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printed September 22, 2014
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Review: LG G Flex

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Jan 30, 2014, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The LG G Flex is a curiosity with its curved design. This phablet-sized Android smartphone offers plenty to like, but it manages to fall flat in a few areas. Phone Scoop looks at both the AT&T and Sprint models in this full report.

Is It Your Type

The LG G Flex, one of the first curved and flexible smartphones, is a big, bold statement. The device strays from traditional design with its unique shape and features. If you're the sort who likes to take risks, the G Flex may be for you. Here's why.

Body

I had strong reservations about the G Flex's curved design heading into this review. I was worried the shape would come across as a gimmick, and the size would make it unwieldy. After using the device for a while, I've come to the realization that some of my fears were unfounded. Instead, I've discovered entirely new reasons to question LG's thinking.

The G Flex is a very big phone. It's larger than Samsung's Note 3, but a hair smaller than the HTC One max. The size puts it in the phablet category and necessitates two-handed use. It's all but impossible to use with a single hand. As far as looks go, the G Flex isn't bad. From certain angles, it is hard to tell the device is curved at all. The front face is clean and free of clutter-y buttons. The curved sides have a two-toned look thanks to differing shades of gray. The back is a wasteland of glossy, fingerprint-collecting plastic. Despite the curve, the G Flex looks rather plain.

The device has a curved shape that LG claims helps fit the human body better than a flat phone does. Does that claim really hold up? Yes and no. When used as a phone, there's no question that the microphone is a bit closer to your mouth. I'd put the distance at about an inch closer when compared to a similarly-sized phablet. Does this lead to improved call performance? Not as far as I could tell. The G Flex feels awkward to press up against your cheek thanks to its size. The Flex is very wide, which makes it hard to grip tightly. It's also fairly thick, or at least thicker than competing devices. The curve does not make it any easier to hold or fit in your hand better - any such claim is a load of bunk.

 

Body

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

I was worried that putting the G Flex in my pocket would be uncomfortable. As long as the screen is facing your leg, the G Flex is surprisingly pleasant to stuff into your pocket. I mean, it's still a huge phone, but the curve does help a little bit. (It is worth point out that I'm 6'1" and 200 pounds. People who are smaller than me may find the phone isn't as comfortable in their pockets.) The same goes for stuffing it in your back pocket (as long as the screen is facing your rear-end). Despite the flexibility of the G Flex, I wouldn't recommend sitting with it in your back pocket. The curve definitely does not help when the device is placed on a flat surface, like a table or desk. The G Flex wobbles when you trace your finger up and down the screen, which can make it harder to type messages or browse through apps.

The curved shape may help out here and there, but the G Flex's enormous dimensions really negate any benefit.

The 6-inch display consumes most of the G Flex's front surface. There's a slit in the glass above the screen for the earpiece speaker, and LG's logo is emblazoned below the screen. The edge where the screen and sides meet is raised in a sharp lip. I found the edge uncomfortable when holding the phone and, as far as I can tell, there's no reason for it to be there. There are no buttons, physical or capacitive. Instead, the G Flex uses on-screen buttons that come and go as needed.

Like the LG G2, there are no buttons along the outer edges of the G Flex. Instead, the screen lock button and volume buttons are placed on the back of the phone. As when I reviewed the G2, I couldn't get used to the G Flex's button placement in the short term, though over the course of several weeks or months I assume it would eventually feel natural. The buttons are located directly beneath the camera module, closer to the top of the G Flex's chassis. This means if you're gripping the phone closer to the bottom, you have to reposition your hand to reach the buttons. I found this annoying. The trio of buttons includes the screen lock, with the volume keys above and below it. The screen lock button is raised a bit, making it possible to tell which button is which without looking. The screen lock button offers decent feedback, but the volume keys do not. They just don't feel that great to press, and make an unattractive clicking sound. The screen lock button has a multi-color notification light inside and can be used for notifications if you want. You can also turn the light off.

Because LG put the screen lock button on the back and also got rid of the physical Home button on the front, there's no obvious way to wake the G Flex without picking it up. The Knock On feature - which lets you double-tap the screen to wake the device or put it to sleep - is activated by default. Thanks to the button placement, Knock On is essential.

The G Flex is flexible, but take that descriptor with a grain of salt. The curved shape can withstand pressure and can flatten out to a small degree with no fear of damage. It's not like you can fold it in half. The phone creaks like crazy when you flex it. Instead of calling it flexible, I'd say it’s less likely to break if you sit on it. Don't go twisting it on purpose to see how far it'll go before snapping.

Both the stereo headphone jack and the microUSB port are tucked into the bottom edge of the G Flex. The battery is not removable and the device doesn't support microSD memory cards. The SIM card can be ejected/inserted through a tray that's buried in the right edge of the phone.

At this point, I'm not sure what to make of the G Flex. It's an odd device, no doubt. I can't say the curved shape does anything to help improve usability, though I can say the large size is not entirely friendly. The G Flex is intimidating, and at times off-putting.

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Subject Author Date
4K Video? jackf Feb 16, 2014, 11:57 PM
Disregard the G Flex JJinNYC Jan 30, 2014, 9:56 PM
 
 
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