Both Samsung and LG are selling smartphones with arched displays. CNET pits these two handsets against each other to decide which one bows best.
Constant rivals Samsung and LG both brought smartphones with curved displays to market in South Korea in the same month — once again giving us the opportunity to compare two approaches to a new category side by side and declare a winner.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
On the one side there's the Samsung Galaxy Round, the first of the two to come to market. This 5.7-inch Android 4.3 smartphone curves from edge to edge but otherwise remains rigid. On the other, LG's G Flex arches its 6-inch display from head to toe. For its party trick, it'll flatten without breaking when you press down on its back or face.
The comfiest curve to handle
In some cases, the orientation of the two phones' curves is a little bit like arguing to-MAY-to or to-MAH-to. At some point, you're probably going to use your phone in both portrait and landscape modes, so you'll experience both horizontal and vertical curves.
Then again, the curve's orientation does make a difference if you tend to carry phones in your pockets, hold them at your ear and type frequently. Perhaps, too, because of its more gentle bend, LG's Flex was less noticeable in back pockets than the Round, conforming more comfortably while walking and sitting. The Flex, too, was slightly better at typing in portrait mode, since the virtual keyboard remained on the same plane, instead of slightly coming forward at the sides.
The Round won out at the ear, partially because its curve orientation, smaller size and gently sloping edges make it easier to grip than the large, slick Flex. Both websites and videos played back seamlessly and without any visual warping, but the phone's curved shape was more apparent on the Flex. One of us didn't mind that; the other thought that the peripheral view of the bend gave the phone more of a fun-house feel.
Battle of the specs
Line up the specs and the phones look mostly equal, with a few trade-offs. The Flex has the larger screen and battery capacity, but the Round has the higher screen resolution and greater RAM. It also has a microSD slot for external storage and a removable battery for those who care about such things. While the camera capabilities match up on paper, Samsung's quality and consistency edged out the Flex's, while the Flex has the most pocket-friendly curves.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
In terms of actual build quality, Samsung's phone has the upper hand in terms of aesthetics and a thoughtful ergonomic handhold. It also helps that the Round's side-to-side smile makes it narrower in the hand. LG's cheaper-looking device is also narrower than a flat phone of the same size and has the added benefit of a "self-healing" backing that rebuffs light scuffing as promised.
Although both handsets bring novel form factors to market, the G Flex has the leg up when it comes to breaking new and interesting ground. For one thing, the Flex's display actually does flex. Sure, you won't be able to manipulate it like Play-Doh, but unlike the Round's firm touchscreen, LG's device can withstand a decent flattening.
And the better curved phone is…
Throughout this Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex comparison, we've evaluated the devices based on these parameters: which phone curves the comfiest, which one has the most capable specs and which is the most innovative.
Since there are slight pros and cons to having the two handsets arch in different directions, we're calling this category a draw. We found both approaches to the bend comfortable, from north to south and from east to west, without much discernible difference when it comes to viewing and typing on the screens day to day. As for the latter two criteria, the Round delivers the more impressive specs, but the Flex offers captivating technology that would pique any futurist's interest.
At the end of the day, however, Samsung's Galaxy Round is the superior smartphone. Its newer version of Android, sharper and crisper 1080p display, expandable memory, sounder construction and sharper camera quality prove more important and more satisfying than the Flex's amenable nature when being sat on. The Flex is still a fine handset in its own right, but it just doesn't have what it takes to outpace its Samsung rival.