We've been pulling and prodding the LG G Flex smartphone, the world's first curved mobile phone, and here's our full review of this 6-inch feature-packed phablet.
While reviewing LG’s G Flex, the world’s first curved, flexible phablet, my brain decided to continually sing Duran Duran’s ‘Reflex’, but with G Flex in its place. I can’t say why this happened, other than my own mind hates me, but in tribute I’ve decided to write the intro to my LG G Flex review as replacement chorus lyrics, so you can sing along too and join in the hilarity. Here goes:
It’s beeeeeent in the middle,
But whyyyyyyyy is a riddle,
Six iiiiiiiiinches sure ain’t little,
The G Flex is a massive phone that makes your hands look smaaaaaalllll
The G Flex can browse the net, take shots, and even make some caaaaalllllls
Enough. Question is, does this feature-packed phablet do enough to justify the ultra-premium asking price?
LG G Flex design: Flex by name...
The obvious ‘wow’ factor of the LG G Flex comes from its curved body, made possible by the flexible screen and battery technology. Aside from the fact that it’s pretty damn cool, LG reckons the curved body helps it to fit in the palm more easily, and also benefits the mighty six-inch display.
Well, the G Flex does sit nicely in the hand, although its phablet nature means it’s better suited to those with enormous mitts. It’s reasonably slender at 7.9mm (or 8.7mm in its naturally curved state), and at 177g it doesn’t weigh as much as you’d think, but it’s not easy to wield one-handed. We almost always used two hands when fiddling with the phone.
And the LG G Flex is definitely more flexible in name than by nature. Our review model creaked to an alarming degree when we applied pressure, and while it did flatten out, it didn’t appear too happy with the situation. In fact, LG’s own website clearly states:
“Flexibility of this product is limited. This phone may be bent flat up to 180 degrees for a limited time only. Do not bend inwards or twist.”
We also honestly thought the G Flex would be a lot more curved than it actually is, to the point that we had to check the box to make sure it definitely was the G Flex. Honestly, we thought this might be an LG G2 that someone sat on a bit. Compare the below press shots with the reality and you’ll see what we mean.
Press shot.... ....and reality
Press shot.... ....and reality
That said, we’re not too bothered that the G Flex doesn’t curve more. It slips into a pocket fine in its current form and doesn’t dig uncomfortably into your thigh, prostate or fleshy bits, even when you’re climbing stairs. Not bad at all for a phablet.
We also don’t want to take too much from LG’s accomplishments here: this is the world’s first not-flat smartphone, guys. Quite a feat, and surely it paves the way for truly revolutionary bendy devices.
As with the LG G2, the power button and volume rockers are housed on the back of the phone. This unusual arrangement definitely takes some getting used to, and we found we kept smudging our finger over the camera lens at first, but eventually you get the hang of the positioning and it works pretty well. We did have the occasional issue with responsiveness though, where we had to push the power button twice to wake the phone.
LG G Flex Features: QSlide Away
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is almost unrecognisable thanks to LG’s usual heavy overlay, but despite the abundance of new tools crammed into every corner, we really like the overall feel and the awesome little touches.
We like how the lock screen features a motion-sensitive backdrop that’s sunny during the day, and reverts to glittering stars at night. We like how the minutes peel away from the clock and drop into the virtual ocean. We even like the busy notification screen, which gives you quick control over power options, screen brightness and loads more.
Many of our favourite LG features make a welcome return, including the excellent QSlide. Pull down the notifications bar and you’ll see a scrollable row of QSlide apps. You can select two at a time to open up side-by-side, so for instance you can browse the web while taking notes, or check your emails while watching a movie.
The apps appear in individual windows which can be faded in and out, although the G Flex’s six-inch screen gives you plenty of space for working side-by-side (achievable by holding down the back button and selecting any two apps).
Q Pair is a simple little app that helps you bind the G Flex with your Android tablet, so your tablet notifies you of new texts and incoming calls - the functionality is basic, but it’s handy if you’re always missing stuff when your phone’s tucked in your pocket. The likes of Quick Memo and Quick Remote also return, and prove just as functional as ever.
Quick Translator is a nice idea too, offering quick translations from almost any language into any other simply by scanning some text with the camera, but the text scan sometimes goes awry (not helped by the fact that it’s automatic), and has to be repeated a few times.
LG G Flex performance: Who says men can't multi-task?
