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LG G Flex sports contoured HD display and 'self-healing' rear finish (hands-on)

Not only does the G Flex sport a Snapdragon 800 processor and 13-megapixel camera, but it also features a bowed 6-inch HD display.

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Earlier this month in Korea, LG launched the G Flex, a quad-core smartphone that features an arched touch screen and rear control buttons. The device was announced after LG revealed it had successfully developed curved smartphone batteries. CNET has confirmed it'll be available in the US next year, but official carrier info has not yet been released. (You can purchase it unlocked, however, over at Negri Electronics). As for rumored carriers, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all been speculated that they plan on carrying the G Flex.

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Design
So, what does a big, curved phone like the G Flex actually feel like? CNET's Scott Stein had a chance to play with one while demonstrating the device on "CBS This Morning," and the best way to describe it is: subtle.

The curve is not immense; it's more like a continuous, gentle bend. It actually seemed to make the otherwise large 6-inch OLED display a little easier to manage. The thin, curving form served to minimize the extra-wide flatness that normally would follow a phone this size. It hugs the face nicely, and LG claims the curvature helps amplify audio in and out when making calls.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Round, the curve goes top-to-bottom. That may not hug a leg as well, but it actually matches the shape of a wallet held in your pants for a while (as CBS' John Miller was quick to demonstrate).

LG G Flex (front)

The G Flex is equipped with a 6-inch curved OLED screen.

Scott Stein/CNET

The curve also worked particularly well for videos: the HD display has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution and seemed particularly clear and glare-free, which matches what CNET TV editor David Katzmaier says holds true for larger curved-display OLED televisions.

Weirdly, the Flex does not indeed flex; an LG rep encouraged us to try, and we pressed the device down on the table face-first, against every instinct not to. It held up against the pressure, and is meant to survive being sat on. How this holds up over time is anyone's guess.

The rear finish, which LG says is "self-healing," is derived from paint finishes in the automotive industry. Hydrogen in the finish is involved in the surface expanding over time after being scratched, sealing up any damage. Stay tuned for more testing when we finally get a device; we weren't able to test this out in our limited time with the unit.

Key components and software features
The handset includes an aforementioned contoured battery. According to LG, the 3,500mAh battery uses patented technology that takes advantage of its unique shape to perform more reliably.

Powering the device is a 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor (the same blazing fast CPU that's seen in the Nexus 5 and the LG G2 flagship) and a 450MHz Adreno 330 GPU for ultrasmooth gameplay.

For shutterbugs, the phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. It runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and is LTE-enabled.

Other features include 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and NFC.

Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex

The horizontally curved Samsung Galaxy Round (left) and the vertically bowed G Flex.

Scott Stein/CNET

As previously mentioned, the G Flex houses its key control buttons on its back, just like the G2. As such, it will feature the KnockOn functionality, which allows you to wake up the handset by tapping on the touch screen twice.

Additional new features to LG's Optimus 3.0 user interface include Q Theater. This lets you view photos and videos directly from the lock screen. There's also an urgent call alert, which flashes the LED notification light when you miss several calls in a row from the same number, and swing lock screen, which changes the lock screen image depending on how you hold the phone.

Outlook
Though contoured handsets have been around for years, the design has never reached mass appeal. Now with Samsung and LG both releasing new curved smartphones, however, it looks like a renewed interest is reemerging. In and of itself, the G Flex sports impressive specs regardless of the curved screen. Though, the idea of a quad-core handset with a 13-megapixel camera surviving a hardy squat is intriguing. We won't know its full potential until we get our hands on it here, but until then, what do you guys think? Is the idea of a curved handset useful or just a gimmick?

Where to Buy

LG G Flex

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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