The onset of spring means a cavalcade of new products in the tech world, especially in phones. In that vein, over the next few days I’ll be taking a look at several of the season’s hottest releases, starting with perhaps the most unique entry: LG’s G Flex curved smartphone.
The Flex features a six-inch curved plastic OLED display, as well as a curved battery to go with it. The idea is to provide a more ergonomic experience that contours to the shape of its user’s head. The curved display is also supposed to provide a better media viewing experience, akin to the slightly concave screens in movie theatres.
The cynically minded might be quick to write this off as a gimmick, and in this case they’d be right. After testing the Flex out for a few days, I couldn’t really see the point of the curve. In fact, it’s also likely responsible for the phone’s biggest problem: poor screen resolution.
At a resolution of 1280 x 720 and 225 pixels per inch, the Flex doesn’t have the full high-definition screen of some of its “phablet” competitors, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3. It’s actually quite noticeable, with the icons and backgrounds appearing grainy. This is pretty much a deal breaker for me – if you’re going to go for such a giant display, it had better be a nice one.
The lower resolution is likely either the result of the curve itself, or LG trying to keep the price down in order to pack in the advanced technology that makes the curve possible in the first place. Even still, it’s not exactly a cheap phone, running $649 upfront or $199 on a two-year contract exclusively through Rogers. Ultimately, the tradeoff isn’t worth it.
Despite the marketing behind the phone, the curve doesn’t enhance the video-watching experience. While the science has been proven with the giant displays in theatres, the jury is still out on whether it makes a difference with the sorts of curved televisions that manufacturers have recently been introducing, and doubly so with even smaller screens.
The Flex’s curve also doesn’t add any obvious sound-quality improvements to phone calls, which means the only thing it’s good for is party tricks – you can flatten the phone by pushing down on it (hence it’s “flex” name), but trust me, that gets old quickly.
Otherwise, the device itself is decent enough. The battery life is particularly good, with the Flex holding a full-day charge easily even with moderate usage. That’s somewhat impressive given its giant screen, but the lower resolution again probably provides some power savings.
One feature I like is the one-handed mode, which is particularly useful for such a big device. When switched on, keyboards and number pads shift over slightly to the right or left of the screen depending on preference, so you don’t have to strain your fingers reaching all the way across.
I also like the fact that the Flex can shoot ultra-high-definition videos with its main 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, although again that’s not a benefit that you can even get close to enjoying on the phone itself thanks to its lower-resolution screen.
All told, the G Flex is probably best suited for those phone buyers who want a conversation piece. It certainly stands out from the rest, but it’s not the best in its class by any flex of the imagination.