I’ve been curious about this phone ever since it was released. Fortunately, LG was kind enough to send one and I finally got to spend some time with it. Now that that has happened, I thought I might as well write a quick review.
The LG G Flex’ claim to fame is its curved design. But while it’s not the first curved phone in the world, it does have a rather unique flexible body. And if that’s not enough, the back comes coated with a magic material that is said to heal over time.
First let’s talk about the curved body. There have been phones in the past, such as the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus that have had a curved front. In case of those phones, it was just the top glass that was curved whereas the display itself was flat. Then there is the Samsung Galaxy Round, which does have an actual curved body, albeit curved sideways.
The G Flex is more like the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus, where it is curved top to bottom, except it actually is curved. This means that every component inside, including the display, the motherboard and the battery, are curved.
Then there is the thing where it is actually flexible, to some extent at least. You can’t just hold it in your hand and bend it but you can keep it upside down on a surface and press in the middle till the curve flattens out, without the phone snapping in half.
“What’s the point of this, then?” is a question I got asked a lot while using the phone. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer, and I have a feeling neither does LG. Is it curved? Yes. Can you bend it to some extent? Yes. Is there any practical application of either of these features? No.
The third feature, the self healing back, seems a bit more practical. By default, it’s a bit harder to scratch than most simple plastic back panels. It also has the uncanny ability to “heal” over a period of time, so minor hairline scratches eventually fade and become invisible. The witchcraft involved, however, is utterly helpless in the face of more severe scratches. My review unit came with deep marks on the back, left by overenthusiastic reviewers who went too far while trying to test the healing abilities of the back panel. Needless to say, those marks are never going to go away. I was a bit more subtle with my markings and over a few days the marks I made did get harder to spot but they never quite disappeared.
These tricks aside, the G Flex is more or less the LG G2. One area where it differs from the G2 is in the display. Whereas the G2 has a 5.2-inch, 1920×1080 LCD, the G Flex has a 6.0-inch, 1280×720 P-OLED. The ‘P’ stands for plastic, which makes it different from the usual glass OLED panels. The plastic is what makes the display flexible, way more than the phone itself.
Flexibility aside, on paper the display does not sound like much but you’ll be surprised at how good it looks in person. Most people would expect it to be 1080p resolution and wouldn’t spot the difference until you point it out that it’s “only” 720p, which shows how much of a gimmick 1080p really is on phones (not to mention the inevitable higher resolutions). The panel itself looks pretty good, with none of the exaggerated AMOLED colors that you see on Samsung displays. LG has a much better grasp of display calibration after all.
Only problems I had with the display was that the color temperature was a bit cold, so whites looked a bit bluer. Secondly, the brightness, although went plenty high in bright sunlight, didn’t go down enough in the dark. Even at 0%, the display was still too bright. This, coupled with the size of the display, means it was like staring into the Sun at night when the lights went off.
The size of the display also posed problems with the overall ergonomics of the device. It’s simply too big to be used comfortably. Reaching anything on the other side of the display is a stretch and the constant juggling around makes it all too likely for you to drop the phone. Also, big displays and thin bezels don’t go as well as you’d think, and in trying to reach the other end of the screen, the base of your thumb touches the screen, which either triggers something else or makes the display immune to any other touches until you adjust your grip.
The size does help when you are, say, watching a video or playing a game on the phone. The curve neither adds nor detracts from the experience.
Rest of the experience is identical to the G2. The software is still unattractive, the UI is still not smooth despite having the same hardware as the Nexus 5 (then again, the Nexus 5 runs on KitKat with stock Android and the G Flex is still on 4.2.2 with LG’s skin), the camera is good, the audio quality is great and the battery easily lasts for a day and a half.
That pretty much sums up the phone. But there is still one thing left, and that is the price. LG launched the G Flex at an eye-watering ₹69,990. Most people would tell you that it’s ₹69,990 more than what they’d want to pay for this phone but even realistically speaking, that’s still twice of what it should be priced at. The premium probably comes from all that goes into making a curved and flexible phone. I’m sure it’s a difficult and expensive to make a phone curve and bend like that. But like I said, it doesn’t translate into actual usefulness, and at the end of the day it’s just a gimmick, and a very expensive one at that.
So as an experiment and a tech demo, the LG G Flex is a very cool phone. It’s just not a very practical one.