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LG G Flex review: Futuristic smartphone, hefty price tag


LG G Flex review: Futuristic smartphone, hefty price tag

Top Features

1.Unique curved design
2.Decent camera
3.Good battery backup

Overall Rating: 3/5

Smartphone technology is evolving everyday. It has reached a stage where phones and tablets sport more powerful processors than PCs and laptops. Device makers introduce features with their flagships that may or may not be of use to end users. However, there have been very few experiments with the form factor of smartphones since the full-touch slab design became mainstream. Flexible materials have been showcased and prototyped, but the last few months have seen the first few commercially available devices that sport flexible materials including a flexible, curved display.

LG G Flex is the second phone after Samsung Galaxy Round to boast of this unique form factor. The phone features the curved from top to bottom and offers some amount of flexibility. While people were skeptical if the phone will make it to all markets, LG decided to launch it widely, though it comes at a steep price. Does the LG G Flex offer enough reasons to buy a curved smartphone? We try to find out in our review.



Build & Design
LG G Flex's unique design catches your eye the very first time you look at the phone. Instead of the conventional flat, slate-like design, the phone is curved at the back in a concave form, vertically (top to bottom). In addition to being curved, the phone can be flattened out to a limited extent by applying pressure when it lays on its front. LG has reduced the flexibility of the phone and it bends as long as the pressure is applied. Making the phone more flexible would have made it appear flimsy.

Putting a flexible display alone would not have made the phone flexible, so LG also had to make the phone's battery and other components flexible.

The phone is comparatively larger than most smartphones and some phablets in the market.

LG claims that the curved form factor makes it ergonomically better for use while talking. However, we feel that the large footprint negates this effect, especially if you have a petite face. We didn't notice any major difference while using the phone for calls. Having said that, the sound output stays consistent and doesn't get muffled even when the phone lies at its back due to the curved design.

The front is dominated by a 6-inch OLED display with a 2.1MP camera and the sensor array placed just above the display. The right edge is barren while the left edge features the micro sim card tray.

The back reminded us of the LG G2 as it features the volume rocker and power keys, just below the 13MP camera lens and LED flash. We're not fans of LG's placement of these keys ,but it does make sense on the G Flex due to its bigger size.

However, the materials used on the G Flex give a special ability to repair minor scratches inflicted on it. While it looks like it's made of glossy plastic, it also comes with a 'self-healing' coating that allows the phone to repair itself. In our tests, we discovered that it doesn't repair all types of minor scratches. Some scratches made by keys and coins did not disappear while others did. You may not need a case to protect it, but you still need to be careful if you're someone who dreads scratches at your phone's back.

The build of LG G Flex is a refreshing change from the usual but apart from a few, we don't see many advantages of its curved form factor.



Display
LG G Flex sports a 6-inch plastic OLED flexible display with a 720p resolution. The resolution seem to be a little underwhelming for a large screen phone, but in everyday use we did not notice a big difference. The display offers vibrant colours, excellent viewing angles and high brightness levels. Text and images look sharp and crisp (though not as sharp as a 1080p display) and watching videos made for a pleasurable experience. While the display is not as flexible as it would have been before being attached to the phone, the curved form factor makes viewing angles better as the screen is at an equal distance from the eyes at all points. Sunlight legibility was also good.

LG includes a special Gallery app that utilizes the curved display and allows you to browse videos and photos. It also includes lock-screen wallpapers that take advantage of the screen and produce a parallax effect when you slightly tilt the phone. Unfortunately, we found these feature to be gimmicky and still don't see a use case for the curved screen. Perhaps, future iterations of the phone will give us more reasons.

LG G Flex doesn't include Gorilla Glass protection, a standard feature found in all flagship smartphones that makes their display resistant to scratches and minor bumps.

Camera
LG G Flex sports a 13MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera. The camera modules are similar to that of the LG G2 except that the G Flex doesn't include Optical Image Stabilization or OIS which means that the phone is more sensitive to shakes while taking photos. It also affects the phone's ability to capture pictures in low-light conditions.



