Hands on: The first things you notice about the LG G Flex

LG G Flex

Curved? Check. Bendable? Check. "Self-healing"? Yup. No question about it: The LG G Flex isn't your ordinary phone.

The G Flex, launching on Sprint this Friday and AT&T and T-Mobile next week, is an intriguing device if I've ever seen one. But intriguing and compelling don't necessarily go hand in hand -- so is the G Flex actually a phone you'd want to own?

Time to find out. I'll be living with the U.S. version of the G Flex around the clock for the next several days to get a full feel for what the device is like to use -- whether all those interesting elements actually add up to create a good user experience, and how all the regular qualities of the phone come into play in the real world.

I'll share an in-depth review with you once I've had a chance to get to know the G Flex in and out. For now, some initial impressions:

• Holy moly, this phone is big. That's really the first thing I noticed, before even thinking about the shape or bendiness or any of that stuff. The G Flex is about a third of an inch taller than the already-large Galaxy Note 3 -- and a bit heavier as well. Plain and simple, this is a lot of phone to hold.

• Practically speaking, the G Flex's curve is more subtle of a touch than you might be expecting. You can definitely see it, especially when you set the phone down on a flat surface -- but when you're holding the device or using it in portrait orientation, you don't really notice or think about it.

LG G Flex Curve

The phone does fit nicely against your face for voice calls. I'm also aware of its curved nature when I'm holding it in landscape orientation, though I haven't used the device enough yet to decide if there's any meaningful benefit there in terms of user experience.

• How 'bout the bending? Yes, the G Flex bends, but it's more of a protective sort of flexibility than anything you'll be acutely aware of in day-to-day use. If you set the phone down flat on its face and apply pressure to its back, the phone flexes slightly downward. I'd describe it as "springy."

• The G Flex's display is big, at 6 in., but it also has significantly lower pixel density than most phones in its class. Forget 720p vs. 1080p -- 244 pixels per inch is just a bit sparse by today's high-end standards. I'll hold off a bit on any final judgments, but my initial impressions have me somewhat concerned, especially given the phone's price ($300 on contract with AT&T and Sprint, $672 spread out over two years of monthly payments with T-Mobile). 

• The G Flex follows the lead of LG's G2 and puts the power and volume buttons on the back of the phone. I'm still not sure I'm sold on the real-world value of that design decision, but maybe the larger profile of this phone will change my mind.

• Though it's using virtual on-screen navigation buttons (huzzah for that!), LG is still sticking with the outdated Android 2.3-era Menu button in place of the standard Android Recent Apps button. Sigh. Even Samsung is starting to give up that fight, though the presence of KitKat likely has something to do with that.

• Speaking of which, the G Flex ships with software based on 2012's Android 4.2 Jelly Bean release. The usual custom LG user interface is there, with some updated touches and a handful of fresh features -- including a new (though undeniably Samsung-reminiscent) Dual Window option that looks to be quite useful.

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And that, my friends, is a start. There's a lot more to get into with the LG G Flex, ranging from the nitty-gritty of the software to the phone's camera, battery life, and that sexy-sounding "self-healing" skin. Rest assured: I'll be looking at all those areas closely as I use the phone in place of my own personal device over the coming days.

Stay tuned for my full real-world review, and join me over on Google+ for more G Flex chit-chat in the meantime.

UPDATE: LG G Flex deep-dive review: The curious case of the curved phone

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