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Summary:

Companies are racing to create curved smartphones as LG’s G Flex was announced over the weekend. It’s the first “real” curved smartphone, says LG; a clear shot at Samsung. Is this helping end users or is it really a thumb-wrestling match between the two?

LG G Flex curved
photo: LG

Over the weekend, LG introduced the G Flex, calling it the world’s first “real” curved smartphone. That’s a bold claim given that Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus display had a small curvature and Samsung recently announced the Galaxy Round, which clearly uses a curved display, albeit not in the way you’d expect. It doesn’t matter who was first, though; such claims are becoming more about companies yelling “FIRST!” and less about improved user experiences.

LG G Flex

LG would suggest otherwise, however. Here’s a blurb from the G Flex press release to illustrate:

“The vertically curved design of the LG G Flex reduces the distance between one’s mouth to the microphone when the device is held against the ear, as traditional telephone handsets used to. The LG G Flex employs a curvature arc that is optimized for the average face, to deliver improved voice and sound quality. The curved form increases the sound level by 3dB compared to typical flat smartphones. The curved design also offers a more reassuring grip and fits more comfortably in one’s back pocket. What’s more, in landscape mode, the display offers an IMAX-like experience, with the result being the most comfortable viewing angle for watching videos or playing games. “

Whoa: Calls will sound slightly louder and the phone conforms to my buttocks while also letting me imagine I’m in an IMAX movie theater enjoying an immersive video on a 6-inch screen!

Excuse my cynicism if you will: Normally, I’m open-minded about trying new features and functions in mobile products. The race to create a curved phone is bit silly, though. If it adds value, I’m all for it. I’m just not sold on the concept when some of the new user interactions appear to be added simply because the device is curved.

The G Flex, for example, has function that “alters the image on the lockscreen depending on how the G Flex is held.” It seems more like a way to showcase the fact that LG can create a curved display rather than a highly desired end-user feature. Samsung’s Roll Effect on the Galaxy Round is much the same: A way to view notifications by rocking the phone on its back: More gimmicky than revolutionary.

Having said that, the G Flex internals are solid: A fast 2.26 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2 GB of memory, 32 GB of storage, a large 3,500 mAh battery, 13 megapixel camera and all of the expected connectivity options. The handset is big as that curved display measures a full six inches — that’s larger than my back pocket, LG — with 1280 x 720 resolution. It also runs Android 4.2.2. And the back cover has self-healing properties that “recover from the daily wear-and-tear scratches and nicks that un-cased smartphones are likely to receive.”

LG says the G Flex launches in Korea next month and that availability in other countries will be announced later. I suspect very few additional markets will be announced because the G Flex sounds more like a science experience or concept device to prove that the company can compete in the race for curved display technology.

Sadly, I don’t think many consumers will be lined up along the sidelines to see who wins.

  1. Be a great back pocket phone for Kim Kardashian, other than that…….. meh.

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    1. Or if I ever enhance my flat behind with implants. ;)

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  2. The curvature of this particular phone isn’t that interesting but the screen itself is. I think this is built on flexible plastic substrate rather than glass. If that’s the case I will be particularly interested to see how the reviews come in about screen quality.
    Curved screens might be ‘meh’. But lighter and much less likely to break screens – now that is an advancement if they as good as traditional screens.

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  3. If you are cynical about the technology behind flexible OLEDs, perhaps you shouldn’t be a technology writer.

    Flexible OLEDs are fantastic. They will solve an epidemic of waste with shattered screens, whilst making phones cheaper and more vibrant.

    The complex glass sandwiches known as LCDs have come a long way, reaching their pinnacle with latest and greatest IPS Retina displays. However, this technology has reached its final chapter.

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