The phone includes the same app that we've seen on the LG G2. It offers different modes and controls for granular settings. G Flex also adds a Face Tracking mode that is capable of detecting faces and alerting you when it detects a face through the LED notification light integrated with the phone's power button, helping you take better selfies. In our use, the feature worked as promised.

LG G Flex takes good quality pictures in the daylight delivering good level of detail, accurate colour reproduction and satisfactory contrast. The G Flex camera takes decent low-light shots but zoom in to 100% and you'll see details missing and some noise.

The front camera takes good quality selfies and offers a great video chat experience.



The phone is capable of recording 1080p video and we were satisfied with the quality of audio and video captured through it.

User interface
LG G Flex runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which was a bit disappointing as new phones are shipping with Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest iteration of the OS at this time.

The interface is similar to LG G2 with Optimus UI layer masking Android and enabling customization. The phone features the same bells and whistles that we've seen in the G2, including support for gestures, sensors that keep the screen on or pause videos depending on whether you're looking at the phone and multitasking features that allow you to move between three open apps or run two apps simultaneously. All these features work as promised but we're not sure if you'll use them on a regular basis in the long run. However, there are a number of customization options including themes, the ability to create your own icons and even change the skin of navigation buttons.

The phone also comes with KnockOn, LG's version of double tap to unlock and lock the phone, and Guest Mode for offering select apps to friends or kids when they wish to use your phone.

LG G Flex includes its own voice assistant in addition to Google Now. It was able to understand our accent and was handy for tasks like launching apps, setting a reminder and checking the weather.

For single-handed operation, the phone's keyboard and dial keypad can be aligned towards the right or left sides.

LG G Flex also offers a Quick Remote app to be used with the phone's Infrared Blaster. It enables the phone to act as a universal remote to control audio, video, DTH receiver and home appliances. We found it easy to configure the app and use the phone as a remote.

As we mentioned earlier, the phone includes a special Gallery app called Q Theatre that lets you browse photos, videos and YouTube in an interface that takes advantage of the curved display.

Overall, LG's UI skin is deeply integrated with the phone with all native utility apps looking different from stock Android ones, so purists will be disappointed.

Performance
LG G Flex is powered by a 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor coupled with Adreno 330 graphics and 2GB RAM. We did not notice any lag whatsoever while navigating through the phone's menu, launching apps and switching between them.

In synthetic benchmarks, the phone scored 34,540 in Antutu, 19,997 in Quadrant and 60 in Nenamark 2 tests.

The phone offers 32GB internal storage. Unfortunately, you can't expand the storage as the phone doesn't come with a memory card slot. It offers NFC, Bluetooth, WiFi and GPS connectivity options.



LG G Flex offers excellent call quality and signal reception and we did not encounter issues while making calls even in areas where cell signal is relatively weaker. The phone was able to lock to GPS without any issues. It also offers FM radio.

The external speaker on the phone offers loud sound output.

LG G Flex is backed by a 3500mAh battery (non-removable) and will last you a day and a half even if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and use 3G data all the time. You'll be able to make about 2-3 hours of phone calls, play some casual games and browse the web in this time period. The phone can play video continuously for 8 to 9 hours.

Gaming
We were able to play games like Temple Run 2, Riptide GP2 and Asphalt 8(with Visual Quality set to High and Engine at 100%) without encountering any frame drops or freezes.

Verdict
At a price of nearly Rs 70,000, it is difficult to recommend LG G Flex over other top-of-the-line premium smartphones. The only novelty that the phone offers is its curved display. However, we feel it's still not ready for prime time as LG is not able to offer any significant use case for it. The self-healing back also has its limitations.



Most of the features of the phone are offered by LG's own flagship smartphone, G2, which is available at a much lower price. It offers the same level of performance, as well.

Having said that, G Flex, is an amazing piece of engineering and we'll have to credit LG for bringing this innovation to the Indian market. We are looking forward to the phone's next iteration to see how it evolves in terms of hardware, features and applications centred around the curved display.
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