Durable curved design; Colorful display; Very long battery life; Swift performance; Good multitasking features
Poor audio; Unnatural Rear Key placement; Display not as sharp as other flagships; Pricey
The LG G Flex's attention-grabbing curved display and self-healing design make it stand out, but the long battery life is our favorite feature.
Who says curved displays are only for TVs? With its G Flex smartphone, LG wants to put rounded displays right in the palm of your hand. The handset features a 6-inch 720p screen that's curved along its horizontal axis, which LG says can boost viewing angles while making the phone more comfortable to hold. The G Flex also sports a "self-healing" polymer back panel capable of resisting scratches and scrapes. T-Mobile is selling the G Flex for $28 per month for 24 months, which is slightly cheaper than the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 ($29 per month). But is the G Flex's curvy design worth the price?
Unlike most smartphones, the crescent-shaped LG G Flex is curved along its horizontal axis, meaning its top and bottom edges rise up just a bit. The curved design is also meant to follow the contour of your face as you hold during a call, but the Flex is still quite a large phablet to handle.
As its name implies, LG's curved phone can actually flex. With the phone lying on its face, we applied pressure to its back, and were able to push it flat against a table. In fact, LG says it applied 80 pounds of weight to the G Flex during testing to ensure that it won't crack under pressure. This means you can sit comfortably with the phone in your back pocket without damaging it.LG G2, the G Flex's power button and volume buttons are mounted on its back, meaning you'll have to slide your finger to the center of the rear panel to turn the display on or off. In most cases this feels awkward, but the Flex's rounded design makes it a better implementation of the technology than the G2's linear body. This Rear Key form factor also means the G Flex's face and sides are completely buttonless.
Measuring 6.3 x 3.2 x 0.31-0.34 inches and weighing 6.2 ounces, the plastic LG G Flex is smaller and lighter than the partially aluminum built HTC One Max (6.5 x 3.2 x 0.41, 7.7 ounces) but heavier and thicker than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (5.9 x 3.1 x 0.3 inches and 5.9 ounces).
The G Flex could be the Wolverine of smartphones, thanks to its so-called "self- healing" capabilities. The back of the phone uses a resin coating commonly found on cars to fend off scratches. LG claims that this layer is durable enough to ensure scrapes from objects such as keys and wire brushes, although the phone is only meant to withstand minor injuries that result from jiggling around in your purse or pocket. Serious scratches can breach the G Flex's substructure.
LG says that the process can depend on the phone's surrounding temperature, so the warmer the environment the faster it gets rid of scrapes.
When we scraped the back lightly with a penny, the minor scratches faded away within a few seconds. However, when we created three slightly deeper incisions with a key, the scratches remained unhealed after three days.
This was especially apparent when watching a trailer for "The Avengers," as images had more of a yellow cast on the Note 3. The G Flex, by comparison, displayed colors that seemed more true to life. When we viewed the same Web page on both devices, the white background behind an article was a pure white on the G Flex, but looked more yellow on the Note 3. Still, the Note 3 was able to display more lines of text than the G Flex when in portrait mode.
The G Flex's display is also among the brightest at 467 lux, which breezes past the 323 lux smartphone category average. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 reached a retina-searing 539 lux and the HTC One Max registered at 441 lux during our light meter reading.
If you're not a fan of LG's Rear Key controls, the manufacturer does offer another option for waking up its display. KnockOn, which was introduced with the G2 last year, lets you turn on the display by simply tapping on it. The feature can come in handy when you want to check your phone without picking it up off your desk, but pressing the back-mounted button is usually faster.
During the LAPT Audio Test, the curved handset reached 79 decibels at its maximum volume, which is below the 80-decibel smartphone category average and the 83-decibel HTC One Max. The G Flex still rang louder than the 70-decibel Samsung Galaxy Note 3, however.
LG graced the Flex a slightly altered lock screen to fit its curved display. The Swing Lock Screen changes scenery depending on how you hold it. For example, if you tilt the screen downward, an outdoor scene will pan lower to show the ocean. As you tilt up, it'll show the sun and the sky.
Dragging down from the top reveals LG's Notifications menu and Settings shortcut. At the top of this screen are 16 shortcuts to settings such as Quick Memo, QSlide, Vibrate, QuickRemote, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPC and NFC. LG also lists the 10 apps that are compatible with its QSlide floating apps feature, which include Videos, Browser, Phone, Messaging and Calendar. There's also a slider for quickly adjusting the phone's display brightness and ringtone, and just below this is your list of recently received notifications.
While this screen offers plenty of useful utilities and shortcuts, its busy layout makes it easy to miss notifications.
