Hands on with LG’s curved G Flex Smartphone at CES 2014

LG’s new G Flex is one of the first smartphones to rock a curved screen, beating the ever-so-eager Samsung to the punch. It should be interesting to compare it with Samsung’s Galaxy Round, which will also have a curved screen, but with horizontal curvature (rather than vertical on the G Flex). This could be the birth of a new tech war; horizontal or vertical curvature?

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I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to the G Flex if it was just another phablet with a flat display, but the curved screen and design truly sets it apart. I thought the phone would be awkward and uncomfortable in my pocket because of its curved shape, but it felt like any other large device.

The device itself feels solid, and very comfortable to hold. It doesn’t feel like a phablet despite its large 6 inch screen. But don’t get me wrong, at 6.32 x 3.21 x 0.34 in (HWD), it’s big. For comparison, the already large Note 3 has a 5.7 inch screen, measuring 5.95 x 3.12 x 0.33 in (HWD). At 177g, it’s slightly heavier than the Note 3′s 168g, but I could barely tell the difference.

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The G Flex is actually flexible, but is still as solid as any premium flat phone. The only real way to flex the device is to place it screen down on a surface, and push on it with precarious force. An LG representative told me that the flexing prevents damage from pressure stress, such as sitting on it the wrong way.

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Curved screens might not bring many substantial benefits over a regular flat display, and might seem gimmicky, but there aren’t many disadvantages, if any. So why not? Videos, text, and websites actually looked better in landscape mode as the curve gives a little more depth and immersion than a flat screen does. You could say you have a mini curved screen TV in your pocket!

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LG used some design cues from its G2 flagship phone by putting the power and volume buttons on the back. Some like this, other don’t, it’s purely subjective. Also, the back’s polymer resin material “self-heals” against light scratches caused by pocket shrapnel, such as coins. But don’t get carried away with a knife, or even keys. An LG rep’s demonstration revealed that light scratches did indeed disappear when heat is applied. It takes under a minute to heal light scratches, depending on how much heat you apply, but again, don’t get carried away by putting it in an oven.

Pictures and videos don’t do justice to this phone, and it should be physically seen and held to make any final judgements. Luckily for LG, curved screens are novel and will get the G Flex lots of attention in any tech store. However, a purported off-contract price of $940 might be a deal breaker for most, and we’re still waiting for carrier contract pricing. Overall, the G Flex made a thoroughly positive impression, but pricing might keep it on the shelves.