With so many features crammed on top of Android, the LG G Flex has a lot to keep up with. Thankfully LG has packed a quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm SnapDragon 800 processor into the bendy frame, backed up with 2GB of RAM. It’s only a shade behind the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 for performance, and on the whole makes for a smooth mobile experience.
Despite this, we did see some stuttering when running two apps side-by-side: skimming through a website while also using the memo app wasn’t as smooth as we’d hope. Thankfully, the latest games such as Asphalt 8 seemed to run without issue.
A mighty 3,500mAh battery has been crammed inside the LG G Flex, and just like the LG G2, it gives fantastic battery life. We used it pretty heavily during testing, with regular web browsing, apps, camera use etc, and even on full screen brightness, we still only drained two-thirds of the battery. A day and a half of use per charge is a great result for a phablet, and we watched an impressive nine hours of non-stop video before the battery died.
LG G Flex screen and media: Check out those curves
At 6-inches, the LG G Flex is about average size for a phablet, matching fellow 6-incher the Nokia Lumia 1520. Strangely the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, offspring of the original phablet, is now one of the smallest around at just 5.7-inches, while the mighty Sony Xperia Z Ultra is still the behemoth of the bunch at 6.4-inches. We personally found that 6-inches is more than enough to play with, whether you’re browsing the web, gaming or chilling with a movie.
Creative types will of course prefer Samsung’s Galaxy Note handsets, which come with the responsive S-Pen stylus.
The G Flex’s screen is bright, colourful and pleasing to use, although it isn’t quite as beautifully crisp as the LG G2’s 5.2-incher before it. The 1280x720 pixel resolution gives 245ppi, a clear step back from the LG G2 (424ppi) and flagship phones such as the Sony Xperia Z1 and Samsung Galaxy S5.
Despite this, images are still reasonably sharp and we still enjoyed watching HD video, thanks to the generous screen real estate and the rich, vibrant colours the OLED panel produces. It’s bright enough to ward off evil glare, and still perfectly responsive despite its curved design. It’s not quite a panoramic experience as LG insists, unless you hold the phone an inch from your corneas - something Recombu definitely does not condone, unless you like dark glasses and dogs.
With 32GB of onboard storage, you’ll have plenty of space to carry around hours of video and tons of apps. There’s no memory card slot for expansion, however.
LG G Flex camera: So many features
A 13-megapixel rear camera comes packed with the usual dense array of LG features, many of which will likely be ignored by the majority of users - but there are a handful of good ones in there.
The likes of Shot & Clear (removes people walking through your shot) and Time Catch Shot (starts taking the photo before you even press the shutter, by caching images) are nice and all, but you need to think ahead to select and use them, something that’s unlikely to happen. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 handles this stuff better, by combining all of its action-based modes into a single tool, and allowing you to pick what you want to do after you’ve already shot your image.
Picture quality is strong overall, especially when using the G Flex’s auto mode. Colours are sometimes a little faded under artificial lighting, but our outdoor shots came out perfectly, packed with detail and rendered with realistic colours. Shots take quickly, helping to reduce motion blur in moving subjects. You can also get decent low-light shots with the HDR mode.
Evening shots on auto mode (left) versus HDR mode (right)
Switch to video mode and you can shoot Full HD movies at 60fps, and our test clips came out well. The focus handles shifts from near to far without trouble, although the image stabilisation didn’t seem to help much when we were moving the camera about. You can take shots at the same time as video, pretty standard for smartphones these days,
A 2.1-megapixel selfie-snapper sits just above the G Flex’s screen, and is well up to the task of capturing your beautiful mug in a crisp and pleasing fashion. The ever-freakish Beauty Mode is back too, smoothing over your skin until you look like a gorgeous cyborg. As always you can share your pics with just a couple of taps, and edit if necessary before posting.
Beauty mode: before (left) and the freakish after-effects (right)
LG G Flex verdict
The world’s first curvy smartphone might not be quite as awe-inspiring as we hoped, but as a phablet the LG G Flex is fun to use, with tons of great features. The multi-tasking abilities mean you can stay productive, or simply browse the web while watching video, while the 13-megapixel camera is a dependable way to snap your surroundings.
Where the G Flex falls down is its steep asking price (at time of writing, over £600 from most retailers). We fully understand that the bendy tech must have ramped up production costs, but the screen isn’t as pleasingly sharp as the 1080p flagships in this price bracket, or even much cheaper mid-range mobiles.
Considering you get the same excellent features and a much nicer screen in the LG G2, which currently goes for well under £400, we’d have to recommend that handset first.