AT&T takes a flier with the curvy LG G Flex, Padfone X

The carrier continues to bulk up one of the more diverse smartphone lineups in the industry, underscoring its willingness to take a risk on unique devices.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
3 min read
Watch this: LG G Flex flexes its bendy 6-inch screen

LAS VEGAS -- AT&T continues to take chances on intriguing devices.

The latest is LG's G Flex, which made headlines for its curved, slightly bendable design and self-healing back cover. The company later announced the Asus Padfone X.

AT&T would only say the G Flex would come in the first quarter. The company said pricing and more detailed availability would come at a later time. LG, meanwhile, said separately that the G Flex would also come to Sprint and T-Mobile, but not Verizon Wireless.

In LG's press event at CES 2014 on Monday, the phone maker said that the G Flex would also arrive at Sprint and T-Mobile in the first quarter, along with AT&T.

That AT&T is out front talking about the G Flex underscores the lengths that the carrier has gone to diversify its product portfolio with unique devices. Gone are the days that AT&T was simply the iPhone carrier, and in its place is a lineup of intriguing and different devices.

"AT&T continues to stay ahead of the curve in growing its diverse portfolio and giving customers the most advanced cellphone technology," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of devices for AT&T, in a statement.

Last year marked an escalation of that trend, from the 41-megapixel camera-sporting Nokia Lumia 1020 to the waterproof Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, AT&T seemingly filled every conceivable niche.

Which is somewhat ironic, as AT&T still wasn't the greatest place for a handset manufacturer to sell phones, unless you were Apple and, to a lesser extent, Samsung. While AT&T stopped disclosing iPhone sales after the first quarter of 2013, Apple's iconic smartphone continues to make up a bulk of sales.

AT&T, of course, is attempting to change that, and seeing a little bit of progress.

Read more -- Locked Up: Why AT&T racks up so many exclusive phones

As with the original Korean model, the G Flex will come with a 2.26GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 3,500mAh non-replaceable battery.

The G Flex also has a 6-inch high-definition display with a true HD OLED screen, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera. The phone will run on Android 4.2.2, also known as Jelly Bean.

LG has proven to be a solid partner for AT&T, with the Optimus G Pro, an exclusive for the carrier, and AT&T one of the many partners that lined up for the flagship G2 smartphone.

LG G Flex shows off its muscles (pictures)

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LG is hoping the G Flex will give it a little attention in an industry whose headlines are largely dominated by Apple and Samsung. The G Flex last year emerged late last year a bit after the Samsung Galaxy Round, which is curved at its vertical axis, as opposed to the horizontal axis of the G Flex.

Perhaps just as intriguing as the curved display is the self-healing back, which can repair minor scratches with the application of heat, and more specifically, sunlight.

The Asus PadFone X, meanwhile, is another exclusive for AT&T.

The addition of an Asus phone to AT&T's line-up -- and an Asus-branded phone at that -- is further illustration of the carrier's willingness to bet on different companies. While Asus has carved out a significant position in the PC business, it is considered a relative unknown in the mobile device business, despite a track record overseas.

The PadFone X is part of the Asus' unique take on the hybrid tablet-smartphone model. The 5-inch smartphone can be docked into the 9-inch PadStation companion tablet, which activates the larger device. The tablet's larger battery can charge the phone, potentially doubling the PadFone X's battery life.

When it comes to newcomer mobile device manufacturers, the companies typically have to prove themselves for years on lower-end devices and white-label, or carrier-branded, phones and tablets. Asus began working with AT&T in 2012 with the VivoTab RT, one of the first cellular-connected tablets running Windows RT, and last year's MeMO Pad FHD 10 LTE.

For Asus, the addition of a branded phone in the AT&T's line-up is a key signal that the company is making inroads in the US smartphone business, a tough industry where lesser known companies such as Huawei and ZTE are still trying to break into in a meaningful way.

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