Get bent! This phone curves and flexes, but after that ...?
LG calls it the world's first bendable flexible display. You can't look at the LG G Flex and not talk about the curve of the body, and once you learn that it actually does flex and give a little bit before breaking, you want to try it. Pushing and bending a phone is fun, because we've never been able to push and bend them before.
Are we ready for phones that bend, but not really bend? You can't fold it in half to slip it in a pocket, but it will likely be OK if you sit on it. It's not designed for be bendable, but designed not to break if it flexes. There's an important distinction that needs made here. Grabbing each end and trying to fold it in half will do little more than crack the glass if you have the strength in your hands. But pushing on the rear of the phone will cause it to flex and flatten out, hopefully saving the screen.
I've had one here for about a week, and it's time to let you know what I think of it and how it held up. I did more than bend and flex it. Read on for more.
Hands-on with the LG G Flex
The LG G Flex hardware
The three things that stand out about the G Flex are easy to see in the video above. First, it's big. It's sporting a 6-inch display, which puts it into the really damn big phone category with phones like the Galaxy Mega and HTC One Max. If you don't want a big phone, you don't want the G Flex.
If you have it in your back pocket and sit on it, it might flex enough to save the screen.
Next, you notice the screen. You can't help but notice, because it's six freakin' inches. The issue here is that it's only 720p in resolution. I say that because I'm supposed to say it, not because you can still buy a 42-inch TV that's 720p. I won't tell you that you won't notice the relatively low resolution on a relatively big screen. I notice it, pretty plainly. I'm just not sure I'm bothered by it. The G Flex's 245 ppi is a tighter grouping of pixels than Apple's 13-inch Retina MacBook, and everyone gushed over how great they were. Go to the AT&T store and pick one up. Visit our wallpaper gallery and see if the screen is good enough for your needs — don't let someone else tell you what you like.
Lastly, you see Phil bending it like Beckham right around 10 seconds in. Have a good look at what flexible or bendable means in this context. You can't make origami cranes from your G Flex, but if you have it in your back pocket and sit on it, it might flex enough to save the screen. This is good tech that we love to see. LG (and likely everyone else) needs to carry this one out to it's end point and build us all unbreakable phones.
After all the bendy talk, the G flex is still a smartphone and has smartphone parts. You'll find them all in pretty much the same place as they are on the G2 — which means they're mostly around back.
The Knock-On feature means you'll rarely have to use the back buttons.
You'll find the power button — which
doubles triples as a notification LED and an IR transmitter smack in the middle of the back, about two-thirds of the way up the phone. Above and below it are rocker switches for the volume — up is volume up and down is volume down. Don't freak out, they're not that bad once you get used to the placement. They also help make the bezels on the G Flex ultra-thin and sexy, so it's not just done for the sake of doing it. Folks with small hands might find the buttons a bit tough to reach with one hand, but the Knock-On feature means you'll rarely have to use them.
Embrace the back buttons. The more I use my G2, the more I like them. And if I were to use the G Flex daily, I think I would like them on the back even more.
LG G Flex specs
I'll post these for those who are into them. For the rest of us, the important spec is that the phone runs well doing anything and everything I ask it to do.
LG G Flex software
Again with the G2 references. And like the G2, LG has crammed a million and one things into the operating system, but have done enough optimization that they all seem to work as intended. Q Slide is there, as are other LG goodies like Knock On and Quick memo. You'll spend several days exploring all the tricks inside the G Flex, and still not cover it all.
But, again — it all works. This is impressive, even with the huge hardware inside. We've seen other phones struggle while using the same or better hardware, so we have to tip our hat to LG for providing features that work, even if you'll never use them.
The LG UI also has its own unique(ish) look and feel. That part leaves us less impressed, as it's a little colorful and cluttered. Here's where someone says "INSTALL A LAUNCHER", but that won't fix things like the settings menu or the status bar. You'll probably get used to it, maybe even learn to love it. Someone out there likes colorful and busy user interfaces, or phones using them wouldn't be selling. I just haven't met any of these people yet.
LG provides features that work, even if you'll never use them.
Of course, AT&T had to get in and molest the software as well. You'll find every single AT&T application ever built for Android installed (OK, maybe not every one), ready for you to never ever tap and open them. We're used to it by now — open, carriers are the customers, yadda-yadda — but it's still a little aggravating to see AT&T Navigator and AT&T Messaging baked in instead of available from Google Play where nobody has to download them. Disable what you can disable, hide the rest in a folder named "shit from AT&T" and never open it. Not much more you can do.
Daily use with the LG G Flex
I love it when this part of a review is easy to write, because that means the people making the phone did a good job and there aren't a mountain of bugs to wade through. The G Flex pretty much does everything a smartphone is supposed to do without a hitch. Calls are fine both ways, with no echo or extra noise. GPS and navigation work well, and even in the basement you'll get a lock on enough satellites to get your fine position. Wifi was no problem, tested on b/g/n and ac as well as mixed mode. Bluetooth — including BTLE — is solid. The Pebble works, a Fitbit works, and a headset works just fine.
Only you know if the G Flex is too big for your pocket, or your hands, or against your head.
Battery life was excellent, mostly because of the big 3500 mAh power pack inside. You'll get a day or more while using it hard, whether your definition of hard use if flapping birds or sending email. I actually got better battery life here that I did with the Note 3, which I'm thinking is because of the 720p screen. In any case, you'll be good with the battery life of the G Flex.
The only thing I didn't like was the size. That's subjective, and you may love it. Again, go to the AT&T (or T-Mobile or Sprint) store and pick one up. Only you know if the G Flex is too big for your pocket, or your hands, or against your head. What I take issue with may be a feature to you.
The LG G Flex camera
Just a quick hit here, because old man winter has thrown a wrench in my plans for the past week or so. The camera on the LG G2 was really good, and both Andrew and I think it's one of the best smartphone cameras you can get today. The camera on the G Flex, however, is not the camera on the G2 and lacks one very important feature — optical image stabilization
The UI might look similar, but the pictures are much more grainy, focusing isn't nearly as sharp, and color reproduction seems a little dull.
When If the ice ever melts I'll visit the camera a little more, but for now here's a few indoor shots to have a look at.
The bottom line
A big phone, that flexes a little, might be just what you were waiting for. That's cool, but for the most part I would say to pass on the G Flex. Other than the size, or the flexibility, it offers little else over the G2 for most consumers. The beefier battery is nice, but LG seems to have ironed out any early battery issues with the G2. Simply put, you can get the same phone in a slightly smaller, but much more premium feeling package, and save a few bucks while you're doing it.
A big phone, that flexes a little, might be just what you were waiting for.
Not that I hate anything about the G Flex. I love the idea that LG is investigating ways to make phones more durable when we try and abuse them, even if it gets marketed a little gimmicky. It's too big for me, but every taste is different. The screen is probably good enough, no matter what the Internet tries to tell you.
It's just that there's not much that the G2 doesn't already offer, in a better feeling package. Go to the AT&T store, and fondle both phones for a while. I know which one I would pick, but only you know which one you would pick.
If you do go with the G Flex, I think you'll love the performance and battery life, and get used to the buttons on the rear and the Knock-On feature quickly.