LG has done quite well with its handsets recently. I was a big fan of the LG G2 and also rather liked the Optimus L7 II, a more budget offering that did a good job fitting into a low price bracket. We are back at the high-end with the much talked about LG G Flex – indeed, we are at the top of the high-end. As I write, online prices put this handset around the £650 mark. It's a lot of money for a phone and you won't find much that is more expensive. The memory-packing 64GB iPhone 5S is £100 more, but other flagship smartphones are less by at least £100. LG has set itself up for some criticism there.
There are two key selling points for the G Flex. Firstly, it has a curved design. If a curved screen isn't enough to stand out from the crowd, you can show off to your friends by bending it back to being flat. This requires a fair amount of oomph and the phone springs back to being curved as soon as you release the pressure – this phone isn't meant to be anything but curved. The other selling point is its self-healing back, which I'll get to later.
The curvature doesn't seem quite as great in real life as some of the images of this handset might lead you to imagine. But still, it is definitely there. LG says this curved shape follows the curvature of your face, reducing the gap between microphone and mouth when you talk, and that when you are using the G Flex in widescreen mode it works well for viewing movies and playing games.
Concerning the former claim I say, well, okay, that may be the case, but I am not sure it really makes a huge difference. Certainly nobody I called said there was any real noticeable difference over other handsets. On the latter front I can confirm that the slight screen curvature had neither a positive nor a negative effect on my enjoyment of watching videos or playing games. Your mileage on these points could, of course, vary; but I was left unmoved.
As a member of the phablet brigade the LG G Flex has a 6in screen. This means it is a big phone and it feels substantial in the hand. Somehow, and it must be something to do with the curved chassis, it feels thicker than its maximum thickness of 8.7mm suggests. The weight is substantial at 177 grams, as well. As with other phablets, this is not a handset for small jeans pockets.
The chassis is made from plastic, and the back has a smooth finish that doesn't help with grip. As I noted earlier, LG says the back is self-healing. This is true only up to a point. I gave the back of the chassis a light scratch with my keys and the mark did fade away. Within a couple of hours it was gone completely. But a deeper scratch I administered seems to be there for good – presumably there's a thin sort of "bouncy" layer that can pop back when depressed, but you can go beneath it and create permanent marks.
The LG G Flex borrows a key design cue from the G2 in putting the power and volume buttons on the back of the handset. I remember when working with the LG G2 that I found this took a bit of getting used to. I found this was also the case with the LG G Flex, though the ergonomics of having these buttons on the back is compelling here because of the G Flex's overall size.
There are two obvious ways of reaching the buttons one-handed. Holding the handset in one hand with my thumb on the screen and manipulating the volume buttons had the inevitable consequence that my thumb made screen selections I did not want. The other one-handed approach of grasping the edges of the G Flex and using my forefinger on the back buttons was more efficient. The buttons are nicely contoured, and just as with the LG G2 this means finding them when the handset is in your bag or (large) pocket is easy.
On those occasions when the G Flex is sitting on your desk and you can't be bothered to lift it to reach the back button, you can revive the screen with a double tap. Oddly I found the G Flex was slightly less responsive to double tapping than the G2.
For such an expensive phone it will irritate many people to learn that you can't add to the 32GB of built-in storage. This is reduced to 23.7GB by the installed apps. You might also be disappointed by the screen resolution. Yes, the screen measures 6in, but 1,280 x 720 pixels is not exactly leading edge and if you look for fuzziness and pixellation you will find both. The P-OLED technology is new, by the way, with an RGB rather than pentile panel. One result seems to be that the colours are not as "in your face" as AMOLED.
The 13-megapixel camera has a few interesting options like letting you shoot from it and the front camera at the same time to put yourself in the picture.
LG has skinned Android 4.2 and adds a range of tweaks which I've liked in the past. QSlide, which you can get to from the notifications bar, lets you pop up a range of apps on top of what you are already doing, and it's a great feature. There are some LG bundled apps too including a universal remote control called QuickRemote, QuickTheater for media playback, Tasks for to-do list management, and Notebook for making written and hand drawn notes. I love the tweak that offers an appropriate selection of apps when you plug headphones in.
Performance is as good as you'd expect from a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and a generous 2GB of RAM – but the star of the show is battery life. It is never easy to give a good estimate of how a phone will perform for everyone, because we all use our handsets differently. But I'd say you might eke two days between charges, and a day's life should be within the grasp of all but the most demanding users. Charging is very quick too.
The LG G Flex seems to be a lot more about showing off what can be done, rather than actually producing a compelling handset that lots of people will want to buy. If you like the way LG tweaks Android and the design feature of having volume and power buttons on the back, then take a look at the LG G2, which has a higher screen resolution and a lower price.
Manufacturer and Model
LG G Flex
2.26GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
6in, 1,280 x 720 pixels
81.6 x 8.7 x 160.5mm (WxDxH)