During the last year, the Smartphone market has been experiencing a great expansion with great technology advances. The one that earned more interest was the curve screen. Several rumours arised along the way, with Apple and Samsung at the front end when it came to launching devices with this new changes. Samsung actually launched one device, the Galaxy Round which had a curved screen but its sale was restricted to only a few markets so most of the regulars didn’t have the chance to even test the device.
LG decided to risk it and launched the LG G Flex in most markets, bear in mind that this may be considered the best you can get when it comes to technology. The G Flex is the first smartphone that has both curved screen and battery.
It was presented in October 2013 and was available on stores around the world on November that same year, now we have the opportunity to actually test the device and share our views about it.
The G Flex promises a perfect ergonomy, as it adapts perfectly to your face and your hand. The slight bend the device has along its length represents a leap from the conventional smartphone. Besides the curved screen you also have a curved battery and both of them are flexible, which gives them greater resistance than what you are used to seeing in other smartphones.
Given the specs of the G Flex and the G2 the latter will be used as a comparison device since we already tested it before.
The curved design is what stands out in the G Flex, and that will catch someone’s eye when you are using the device. “What smartphone is that? I’ve never seen one like that.” “Why do you need a curved smartphone?”, “It’s very pretty”, “That is a weird smartphone”, “You ruined it already?”, these are just samples of what you will have to get used to hearing after taking the G Flex from your pocket. So if you are a discrete person, bear that in mind if you’re thinking of buying it.
This device is much more than a curve. It is equipped with a SoC MSM8974 Snapdragon 800, a 2.26GHz QuadCore Krait 400 processor and has 32GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM.
The P-OLED 6 inch screen is completely innovative and was designed entirely by LG. The P-OLED technology is based on the known OLED tech but with more flexibility due to a new plastic compound. The screen resolution will impress you, not in a positive way, it has only 768×1280 pixels and 245 ppi but in order to compensate for that LG added a full RGB matrix.
The G Flex is available in titan silver and has another new technology in its back cover that allows for regeneration of small scratches. Weighing around 177g and at 8.7mm thick this is what you get when you talk about the first smartphone with curved screen and battery.
The G Flex comes with Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), whose interface is very similar to that which is available on the G2, with the small diference that this has been adjusted to the new screen size and curvature. Unfortunately it isn’t always fluid enough, especially when you take into account this is supposed to be a flagship. Once in a while you will notice it dragging around in some games or just moving around tabs.
The G Flex box was also design with attention to detail in such a way that it adjusts itself to the curvature of the device. Inside the box, besides the Flex you will also find earphones, a USB charger, a micro-USB cable, an accessory for the micro-SIM card slot and the instruction manual of the device.
Hardware and Design
Putting the curve aside for now, the G Flex also stands out due to its dimensions. With a 6 inch screen you have a smartphone that has 16.05cm in length and 8.16cm wide, adding 8.7 mm of thickness leaves you with a smartphone that weighs 177g.
The screen is really an innovation, being that LG was the first brand to develop and use a P-OLED screen on a smartphone, this gives it great flexibility, even greater than the device’s cover.
When it comes to the cover, we’ve said before that it had a self-regenerating technology, but be aware that it has a few hiccups. In our testing, we submitted the device to a daily use, having it in the usual pocket in which some encounters with keys and coins happened along the way. After the test we noticed that some of the scratches remained on the cover but most of them really disappeared. There are some who have also tested the device that took a razor and lightly scratched the cover and ended up saying that the scratch faded somewhat but didn’t completely disappeared. All this to say, if you are planning on getting the G Flex think twice about the self-regeneration feature of the cover and don’t test it on purpose as you might end up disappointed.
After testing the self-regeneration of the back cover we tested teh flexibility of the G Flex, and when it comes to this, everything really is as LG put it (thank God). You can push the back cover and completely straighten the G Flex, be prepared to hear some unpleasant noises however, that will lead you to think you are really tearing apart your 900€ smartphone. Actually nothing breaks, but the back cover tends to undock itself on the top. In the following days you will also hear creaking of the plastics until everything is back on its place.
Like we have seen on the G2 LG continued with the choice of putting the volume and power buttons on the back of the device instead of putting them on the borders of the device. If it feels weird when you first handle the devices you will soon get used to it and won’t want to get back to the old ways.
The buttons allow you to perform other tasks like taking a screenshot (by pressing both the power and volume down button), zoom your camera and take pictures (with the volume buttons). The screen capture key combination, the usual in Android devices, makes the task really simple due to the button layout. But when taking pictures these are not very practical mainly because the camera is positioned right above them and you will have some photos of your fingers to share around if you are not careful.
