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LG G Flex phone has stylish curves, but what’s the point?
Tech » A good Android phone with all the features, but also a curved screen that adds nothing.
First Published Feb 13 2014 07:44 am • Last Updated Feb 15 2014 06:54 pm

Sometimes a technological advancement is made and the people who created it have no idea what to do with it.

That may be the case with new flexible LCD display screens. For years, engineers have been perfecting LCD screens that can bend and roll, which they believe might be useful in a number of applications. Samsung and LG, for example, introduced last month at the annual Consumer Electronics Show gigantic TVs that at the push of a button can go from flat to slightly curved. Why they would do that, I don’t have a clue.

At a glance

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LG G Flex

Price » $299 with two-year contract.

Screen » Curved 6-inch screen, 1,280 by 720 pixels.

Processor » Quad-core 2.26 GHz processor.

Software » Android “Jellybean” version 4.2.2.

Camera » 13-megapixel processor, LED flash.

Wireless » Dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth version 4.0

Availability » For AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

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One of the first consumer products to actually go to market with a flexible screen is the LG G Flex, a massive smartphone with a 6-inch screen that will immediately catch your attention — mostly because unlike flat phones, this one is slightly curved from top to bottom. Why it is or what advantage it has over other flat-display phones, again, I don’t have a clue.

The LG G Flex is an Android-based phoned that is really more of a "phablet" — part phone, part tablet — because of its massive size in the hand. Like the new generation of phones including the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, you’re going to feel its shape in your front pocket (and you better get used to the "Is-that-a-phone-in-your-pocket" jokes). Don’t expect to go unnoticed when using this phone against your ear either. It’s like talking into a paperback book.

But again, the screen, and consequently, the phone’s case itself, are curved, which means it does slightly wrap around the side of your face when held up. You can somewhat feel that conformity, but the difference between it and a flat phone are almost negligible in terms of ergonomics.

Because the LG G Flex uses a flexible OLED (organic light-emiting diode) screen, its colors are bright and the saturation is good. But I found the screen’s brightness to be a little low by default and had to push the setting to 75 percent to get a bright-enough view, which would eat into the battery’s life more.

The biggest disappointment with the new screen is that it’s not as high resolution as it ought to be considering the large 6-inch display. The LG G Flex has a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels which means there are 245 pixels packed in every inch. The HTC One, by comparison with its 4.7-inch screen, has 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, or 469 pixels per inch, for a screen that is much higher-resolution. A mobile device with that big of a display has to have a much higher resolution than the LG G Flex to see better detail in photos and in fonts. Perhaps bumping up a flexible screen to that high of a resolution just would have been too expensive.

The Flex uses a quad-core processor that was speedy and sufficient for everything you would throw at the phone, from watching videos to playing the most intensive games. Scrolling up and down pages also was for the most part smooth, though not as silky as other Android-based phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5S. The life from the non-removable battery was good if not better than other Android phones I’ve reviewed, though it ought to be considering how big the phone is and therefore the battery inside. Call quality and the wireless Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity also were good. A disappointment was the phone’s sound, which emanated from one tiny speaker in the back. A phone that size should have two stereo speakers in the front like the HTC One, which is still the best-sounding smartphone to date. The phone also has the home button and volume buttons on the back and close to each other instead of on the front or sides. It was hard to feel for the right buttons if you wanted to go to the home screen or fiddle with the volume.

The phone has a 13-megapixel camera that was good, though not the best at capturing images and video (the best is still reserved for the iPhone 5S), but the software for photos and videos was much more feature-rich than the iPhone’s.

It may be called the LG G Flex, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to bounce off the floor if you drop it. The screen inside is itself flexible, but it’s still housed in a hard case, and its screen cover is still susceptible to cracking. LG claims that the phone can withstand a slight amount of pressure on the curve and then bend back into shape, but I was still afraid that it could suffer a stress facture or the screen would crack. Even though it’s curved and could conform to the shape of your rear (hence, we here at the office have dubbed the LG G Flex "The A** Phone"), I still wouldn’t dare put it in my back pocket for fear of breaking it in half.


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No, it feels like the flexible screen was added to this phone simply because LG — like all the other phone manufacturers — needed something new to add to its devices to keep them fresh. Only this is a feature that adds nothing.

vince@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ohmytech

Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi



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