updated 02:40 pm EST, Mon January 6, 2014
LG makes a smartphone with flexibility
As we pointed out in our review of LG's G2, the smartphone form factor appears to have largely matured, leaving manufacturers with little beyond tweaks here and there to differentiate their devices. With the G2, LG touted the selfie-centric rear button design as revolutionary, but we found it a bit puzzling and only occasionally useful. We got some time to look at the manufacturer's new G Flex smartphone, though, after LG's Press Day keynote at CES, and we're a bit more inclined to believe that this design tweak could have a bit more of an impact than a set of backwards buttons.
LG says the G Flex sis "curved to fit the user," and that's actually one bit of marketing speak that we're moved to believe. The G Flex's arc actually does allow for more intuitive handling in some cases than we're used to. The phone curves along a user's face in that ergonomic way that phones used to before we all switched to communicating on flat glass rectangles. It also conforms nicely to the hand in a way that we hadn't expected, again a lot more naturally than the flat devices we've all grown accustomed to.
As to the actual flex part, we were impressed by the give that's built into LG's handset. The G Flex does indeed flex, and attendants told us that its design will allow for users to sit down with the device in a back pocket without fearing for its safety. In our hands-on time, we smushed and flexed the Flex, and we were heartened by its apparent durability.
LG also included a software feature or two that takes advantage of that curve. The one attendants seemed proudest about was the phone's QuickTheater function. That feature allows users to wake the device quickly into an image and video gallery, simply by swiping outward with two thumbs from the locked screen's center. It works pretty well, but it seems to us as superfluous as most other tweaks manufacturers make to the Android platform. We can't imagine a situation where we so need to get to the video gallery right now that this would be a useful feature.
As to other design aspects, the G Flex retains the novel rear button design of the G2, meaning that that ergonomic curve culminates in a selfie-dedicated bump near the top o the phone. The rear buttons are underwhelming, but not really harmful in terms of overall feel for the device.
Performance-wise, the G Flex is as zippy as the G2 was, perhaps even more so. That six-inch screen looks beautiful, and LG assures us that its curvature will result in a better viewing experience. Suffice it to say, it looks quite good, but we're not sure if that's due to the curve or just the screen quality.
When LG and Samsung both announced curved screen devices, we were certain that both were just proof-of-concept handsets meant to herald the era of curving displays (read: smartwatches). Seeing the G Flex in person, though, has convinced us that LG may actually be looking to make this into a real thing. Couple that with the fact that they're launching the handset on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the first quarter of this year, and we're intrigued at their plans. We'll be looking to get more time with the device in the near future.