Most of the reviews of the LG G Flex have already gone up, but since the phone is slowly percolating out in the U.S., I thought I’d give it a full week of use to see just what the fuss was about. If you watched our Fly or Die, below, you’ll know that I’m excited by the phone but consider it a novelty, and it may be too pricey for most users. However, as a peek at things to come, it was quite fascinating. This week reinforced that opinion.
The phone, if you’ll recall, is a 6-inch phablet with a curved, 1,280 x 720 pixel OLED screen. It runs a 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 with Android 4.2.2 on board. It has an HD rear camera and no external storage.
This is not about how the phone performs. It works quite capably in most situations and offered amazing battery life – I saw three days of moderate use until I ran down the battery. While your results may vary – I didn’t use this as my primary email device, for example – the Flex’s huge 3,500mAh and low-power processor worked well together. While video watching will put a bit of a dent in the phone, I would still recommend this device on battery performance alone.
The real gimmick, however, is the curved screen. First, at six inches, this phone is comically large. While I understand the impetus to use devices like the Galaxy Note, I’ve never actually wanted to use one as an every day carry. Add in the curved screen and you’ve got a big problem.
First, understand that this screen is still very experimental and it is far from ideal. In short, the screen is noisy. The noise visible in this picture is no fluke.
This noise is consistent throughout and gives white UI elements the look of gray paper. If you have any need at all for a clear, readable screen, give this phone a pass. The plastic OLED is, of course, bendable but at what price?
The phone also has a self-healing plastic back which is supposed to smooth itself of scratches over time. The polymer essentially melts very slowly, reducing the visibility of scratches. While it won’t bounce back from a serious scratching – I took a bottle opener to one – all but the deepest scratches on the rear surface will eventually sort of “melt” out of view. This feature is obviously aimed at users who may not – or cannot – put this device in a case, and is reminiscent of a science fair project rather than a shipping product feature.
If you remove the slight curve of the phone you have just another LG flagship. However, I’m pleased to note that the processor and battery more than make up for the silliness (or, some would say, uniqueness) of the design. Given the right circumstances I could definitely see myself wanting a phone like the Flex if only for the potential for media consumption. This phone must be treated like a small tablet rather than a large phone. It’s hard to hold this pie plate-sized device up to your head and I’d definitely recommend a Bluetooth headset if you plan to make calls.
I was also pleased with the lack of bloatware on this phone and all of the apps I needed ran smoothly and without issues. Performance was good enough – it is a bit slower than the Galaxy Note 3 – but I would wager users won’t notice much difference between this device and the Note.
Should you pay a premium for this phone? T-Mobile has this phone for $28 a month for 24 months – $672 total – and about $300 on AT&T. Given that the retail price is over $600 we’re talking about a very expensive proposition for not much performance.
I’m excited to see what’s next for this technology, for LG, and for plastic OLED in general. It’s a fascinating technology. It’s also quite eye-catching. However, this is one of the first devices to feature a true, visible curve and, as exciting as that sounds, I’m just not sure this is what the average user is looking for in terms of performance or size.
That said, I’m glad LG tried this. It’s been a unique treat to carry something so odd and interesting, and form factor in this case adds troves of value to what would otherwise be a boring phablet from a second-tier handset maker.