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Exclusive: Australia’s first LG G Flex review

By Leigh D. Stark | 5:28 pm 22/01/2014

Australia’s first curved smartphone is here, hugging your face better than any phone before it. But is LG’s G Flex a game changer and worth your dime and time?

Features

Announced last year and shown to Australian journalists for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas only recently, LG is earlier than we expected bringing the G Flex to market, the world’s first readily available curved smartphone in places like America and Australia.

Aussies are lucky to see it faster than most countries, with the handset reaching Harvey Norman stores in February.

That's not your eyes playing tricks: it really is a curved phone.

Design-wise, it’s a world first because of what it includes, and that’s a curved plastic OLED screen, sized to 6 inches, and supporting the High Definition resolution of 1280×720. With a resolution of 720p in this sized screen, LG has provided a pixel clarity of roughly 245 pixels per inch.

That curved screen also means the electronics have to be moved around to accommodate the slightly unusual and unorthodox screen, and results in an equally curved body with a curved battery inside.

The electronics inside, though, are all very familiar, with a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.26GHz, paired with 2GB RAM, the Adreno 330 graphics chip, and 32GB of storage, with no way to upgrade it thanks to the omission of a microSD slot.

Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” is the operating system of choice here, running with LG’s overlay, while the connections match the LG G2 also, with Category 4 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 with support for LE, Near-Field Communication, infrared, GPS, DLNA, and a microUSB port for charging and moving data to and from the handset.

Even the cameras are spot on close, with a 13 megapixel camera on the back and a 5 megapixel up front. Both cameras will shoot Full HD 1080p video, but only the rear camera will record at Ultra HD, if needed.

The back is cased in plastic with a special elastic-based paint on the back, and like the G2, the controls are located on the back, with the volume up, power button, and volume down button just sitting below the rear camera, which itself is flanked on each side an infrared port and the LED flash.

All the regular soft buttons aren’t on the hardware itself, and are based in software, able to be switched around in location by the user inside the operating system.

Ports are also limited (just like the buttons) with a microUSB at the bottom next to a 3.5mm headset jack.

The battery is rated for 3500mAh and isn’t removable, and the support SIM card style is microSIM with a tray on one side.

Why a curve?

With smartphones being flat for so long, you might be wondering why LG is doing a curved phone.

The first reason is one of marketing, and with the company preparing more curved TVs for this year, not to mention cutting the price of last year’s curved OLED TV, it makes sense for LG to align its values with curved screen technology and introduce this on a phone.

From an entertainment point of view, a curved screen will draw you in more, creating an immersive experience as the display wraps around your view, which is one of the reasons why its exists on new TVs, and helps to make this handset an interesting premise.

But there’s more to it than that, and much of the message you need to know about curved screens comes from their durability.

For example, you can already guess that a curved phone probably sits more nicely in the pocket as the body conforms with your leg, and is useful if you hold it up to your head when it fits the shape of your face better than your traditional flat handset, but did you know that the curved display is also likely to be more resistant to a drop?

When phones hit the ground, if they land on a corner, the glass tries to bend, and when it has no wriggle room, it generally breaks, shattering and creating so many of those broken smartphone screens we see around the place. And people still continue to use these, despite the fact that they’re running their fingers over what is essentially broken glass.

But in the G Flex, LG is using a plastic screen, curved in the handset and able to take a degree of pressure, flexing as it does so, hence the name. If dropped, this screen will likely have more wriggle room, and rather than completely shattering in the moment, will quickly warp and do less damage overall, if any at all.

It can even take some sitting on, and if you push hard from the top of the phone, the screen will flex and not shatter. Try doing that with your regular flat glass phone.

Yes, the G Flex will flatten if you apply pressure. No, the screen doesn't snap. Pretty neat trick, LG.

Performance

The first of its kind, the G Flex is a product unlike any other, at least for the moment, bringing the idea of a curved phone to the masses well ahead of when we expected. To make this happen, much of the design has come from another handset LG is known for, the G2, and LG has basically enlarged it and thrown in a bigger screen.

In the hands, the curved handset doesn’t feel dramatically different from the G2, and seeing as they’re based on the same design, we’re not at all surprised.

Rather than have traditional buttons on the sides or top, LG has relocated these to the back, placing them just under the camera lens, with the power button sitting in the middle of a volume up and volume down button.

Just like on the G2, it’s an interesting idea, though it can take some getting used to, as your forefinger is pushed against power and volume buttons, while the rest of your hand cradles the sides of the handset. It’s not uncomfortable, though if you have bigger hands, you’ll likely find the 6 inch size easier to deal with.

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Price (RRP)

$999

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Neat concept; LG overlay is easier to adapt to, especially if you're a new user; High performance from the CPU and memory; Excellent 4G performance; Camera shoots 4K Ultra HD; Decent battery life; Comfier than you might expect;

Product Cons

Screen may be curved, but it's also 720p, and not the 1080p we expect out of high-end phones; No expandable memory; Elastic polymer paint won't fix all scratches, so don't expect it to; LG keyboard still isn't great; Big size may not work for everyone;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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