Hands-on: LG G Flex review

The LG G Flex is the company's first curved-display device, capturing an emerging trend that's only really seen one rival, in Samsung's Galaxy Round. Launched in Korea in October, EE has confirmed that it will be selling the G Flex in the UK.

We caught up with with the curvy handset, setting down roots in the UK for the first time. Although EE will be showing the device off at various stores around the country before Christmas, it isn't due to go on sale until February 2014.

A glance at the spec sheet of the G Flex tells two stories. One is that there's a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset at the heart, along with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. There's a huge 3500mAh battery, the 13-megapixel rear camera and bags of connectivity, with LTE, Bluetooth 4 and everything else. All high-end stuff.

Then there's a 6-inch display, which has a resolution of 1280 x 720, a strictly mid-range resolution. It's a curved P-OLED (plastic OLED) display that uses plastics where other displays have glass, which allows it to be flexible and take the curved form. The use of plastic means that the G Flex really does remain flexible. It's not going to be constantly changing shape, but you can place it down on a table and it doesn't break if you put something heavy on it, it just bends and bounces back to shape again.

The resolution might be a negative when put side-to-side with other phablets offering 1920 x 1080 pixels, but in reality, LG's display looks great. The curve matches that of the latest curved TVs, aiming to give you a more immersive viewing experience. It's punchy, it produces great colours and watching video, and we didn't feel like there was a downgraded experience as a result of the definition.

That may change once you fire up your favourite Full HD movie, or in getting to grips with some of the more advanced Android games.

There has always been a lot of hyperbole in smartphone design about natural curves, or human design language. LG is saying the same things about the G Flex, that it will sit in your hand better; that it fits your face better.

These things are true. Hold the G Flex to your face to make a call and that curve wraps around you in a way that something like the HTC One max doesn't. That perhaps avoid the worst of the Dom Joly massive phone jokes, and makes for a more natural calling experience.

It also sits nicely in the hand and the tactile feeling of the self-healing back is nice and grippy, so it feels secure, again, something that larger format devices sometimes struggle with. That makes the LG G Flex something of a triumph in solving some of the big-phone-on-the-go problems. But it introduces some problems of its own.

The curve of the back means that the G Flex is a little like a rocking horse when you put it flat on the table. It's the same problem that the curved back of the HTC One max presented. If you poke your device, perhaps to browse email when it's on a table, it will rock around.

READ: HTC One max review

This isn't something that happens on the Note 3 or the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, because of the flatter designs. There's no real win-win solution, it's just an accepted byproduct of the device's design and whether that's a problem for you will come down to how you predominantly want to use your device.

Overwhelmingly, the LG G Flex feels like a device that's been designed to use on the move, the phablet of the commuting classes. Slip it into your pocket and it doesn't feel uncomfortable or wrong, any more so than other devices with huge displays, and the flexibility means that if you sit on it, it isn't going to crack.

The LG G Flex offers a lot of smart software additions on top of Android 4.2.2. Many we saw on the excellent LG G2, but here there's a nod to those wanting to make better use of the display size - something that HTC notably failed to do with the One max, and Samsung has been very good at doing with the Note family.

Our favourite is the split-screen function. You can dump a map to follow in one half while you read your favourite website in the bottom. You can move the divide so you can see as much as you want of each app and swap them over at the press of a button.

There's also the option to use a three-finger swipe off the side of the device to stack up apps you're using. It makes it really easy to switch from one to the other and having a clipboard that offers more than just one selection is a real benefit for multitaskers.

And there's a neat gesture to unlock the G Flex and head straight to your media. Gripping the phone at both ends in landscape, you can swipe from the centre with both thumbs - a little like drawing back curtains - and you enter QTheater with photos, video and YouTube ready for your entertainment.

Like the LG G2, there are controls on the rear of the G Flex. You'll find the standby button and volume controls here, and just like the G2, some will complain about this, but we don't really have a problem with it.

The standby button is smart, however, because the entire thing is now illuminated and you can assign colours to different alerts, as well as indicating when faces have been detected when using the rear camera: perfect for when you're taking a selfie using the camera on the back - in combination with the "cheese shutter" perhaps - rather than the front.

Unfortunately our time with the LG G Flex was limited, so we can't bring you an exhaustive and evaluative review just yet. But there's certainly something exciting about this handset. Some will say that the only reason for the curve is that LG wants to demonstrate what can be done. Perhaps that's true, and perhaps the real excitement is for where this can go in the future.

With 2014 just around the corner and a new generation of devices to come, the encouraging thing is that LG has incorporated features that take advantage of the size of the G Flex and those can easily be transferred to other large devices.

We'll be bringing you a full review of the LG G Flex when it launches in the UK in February, but our initial impression is that it isn't just a gimmick and we actually quite like it.

If you're keen to see the LG G Flex yourself, it will be on show in EE stores from 20 December in the following locations: Westfield Stratford, Westfield White City, London Oxford Street, Bluewater Kent, Nottingham Clumber Street, Trafford Centre Manchester, Brighton Western Road, Cambridge Lions Yard, Merryhill Centre and Sheffield's Meadowhall Centre.



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