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LG G Flex review: a curved smartphone that doesn't have its act straight

Florence Ion | Feb. 4, 2014
Companies like LG and Samsung have touted what they can do with flexible displays for years now. At trade shows, we'd see totally bendable displays and devices with screens that curved around your wrist or rolled up like wrapping paper. All those exhibits felt like a tease for technology that would never make it to market, so it was a welcome surprise when LG announced its G Flex curved phone.

There display does have a redeeming virtue, however: the curve in the display helps reduce the reflectance of ambient and overhead lighting. It's easier to see the phone outside in broad daylight and in theory, because you're not always cranking up the brightness, you'll save a few percent on battery life over time. But because the display is curved inward, you might have a hard time watching a video with a friend. 

A speedy device that'll last you a whole day
The G Flex is essentially a blown-up version of its sibling, the G2. It features a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. It's just as speedy as the last few devices we reviewed with the same processor, including the Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3. You'll need that boost in power when you're dealing with LG's bloated Optimus UI, the overlay that resides on top of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.

The G Flex's battery life is particularly impressive. The phone's 3,500mAh battery pack lasted a whopping 10 hours and 20 minutes in our battery benchmark tests, wherein we loop a video repeatedly until the handset peters out. It also lasted three days on one charge on standby. The G Flex beat out its predecessor, the G2, but not the Galaxy Note 3. 

Despite the gargantuan size, you won't want to use the G Flex as a boom box. I cranked up the volume when listening to some music, and it sounded strained — perhaps because there is only one speaker hole for music to go through. It'll be sufficient for speaker phone and video calls, but I suggest hooking up an amplifying external speaker if you want to rock out.

Don't forget your point-and-shoot
There were times when the device took a photo worthy of quick sharing with my friends, and others when I'd have to retake it because it was so blurry. It was especially unpredictable in low-light situations, though it fared well in outdoor shots.

Interface in need of an overhaul
Just like the G2, the LG G Flex features a heavily skinned version of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. It's currently two software versions behind the current iteration of Android and it's jam-packed with icons and things everywhere. Though Optimus UI isn't as gaudy as Samsung's TouchWiz, elements like the Notifications and Settings panels are so unintuitive.

The interface is also inconsistent across the Optimus UI's core applications. Though there are a few perks, like the ability to double tap on the screen to wake it up and the "pop up" Q Slide apps, I'd trade those features in for a much simpler, flatter interface.

 

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