Ina Fried

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LG Flex Offers a Feel for the Future, but It’s Still a Bit Stiff for a Flexible Device

There are plenty of noteworthy things about the LG Flex, from its curved shape to its giant six-inch screen to the unique self-healing coating on the back that allows the plastic to seemingly restore itself from all but the deepest of cuts.

But the signature feature of the Flex — its flexible display — is rather hard to appreciate when holding the Android device.

On its own, LG’s flexible display can bend quite a bit — about as much as a playing card from an ordinary deck. But add in the cover glass, the battery and other components, and the result is a phone that has some give, but not really anything that can be called flexible.

The curved shape — rather than its limited flexibility — would appear to be the main selling point for the Flex, which went on sale last month in Korea for about $940. While no U.S. plans have been announced, LG officials say they hope to see it in the U.S. soon.

As to when a truly flexible phone will arrive, that may take longer. Flexible displays will allow for screens that can be bent and even folded. However, the LG Flex offers only a glimpse at that future.

Showing off the Flex to a handful of reporters on Tuesday, LG’s head of mobile product planning, Ramchan Woo, said that the phone represents the first step in a major shift away from flat, rigid phones.

While not fully flexible, Woo said, a curved display offers a range of benefits, including a more comfortable feel when held to the face, improved sound quality, and the ability to have a greater viewing area in a smaller length.

Prototype flexible displays have been making the rounds at trade shows for some time. But Woo said that it required a lot of work to bring a device with a curved screen to market, including developing an all-new way of making batteries that curve.

“Without the battery technology, we can’t make the phone curved,” Woo said.

Asked why the LG Flex isn’t more flexible, Woo told AllThingsD that LG felt the product needed to be somewhat rigid in order to meet the expectations of a premium phone. If it is too bendy, he said, “people may not feel it is solid.”

Although many of the features of the LG Flex have been in the works for two years now, one area that has been in flux was just how much to curve the display. As recently as six months ago, the company was considering a far deeper curve.

LG isn’t alone in bringing a curved-screen phone to market. Korean rival Samsung has announced the Galaxy Round. But where the Flex curves from top to bottom, the Galaxy Round flexes from left to right.

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