The power button has another interesting feature. Every time you get a notification during a call the button will light up. For those who don’t want to get attention the first thing you will do is go to the settings and alter the actions in which the RGB LED is supposed to light up. Bear in mind that during a call the button will blink all the time, which can often become a bother.
As was mentioned before, alongside the back buttons you will find the 13MP camera with an aperture of f/2.4 and records as 1080p at 60fps. Unlike the G2 this camera doesn’t have a optic stabilizer.
Alongside the buttons you will also find the flash LED and the infrared IR Blaster. This positioning of the IR sensor is somewhat curious, especially since in all other devices it is usually positioned on the top. Given that the main function of it is to interact with TVs this new position of the sensor makes sense since like this you can actually view the information on the screen when interacting with your TV, as it is where you have all the necessary informations. Besides TVs this sensor will allow you to control several devices due to the QuickRemote application that we will talk about later on.
Still on the back on the device you will find the speaker. The sound is pretty good and even when you take it up to the max you won’t hear any distortions. When the G Flex is laying on the flat surface the sound doesn’t suffer any alterations since the speaker is on the extremety and doesn’t have any contact with the surface, but when you are holding it in your hands it is very easy to cover it with your fingers.
Now taking a look at the rest of the details of the G Flex, it has 2 microphones, one on the top side and the other on the bottom that end up recording with some (a lot) of noise when you aren’t in a quiet environment. On the bottom you will also find the microUSB 2.0 cable slot, with the SlimPort feature and the 3.5mm earphone jack.
Similar to the G2 the microSIM card slot is placed on the left side of the device, and the right side doesn’t have any button, slot or sensor to speak of. But since the device is curved the card slot is neither discrete nor elegant, unlike the G2 in which its existence is almost unknown.
On the front of the G Flex, on the top, aside the loud speaker you have the 2.1MP camera capable of recording video at 1080p up to 30fps, the proximity and luminosity sensors and the RGB notification LED from which we can control the colors of each kind of notification.
PerformanceTo evaluate the G Flex performance nothing better than make several benchmark tests. However we can say that the device as done extremely well during its use while running some games that we consider heavy with graphics above the average.
Inside the G Flex
As soon as your turn on the G Flex the first that will catch your attention is the image and the colors that it emits. With a resolution that is below the desired for a flagship one would expect the screen to stand out in some other manner, but that doesn’t happen with the Flex. You can notice a slight numbness on the contours of the image which turns it into a low quality one, it almost seems like it only has 256 colors. The color composition appears to be a filter on top of the real image. This problem is then minimized when you turn up the brightness of the Flex to high levels.
The problems don’t end here. Besides this it is possible to notice the lack of shadowing on the widgets quando you change the picture on the screen. This happens in any image transition between images that have different contrasts. In case you are thinking of buying the G Flex take a long look and thorough test the device’s screen on the store before bringing it home, otherwise you will feel deeply disappointed.
When it comes to luminosity, in a normal environment and inside your house, with natural or artificial light it is perfectly normal to keep the brightness level above 50%, and even on 80% it won’t do any harm and will keep the defective images at bay. However in dark environments or in strong sunlight you won’t see a perfect brightness adjustment. On total darkness the minimum level of brightness is still very strong and when exposed to strong sunlight the opposite happens.
All in all the G Flex’s interface is very similar to that of the G2, but some features work better on the Flex and there are some adjustments that were made due to the bigger and curved screen.
In order to activate the screen of the Flex all you need to do is touch the screen for a little longer, the so called knock on, instead of the double touch that already exists in some devices such as the G2. Personally I didn’t like this option since all it took to activate the screen by mistake was holding the Flex.
The lockscreen is much more interactive than that of the G2. By default it comes with two images, one for daytime and other for nighttime that update automatically according to the time. These are not static images, they move with the curve of the screen, beginning at the bottom of the ocean and ending with the sky, depending on the smartphone’s position. The unlocking technique also alters the background depending on where you slide your finger.
On the lockscreen you can add several widgets and you have several screens to do so, as is usual in Android devices nowadays.
One of the features of the settings we don’t use very often on the G2 but that on the Flex is very useful is the inclusion of a button for the notification bar alongside the usual touch buttons. This is due to the fact that the Flex has such a big screen and it is almost impossible to scroll the notification bar if you are using it with only one hand. This was handled nicely by LG by letting us add the notification bar button to the usual Android buttons.
The “One-Handed” operation is also another feature to put into use on the G Flex that was easily overlooked on the G2. It is possible to adapt the keyboard, the dial, gesture controls, pin keyboard and touch buttons, to the side of the smartphone you are currently holding onto, just with a simple touch on the arrow that appears on the opposite side of these features.
