Thursday, 13 February 2014

LG G Flex

LG announced the G Flex  late last year right after Samsung announced the Galaxy Round, a device which we thought looked like a complete abomination. The G Flex however is curved the correct way, supposedly allowing for a perfect fit on your face (or butt), while still delivering a phablet experience for those who enjoy large phones. The LG G Flex is not a normal phone. It’s not here to square up to mobiles like the Samsung Galaxy S5. It is here to prove a point, to prove that certain things can be done. It is a curved phone with a self-healing back.

The Curve!


Its curve is subtle and vertical, the top and bottom of the phone curling forward ever so slightly. Put it face-up on a table, and the top and bottom both rest slightly aloft; flip it over and you'll see the screen glow in the small gap between it and the table. It's flat enough that it doesn't wobble, but pronounced enough that it makes a half-decent catapult.


The G Flex exists almost entirely to show off LG's curved OLED display, the 6-inch, 720p screen that is the centerpiece of its design. I've certainly never seen anything quite like it, but once the novelty wears off, it's not entirely clear why a curved screen like this is a good idea. LG says the curve makes the phone feel more comfortable against your face, provides a more immersive video-watching experience, and makes the screen less prone to glare because of the way light reflects off it. The last part seems to be true — there's noticeably less glare off the G Flex, especially in sunlight, than with most other big phones. If movies are more immersive, however, it's due to the sheer size of the display. And I don't care what it's made of: a 6-inch smartphone is never going to feel comfortable on my face while I make a phone call.



Samsung's horizontally curved Galaxy Round is much more ergonomically awkward than the G Flex, but it comes with some clever optimization for its form factor. Tip the phone over to the side and you'll see notifications or battery levels — it's a small innovation, but at least it’s an attempt to do something unique. LG offers nothing: there's a strange, laggy animation on the lock screen that moves as you tilt the phone, but that's neither relevant to a curved screen nor at all cool. We're given no reason to want a curved display — just proof that LG can make one.


Specification


The G Flex ships with a very handsome list of specs. Powering the device is a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM, a processor that was the top tier silicon in 2013. Also inside the device is a 3,500mAh battery, a 13MP rear-facing camera, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, 32GB of internal storage, a 2.1MP front-facing camera, self-healing backside, and 4G LTE radios. The biggest spec on the sheet is the device’s 6″ P-OLED curved display with a resolution of 720 x 1280. Yup, it’s only HD and not Full HD, which is sort of a bummer. All of this adds up to a device that runs very well, lasts a full day and a half on its big battery, and can impress the neighbors with its curved display. All in all, it’s a very nice package of a phone.

Camera


When first opening the box of the G Flex, I was reminded how much I was looking forward to using the device’s camera, since it uses a beefed up 13MP sensor. And if you know much about the LG G2, you will know that it has unarguably one of the best cameras to ever launch with an Android phone. To my disappointment, the G Flex is nothing like the G2 – yes, it is 13MP, but the camera does not feature OIS (optical image stabilization), and for some reason, it just takes really lackluster shots. There is no color. There is no vibrance. While in the right lighting conditions, you will have no issues taking a good shot to share with friends and family on your social networks, but if you were hoping for the same experience as you find on the G2, you will need to look elsewhere. The software on both devices is the exact same, but LG definitely doesn’t seem to have put in as much work as they did on the G2.

Software


The LG G Flex runs a customised version of Android 4.4 KitKat. The interface doesn’t feel dramatically different to standard Android, but every element has been given the LG visual treatment. They include, app icons, wallpapers, the lock screen and even the virtual soft keys. 

LG has made a new 'Flex' theme for the phone, which includes all these elements, but you can switch to the default LG style if you like too. The Flex look is better, but there’s still a little visual inconsistency, which has made LG’s previous Android interfaces look a little wonky in part. 

The notifications bar is also a lot worse than the standard one. It’s home to features and apps shortcuts, and brightness/volume sliders – as well as your notifications. While notifications are up top to start with, in use they soon get sidelined under a these controls, which take up half the screen. Alterations like this see LG take a proverbial pee on something that has been carefully tweaked bit-by-bit since 2008.

A fully-loaded custom interface also eats into the available storage. With a 32GB Nexus 5 you’ll have around 28GB storage to play with. An LG G Flex gives you 23.8GB.

Battery


Besides the gorgeous overall design of this phone, the battery on the G Flex is ridiculous. Out of habit, I always hook up my devices next to my bed to let them charge, but I was easily skipping nights of charging with the G Flex. It could be thanks to the 720p display or its massive size at 3,500mAh, but either way, we love long battery life.

Conclusion


We do love the G Flex, because it's an interesting phone and one that worked for us. However, the reality is that most people will find it's too big, too irregularly shaped and, most crucially of all at Rs.70,000 it is too expensive. There will, of course, be those for whom this is a great choice, and to those people we can't endorse it enough. But for the majority this curved phone probably isn't the smartphone you're looking for.


The screen shape is something of a gimmick. We didn't notice it as a less reflective surface, but we still did enjoy using it as a screen. The curve is interesting, and makes phone calls a good fit as the device feels less like a slab against your face than other large-scale phones.

But the whole bendability thing is just a little underwhelming. We don't doubt that this phone is more likely to stay in one piece if you drop it, and better generally if you sit on it, but we never found those to be a huge problem before. You're just as likely to shatter the front of this phone as you are any other because it uses Gorilla Glass 2. The bendability might be handy for some, but because it's curved, there's more chance of you bending it than a normal phone, so it sort of answers a problem that doesn't exist.