Review: LG G Flex
The G Flex runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with LG's heavy-handed user experience dropped on top.
The lock screen is fairly flexible. It can be set to show only the clock, or the clock plus shortcuts and notifications. Users can choose to add a password of some sort, as well as current-location weather updates.
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There are three home screen panels active out of the box (five on the Sprint version). Two are littered with widgets and shortcuts, but of course all of them can be modified in any way the user sees fit. There's a dock at the bottom of the screen for your four favorite apps, plus the app menu.
The pull-down notification shade provides shortcuts to control the wireless radios as well as brightness, rotation, sound, and LG’s QSlide apps. These controls, however, take up half the screen, leaving less room to view the actual notifications. At least the G Flex allows owners to choose which toggles appear in the notification shade, though I'd rather omit some of the controls so I can see more of my notifications.
The main menu is a grid of apps. LG offers plenty of flexibility to customize it. You can view the main menu with large icons (default) or small icons to fit more apps on each individual page. You can sort apps alphabetically or via install date. You can't, however, view them in list form. Apps can be hidden from view (though they remain installed), and there's a tool that lets you completely delete all the carrier-branded apps right from the main menu page.
Since there are no physical home screen buttons, the Back, Home, and Menu buttons appear and disappear as needed at the bottom of the screen. Like the G2, the G Flex allows you to pick from 6 different control button configurations, including some three-button and some four-button configurations. Some have the Back button on the left, others have the Back button on the right, and so on. The four-button configurations add in a tool that lets you access the notification shade without reaching for the top of the screen.
Most Android devices have an easy-to-use Settings menu that's laid out on a single page. Rather than take that approach, the AT&T variant Settings menu has been broken down into four separate tabs. The four tabs in the Settings menu are Networks, Sound, Display, and General. I find this arrangement to be annoying. The Sprint G Flex uses the more traditional single-page layout.
The G Flex also includes the multitasking tool from LG called Slide Aside. It's an optional way to handle multiple open apps at the same time. Essentially, you use a three-finger gesture to push full-screen apps left to set them aside for later use. I found this feature worked better on the G Flex than the G2, perhaps thanks to the G Flex's larger display.
Users can tweak most facets of the G Flex. For example, the G Flex includes a half dozen different fonts and even six different font sizes. There are two themes preinstalled, the notification LED can be customized, wallpapers can be changed throughout, and so on.
As far as performance goes, the G Flex uses the venerable Snapdragon 800. The 800 is a quad-core chip that delivers excellent computing power and battery life. I didn't notice any problems with the G Flex, and the exceptional battery life proves the 800's marketing claims are no lie.
Calls and Contacts
The software dialpad is large and provides tabbed access to call history, contacts, favorites, and groups. In-call options run the standard, such as add a line, send to Bluetooth, hold, reject with message, or mute. You can also open the note pad and messaging apps, or toggle on/off noise reduction (which makes calls clearer for those with whom you speak.)
LG's Answer Me feature appears to be absent. On the G2, Answer Me automatically answered phone calls as you dragged it out of your pocket and raised the phone to your head. In its place, the G Flex lets you set the phone to automatically answer all calls after X seconds. The idea, I suppose, gives you several seconds to dig the phone out and then have the call connect without pressing any buttons. The G Flex can also be set so that ringers (or alarms, etc.) are silenced when the phone is flipped over.
The phone app is one of the QSlide apps. There's a button in the phone dialer that minimizes the phone app, but leaves it open and running on top of other apps. This means you can always have the phone controls front and center while performing other tasks.
The contacts application is as powerful and customizable as ever. There are the usual home screen shortcuts for quick access to select contacts, as well as a nice widget for a collection of your favorites. The bigger widget lets you access your top 20 contacts and gives you a spiffy UI for interacting with them on the home screen.
Within the contact app itself, you can choose which accounts it syncs with and/or displays, how contacts are arranged, and easily lump them together into groups. As with the phone, the contact app can be minimized as one of the QSlide apps and left running on the home screen or on top of other apps if you want.
The G Flex runs the same set of native Android messaging apps that we've all come to know and love. The capable Gmail app is on board, as is a generic email application for use with other services. The G Flex ships with Google+, of course, and Google Hangouts, which combines SMS, MMS, IM, and video chatting in one app. There's also a bare-bones SMS client if you want to keep your text messages separate from your instant messages. This bare-bones client is also available as a QSlide app if you want to keep it handy all the time. Both Facebook and Twitter are preinstalled.
AT&T's Messaging app is available on the AT&T version. It's an all-in-one app that lets you send SMS, as well as Facebook and Twitter messages from a single app.
Similarly, Sprint has its own catch-all messaging app installed called Messaging+. It works fine for organizing message threads.