Other interesting features of this LG interface are for example, the QSlide, which allows you to manage several applications by moving, resizing or adjusting the transparency in them. The Slide Aside allows you to slide 3 fingers simultaneously left or right in an application and thus freezing it in order to access other applications and the return to the freezed one without having to recur to the task management list, this is true up to 3 applications. You will also find the Universal Remote application, the QuickRemote that will allow you to control several devices with the Flex, from TVs to Air Conditionners.
The note taking applications are also a strong feature of the G Flex. You have the known Quick Memo that allows you to take quick notes right on the screen you are using or in a white one. The Note Book is somewhat like the S Note and allows you to have several notebooks with different covers in which you can add images, handwritten text or not. And last but not least you have the usual Notes application that works like a usual notebook.
What novelties brings the G Flex
When you take into account the interface, there are very few differences between that of the Flex and the G2 but you have to recognize that most of the features are more fitted to the Flex than to the G2 since they gracefully use the 6 inch screen.
Still the G Flex brings something new to the table, mainly the Dual Window and the Q Theater. Dual Window is already known in some other Android devices so it isn’t a novelty on the market but it is new for LG, it allows you to work simultaneously on two applications on the same screen. The Flex only allows this feature for some of the device’s native applications such as Videos, Internet, Messages, Email, Gallery, Chrome, Notes, YouTube, Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, Dictionary and File Manager. It is activated through a long touch on the back button that will make the application board pop up and then all you have to do is choose the application.
Q Theater is an application dedicated exclusively to media. With the G Flex on the horizontal, when you make the movement like you were to increase the volume the application is opened and the several media applications are shown, in this case, Gallery, Videos and YouTube. On Korean devices there is also a TV application. When you open the photo or video gallery the contents can be resized, like in the regular gallery and when you slide your finger the contents follow perfectly the curved lines of the screen giving a very pleasant effect, just like the viewing of pictures in a slide show. Overall the advantages of using the Q Theater are small beyond the fact that you can find all the media applications in one place and can access them with one touch.
The G Flex is equipped with two cameras: the rear 13MP camera that can take pictures with max resolution of 4160x3120pixels and the frontal 2.1MP. Both of them are capable of recording videos in 1080p. The camera interface is equal to that of the G2 but the G Flex rear camera doesn’t have an optical stabilizer, a great disadvantage when compared to the G2.
On the camera application the user has the capability of choosing between recording a video or taking pictures on the button on the right side above the obturator. On the left side you have other options that vary depending on the camera and what you are doing, mas mainly they allow you to turn on the flash, switch between the rear and frontal cameras, capture mode and some other settings.
In photographic mode the user has 12 different modes, Normal, regular Panoramic and VR, double camera, etc.
The rear camera records videos in 1080p at 60fps or 30fps, in MP4 and stereo sound. Unfortunately we don’t have a sample video to show you but video and audio recording was tested in very noisy environments during a children’s birthday party and the audio results were really unpleasant as it captured a lot of noise.
There are some modes available when you are recording videos, like the Live Effect where you can add some face distortion effects, you also have Double Recording where both cameras will record simultaneously and the Localized Zoom where you can choose a particular area to zoom when you are recording.
With a 3500mAh battery the G Flex has an excellent battery life. Even though it has an OLED screen, which usually is the biggest battery spender the Flex lasts easily 2 days.
With a using pattern a little over the usual, brightness always above 50%, Wi-Fi always on, download of several applications, browsing the web, picture and video capturing, gameplaying and media sync with G+, the Flex completely drained the battery in about 40hours. With a more controlled use it almost lasted 3 days.
With video playback, brightness at 50% and everything else turned off the battery of the Flex lasts 11 hours. Which is a very surprising result for a device with a 6 inch screen.
The G Flex is without a doubt an innovative device and on the front of the teckie wave when it comes to Smartphones. Flexibility, innovative design, self-regenerating cover and great battery life are the main aspects that make this a worthy contender if you are searching for a new device.
At first you will notice a major difference due to the size of the screen but after a few days of using the Flex you will get used to it. If you are a lady that always has a purse with you you will have no problem with the Flex, otherwise no matter if you are a man or a woman you will have trouble getting the Flex to fit in your pockets, so don’t be shocked if you see it on someone’s hands while they are walking around.
The perfect fit of the Flex to the face and hand shape were the main arguments of LG in the Flex’s marketing campaign, and it fits but there is no true advantage between it and flat devices. The truth is that is starts to feel uncomfortable to hold after a while since the device is so big and heavy.
When it comes to the interface one might expect it to bring news when comparing it to that of the G2, the fact is that most of the features work better on the G Flex than on the G2.
The biggest disappointment we find in this device is the image quality which is very poor taking into consideration what is expected from a flagship nowadays. The ghost images that stick to the screen after you change it are even worse.
Its high price is another factor that will probably steer customers away from the G Flex taking into account its specifications and flaws.