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Saturday, 8 February 2014

LG G Flex Review : Form Without Function

The LG G Flex is many things. It's big, it's curved, it's impervious to scuffing, and it's sort of bendable — but there's one thing the G Flex is not: a great phone. While packing commendable specs and exceptional battery life, the G Flex is diminished by form without meaningful function.

The G Flex is derived from LG's current flagship device, the G2, which our review praised for its gorgeous display, great build, and creative rear power toggle and volume rocker. But in its pursuit of the G Flex's gimmicky curved, bending display, LG cut corners. The G Flex's OLED screen has a lower resolution — 720p, as compared to the G2's 1080p panel — but also considerably larger at a whopping 6-inches, dropping the overall pixel density to 245ppi. While it certainly looks good, it doesn't pop quite as much as the G2's 424ppi or iPhone 5S' 326ppi display.
I've also found that the OLED frequently suffers from image retention problems. Every now and then I'll see a lasting imprint of apps or folders past, which eventually fade after a short period. At first I was concerned that I may have received a faulty unit, but a quick Google search reveals that it's a common problem seemingly without remedy.
And then there's the G Flex's much-touted bendable design, which is both overstated and utterly useless. The extent of the G Flex's malleability is little more than just the capacity to forcibly straighten out the curved frame...slightly. It takes considerable effort and the G Flex quickly returns to form. What's worse, the curved nature of the design doesn't offer any notable utility short of angling the microphone closer to your mouth. It's a gimmick for gimmick's sake.

The one marketing bullet point that is truly useful, however, is the G Flex's "self-healing" finish — a coating that the company claims repairs scratches and dings to the exterior shell. How exactly it works, LG won't say, but based on observation, it seems as though the coating is scratch resistant, but also actively masks minor damage. After a week of using the it without a case, the G Flex remains pristine — unscathed by being tossed into bags or pockets with loose change or keys. However, the feature is less effective with deeper cuts, but so long as you're not deliberately grinding a sharp edge on the case, you should be fine.
Under the hood, the G Flex utilizes a Snapdragon 800 series quad-core processor with 2GBs of RAM and 32GBs of local storage, which, unfortunately for digital hoarders, can't be expanded. Software wise, the G Flex is running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean — several iterations behind the latest release — Android 4.4 KitKat. LG has also layered on its own software experience, which as OEM skins go, is actually not terrible. You can personalize many facets of the UI, like color coding folders for faster identification or slapping a custom wallpaper on the app drawer. There are also several LG-unique functions at your disposal, like three-finger gesture app switching with Slide Aside, tapping on the display to wake the phone with Knock On, or splitting the screen in half to run two apps simultaneously with Dual Window.
Performance for both LG's processor taxing multitasking features and standard apps is great. Apps boot up quickly, games run predictably well, and there's no sign of slowdown when running multiple programs at once.

As for photos and video, LG's camera software offers a greater degree of control than the stock experience, the 13-megapixel sensor itself produces mixed results. Daylight exterior photos are crisp, detailed, and balanced, but low-light scenarios throw a wrench in the system. Night photos are often grainy and take on a yellowish hue. The sensor also lacks the G2's optical image stabilization, which makes the camera overall less precise. It's not a bad smartphone camera, but there are better solutions on the market.
But perhaps the G Flex's biggest strength is battery life. With a massive 3,500 mAh battery, which lasted for roughly a day and a half with normal use. It's one of the best performers on the market in that regard.


The LG G Flex is a decent phone marred by unnecessary gimmicks that exist only to serve as marketing bullet points. While there's an unquestionable novelty to its curved, marginally malleable design, it offers no significant utility. Its exceptional battery life and sometimes great camera compensate for its shortcomings, but not enough to make it worthy of a $299 subsidized, 2-year commitment.

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