performance of the LG G Flex would score the highest.

Verdict

The LG G Flex should get credit for one thing: being different. The phone’s curved body is a complete non-factor and gimmicks like the “self-healing back cover” doesn’t shake up the mobile world for me. However, what LG did deliver is another solid-looking phone with the G Flex on the design level. I’d say for a year plus that LG has really brought it with its hardware design, which is probably the reason Google continues to have the company make its Nexus smartphones. LG still has a lot of catching up to do with being the defacto manufacturer of Android; a title Samsung has enjoyed for a few years now. Sammy is reported to having 80 percent of the Android market when it comes to handsets sold — that number is insane. That being said, the question I asked in the headline remains. Should people care about curved phones? At this moment, I’d have to say no. The curved body was supposed to make this device more flexible but only slightly achieved that goal. Honestly we’ve seen this curved phone / display concept before in the past, with Samsung trying it out with the Nexus S a few years back. The reality is, the wet-dream of being able to bend a phone 180-degrees without snapping it is still far-far away. The LG G Flex is a solid phone and is worth recommending if someone is in the market for a unique looking device with a huge screen and battery life. To the stock Android purist out there, I’d say if you want this phone and hate LG’s skinned user interface, just root the damn thing and throw Cyanogen Mod on it. Boom! you’re good.