Review: LG G Flex

Can the curved LG G Flex continue LG’s smartphone renaissance?

The LG G Flex stands out immediately thanks to its large, curved six-inch OLED display, but after a few days of living with the smartphone, I still can’t figure out why anyone would need such a thing. Even with a unique selling point, the G Flex is so disappointingly ordinary. It’s just another overly large, slippery plastic-feeling Android device that doesn’t even run the latest version of the OS.

In so many ways it feels like a Samsung device – large, plastic, slippery – and with boxes that continually pop up to offer tips on using a feature that no one expects to exist. Even the sounds it makes—unlocking it makes a swishing water and water drop sound—feel passé; Samsung from two years ago.

Samsung of course has its own curved smartphone, though it curves in from side to side, instead of top to bottom, and given the power of the Samsung brand, if it is even on par with the Galaxy S4, LG is going to struggle with the G Flex.

Searching for Beauty

LG G Flex (1)The whole of my G Flex experience was like being in a too-big model home with not-my-taste faux furnishings—un-cosy, un-homey, somehow inauthentic.

Every time I picked it up I thought “This time I’m going to get it right.” I blamed myself for how scattered the home screen and interface felt and thought I just needed to tidy them up better and have a better wallpaper. But then came the water sound —like a naked stranger stepping out of a bathtub an echo-rich bathroom—the ugly wallpapers (is a solid colour too much to ask for?) and then all of those home screens.

The last screen you were on is the screen you return to, instead of returning each time to the main screen, which felt off to me, but it moves around quickly enough and the six-inch display is nice for watching video but in most apps the large display feels stretched and the colours diluted.

Lack of intuition

The 13-megapixel rear camera left me with the same feeling—big, but not better. Taking the same photo (standing in the same spot, shooting the same thing) with the G Flex and an iPhone 5S, I found that more light came into the G Flex lens while I was trying to take the picture and so the experience of looking at an object and shooting it was nicer because I could see more.

But the resulting photos from the iPhone were nearly always more detail-rich and colour accurate and the shutter on the G Flex also isn’t terribly fast, making it hard to grab a great, crisp photo.

One feature I really did like though was Dual Window. Hold down the Back button, and the G Flex offers apps to choose from; tap two, and they open on a split screen that can be adjusted. It’s a great use of the huge display, but another great use would have been to pair it with a stylus. There’s a QuickMemo app that can be used with a finger, but it’s not great.

Design faults

Like the LG G2, the G Flex’s power and volume buttons are on the back of the phone. In theory, it’s a fine idea as your forefinger is positioned exactly in this area, but in practice, I was always pushing the wrong buttons and covering the camera glass with fingerprints.

As for the curved display, LG says it’s more curved to suit a person’s face and puts the microphone closer to their mouth; but who really wants to hold such a big phone to their head? LG also says that the curve lifts the back speakers a bit off the table, for better sound quality. But if great sound quality were a priority, why not copy HTC, which already figured that out, and put the speaker on the front?

While you may be keen to know that near-field communication (NFC), Mobile HotSpot functionality and a “self-healing” back cover that’s near-impossible to scratch are among the G Flex’s features, it feels moot to get any deeper into specifics, since the G Flex is, in my opinion, so off-putting and dull that it’s not a phone one feels excited to sink into, explore and enjoy.

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LG G Flex

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LG G Flex