LG G Flex has a Curved, 6-Inch Display. Don't Bother.

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-02-17

LG G Flex has a Curved, 6-Inch Display. Don't Bother.

The LG G Flex smartphone is instantly distinctive, thanks to an OLED HD display that's 6 inches on the diagonal and curved, its top subtly curling in toward its bottom. But after a few days of living with the G Flex, I still can't figure out why anyone would need either of these things.

Even with them, the G Flex feels utterly—disappointingly—dime a dozen. It's just another overly large, slippery plastic-feeling Android phone running not even the most current version of the OS.

In so many ways, really, it feels like a Samsung device—big, plasticy, slippery and with boxes continually popping up to offer a user tips for taking advantage of features no one expects to exist. Even the sounds the device makes—unlocking it makes a swishing water and water drop sound—feel passé; Samsung from two years ago.

More bad news for LG is that Samsung, of course, also has a curved-display smartphone, though it curves in from side to side, instead of top to bottom, and hasn't yet officially arrived in the United States. The Samsung brand being what it is (the top-selling brand around the world), if the Galaxy Round, when it does arrive, is even just on par with the Galaxy S 4, there's little hope of LG finding traction with the G Flex.

Searching for Beauty

Every time I picked up the G Flex I thought: This time I'm going to get it right. I blamed myself for how scattered the home screens and interface felt. I just need to tidy them up better. I just need a better wallpaper. But then came the water sound—like a naked stranger stepping out of a bathtub an echo-rich bathroom—the ugly wallpapers (is a solid color too much to ask for?) and then all of those home screens. The last screen you were on is the screen you return to, instead of returning each time to the main screen, which felt off to me.

The whole of my G Flex experience was like being in a too-big model home with not-my-taste faux furnishings—un-cozy, un-homey, somehow inauthentic.

The G Flex moves around quickly enough, however, and the 6-inch display is nice for watching videos—though really, video is an immersive experience; watching video on a 4-inch iPhone 5S, I've never had the thought, I wish I had one more inch of display.

In most apps, though, the large display—and here it brought the BlackBerry Z30 to mind—feels stretched, the colors diluted.

The 13-megapixel rear camera left me with the same feeling—big, but not better. Taking the same photo (standing in the same spot, shooting the same thing) with the G Flex and an iPhone 5S, I found that more light came into the G Flex lens while I was trying to take the picture and so the experience of looking at an object and shooting it was nicer because I could see more. But the resulting photos from the iPhone were nearly always more detail-rich and color accurate. 

The shutter on the G Flex also isn't terribly fast, and so it's hard to grab a great, crisp photo.

Where the Big Screen Works

One feature I really did like was Dual Window.

LG G Flex Has a Curved, 6-Inch Display. Don't Bother.

Hold down the Back button, and the G Flex offers apps to choose from; tap two, and they open on a split screen that can be adjusted. Maybe a friend emails you a list of restaurant suggestions; you can read her email on the top or bottom of the display (it's easy to swap which goes on the top or bottom) while looking through the restaurants' Websites, for example.

It's a great use of the huge display.

Another great use would have been to pair it with a stylus. There's a QuickMemo app that can be used with a finger, but this isn't a great app. Trying to figure out how not to see my scrawled note of "salad greens, milk" over the top of Instagram, I was reminded of how Apple has taught us all that good tech design means an intuitive experience, versus forcing yourself to learn something. Even when I'd managed to turn it off—after first inadvertently drawing over more of the display—I wasn't sure, the first time, how I'd done it.

There's also the matter of LG continuing the design it started with the G2 and putting the G Flex's power and volume buttons on the back of the phone, to the same results. While in theory it's a fine idea—one's forefinger is positioned exactly in this area, for easy access—in practice, I was always pushing the wrong buttons and covering the camera glass with fingerprints. 

As for the curved display, LG says it's more curved to one's face, putting the microphone closer to one's mouth; but who really wants to hold such a big phone to her head? Just plug in the ear buds.

LG also says that the curve lifts the back speakers a bit off the table, for better sound quality. But if honestly great sound quality were a priority, why not copy HTC, which already figured that out, and put the speaker on the front?

While you may be keen to know that near-field communication (NFC), Mobile HotSpot functionality and a "self-healing" back cover that's near-impossible to scratch are among the G Flex's features, it feels moot to get any deeper into specifics, since the G Flex is, in my opinion, so off-putting and dull that it's not a phone one feels excited to sink into, explore and enjoy.  

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.

Rocket Fuel