QSlide and Slide Aside
If floating apps isn't your style, you can use the G Flex's Dual Window feature, which is similar to Samsung's Multi Window mode. Long-pressing the G Flex's back button will pull up a menu of 13 apps that are compatible with Dual Window, which include Google Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Maps and Messaging. Tapping or dragging one of these apps will place it in the top or bottom half of the screen. Dual Window does exactly what its name implies--it splits the G Flex's screen in half between two apps. This is different from the QSlide feature, which lets you drag and drop apps in different windows around the screen. You can also resize these apps in Dual Window mode by dragging the bar in the middle of the screen up or down.
Unfortunately, LG's Dual Window doesn't support social apps like Samsung's Multi Window mode does. This means you can't browse tweets in one window while combing through your emails in another unless you navigate to Twitter's mobile website in the browser.
Those who share their phones with children or spouses will benefit from the G Flex's Guest Mode. Another feature ported from the G2, Guest Mode creates a separate interface for others using your device that's protected by its own unlock pattern. This means you can handpick apps that others will have access to. For instance, if you don't want your child perusing the Google Play Store or combing through your Gmail messages or texts, you can leave these apps out of your selections for Guest Mode.
Web Browsing and LTE
On average, it took a somewhat sluggish 8.7 seconds to load webpages, with speeds fluctuating between a speedy 3.9 seconds for LaptopMag.com to a lengthy 15.1 seconds for Yahoo.com.
The G Flex held its own in synthetic benchmark tests as well. In GeekBench3, a test that measures multicore processor performance, the handset scored 2,209, beating the smartphone category average of 1,683 by a significant margin. By comparison, the 1.7-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600-powered HTC One Max scored 1,902, but the Galaxy Note 3 (2.3-Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800) scored a higher 2,983.
The case was the same with Quadrant, which is a benchmark that tests a device's CPU, I/O and 3D graphics. The G Flex scored a roaring 22,590, which blows past the 8,544 smartphone category average and the HTC One Max (11,981). The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 came close to the G Flex with a score of 22,383.
LG's G Flex transcoded a video from 1080p to 480p in 6 minutes and 37 seconds using Vidtrim, which is faster than the average smartphone (8:09). Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 performed the same task more than a minute faster (5:15), but the G Flex still outpaced the HTC One Max (7:33).
However, T-Mobile cluttered the phone with its own apps that don't add very much to the overall experience. Other carriers such as Verizon tuck these apps into a folder, but T-Mobile's apps are strewn across the G Flex's main home screen by default. The T-Mobile My Account app presents your account information, device support and data usage in tidy dashboard, but other apps such as T-Mobile Visual Voicemail, T-Mobile TV, T-Mobile Name ID and Mobile Hotspot make the home screen too busy.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
Camera and Camcorder
The LG G Flex's 13-megapixel camera produces sharp and colorful images, but it's not best in class. When we shot photos of the Empire State Building with the iPhone 5s, LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Note 3, details looked sharper in the G Flex's image than the one taken with the iPhone 5s' 8-megapixel camera. Still, we preferred the vibrant colors in the iPhone 5s and Galaxy Note 3's shots.
The G Flex has no shortage of camera modes, from its dual camera feature that lets you shoot with both front and rear cameras to its Time Catch capabilities. This feature lets you retrieve five stills from before you hit the shutter button, making it easier to capture the moment you were going for. Shot & Clear removes photobombers and unwanted intruders from your photos, similar to Samsung's Eraser Mode.
LG can shoot video just as well as it captures stills. The outlines of cars and buildings in our 1080 video from a New York street corner looked crisp and sharp. However, we feel the Galaxy Note 3's camera renders brighter colors than the G Flex's.
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T-Mobile offers buyers two options for purchasing the G Flex. You can either pay $28 per month over the course of two years, or pay the full retail price of $672 up front. If you opt for the monthly payment plan and cancel your service before the two years is up, you'll have to pay off the balance. The Galaxy Note 3 is available through T-Mobile for $29.50 per month for two years, or $708 for the full retail price.
If you go for the $70 unlimited data plan through T-Mobile, you'll be paying $98 per month, including the $28 cost of the device. Over two years this amounts to $2,352. While the Sprint version of the G Flex costs $299 upfront, a two-year unlimited data contract costs $110 per month, so you'd end up spending $2,939 over the same timeframe. A 4GB data plan on AT&T would also cost the same amount as Sprint over two years.
Overall, we prefer the Galaxy Note 3 because of its lighter design, better software and pen integration. But if you want epic endurance and snappy performance in an innovative package, the G Flex is a strong choice.
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|Phone Display Size||6|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.2.2|
|CPU||2.26-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU|
|Memory Expansion Type|
|Display (main)||6-inch 1280 x 720 POLED display|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||2.1MP|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||6.3 x 3.2 x 0.31 - 0.34 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|