The LG G Flex 2 is a high-quality smartphone by any standard.
More than a year after its first attempt, LG has rolled out its latest stab at a curved smartphone. While the practicality of a bent handset is still up in the air, there’s no doubt that this kind of design looks stunning, and that it gives the South Korean giant something instantly recognizable that it can sell alongside its flagship proper. Recognizable doesn’t equal good, however, and for as striking as the original G Flex was, its ugly display and oversized dimensions made it much easier to stare at than to actually use.
Thankfully, LG has significantly touched up those issues with the G Flex 2, creating a device that’s high quality by any standard. This time around, its rounded display isn’t the only intriguing thing it has going for it.
Officially, the G Flex 2 comes with a 1920 x 1080 5.5-inch P-OLED screen, a “self-healing” back panel that promises to make scratches automatically disappear (at least minor ones), a 12-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and laser autofocus, Android OS 5.0.1 (Lollipop), and a brand new octa-core Snapdragon 810 chipset from Qualcomm, the last of which puts the phone at the very top of most benchmark charts, but also introduces something of a pesky overheating problem. Like most devices that experiment with the usual smartphone form, the G Flex 2 isn’t without its pain points, but at the end of the day it’s an out-and-out beast. Let’s dive deeper into the device, which is available now from Vodafone.
The G Flex 2’s curves are its most immediately recognizable feature, but the exceptionally slim bezels and metal border on its sides help give it a high-end look and feel as well. Although the majority of the phone is plastic – as it has to be to get that bend – it’s good plastic, the kind that still feels premium in the hand. The build quality here is surprisingly solid and robust, while the gently rounded sides on the device’s rear make the whole thing feel natural to hold. It isn’t flexible, however, despite what its name may suggest. The phone is remarkably sturdy, and will successfully resist any type of force you apply to it in an attempt to straighten it out.
If nothing else, the G Flex 2 is miles more comfortable than its predecessor. For one, the older model’s mammoth 6-inch display has been shrunk down to a more reasonable, yet still spacious, 5.5 inches. It’s noticeably smaller (with dimensions of 149 x 75 x 7.1 mm) and lighter (152 grams) too, making it at least somewhat capable of being used with one hand by most users.
Beyond all that, the G Flex 2’s other novel feature is its “self-healing” back, which LG claims to quickly erase small nicks and scratch marks all by itself. In practice, this is a welcome feature, if not a particularly important one. Indeed, if you try lightly scratching the phone against a table, you can see the wear and tear disappear, especially when the temperature is higher indoors. It does work, to an extent. This doesn’t make the device invincible by any means, however, as heavier scratches with something like a key will still leave the phone permanently scarred. But having a minimal amount of built-in protection against the occasional drop and ding is still better than having none at all, and it doesn’t hurt that the cover itself is both smooth and solid to the touch. It’s a gimmick, but a likeable one, just like the curve that defines the rest of the phone.
That rear panel can be removed and replaced if you’d like to change things up or add a microSIM or microSD card, but puzzlingly, the 3500mAh battery underneath it cannot – it’s fixed to the device with an additional cover and bolts.
Taking a quick tour around the device, the button and sensor placement on the G Flex 2 is practically identical to every other top LG phone from the past year or two, which is mostly a good thing. Like the LG G3 before it, the front and sides of the device are completely devoid of any keys. The upper side includes just the infrared transmitter and a barely visible secondary microphone, while the lower side comes with a microUSB hub and audio jack. There’s a 2.1-megapixel camera above the screen, along with an LED notifications light and several sensors. An LG logo sits alone under the screen – despite there being a decent amount of room there, LG’s decided to continue using capacitive keys within the phone’s UI, which unfortunately take up some of the display itself.
All of the G Flex 2’s physical keys are right in the middle of the back of the phone, just underneath the 13-megapixel main camera. Once again, the power button is slightly elevated above the back cover’s surface, flanked above and below by two indented volume control keys. A small speaker is situated at the bottom of the back side, while a dual LED flash and laser autofocus sensor accompany the camera lens. This kind of button setup continues to make LG’s devices a little less fussy to hold, but if you find it all to be just too foreign, a convenient “KnockOn” feature still allows you to wake the phone from sleep with a quick double-tap. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the device is not especially water- or dust-resistant on account of that removable back cover.
For all its design improvements, perhaps the biggest upgrade to this year’s G Flex is to its display. Now that its resolution has increased from HD (720 x 1280) to Full HD (1080 x 1920) while its size has been reduced from 6 to 5.5 inches, its pixel density has jumped from 245 pixels per inch to 403 ppi, which amounts to an outstanding difference in everyday work. The panel is just sharper and clearer across the board, and it’s virtually impossible for the naked eye to spot individual pixels, even during trickier animations. It’s gone from busted and mid-range to being in line with most of its higher-end peers.
Furthermore, LG has ditched the RGB matrix from the original G Flex in favor of a diamond-shaped PenTile setup here, allowing all of those pixels to have four of their own sub-pixels and a RGBG arrangement. In non-techie terms, this has vastly improved the coloring of the display, making tones more vivacious and very highly saturated, almost to the point where images look like they’re about to pop out of the screen. It’s an impressive, yet sometimes over the top, effect, but thankfully LG also includes a ‘natural’ color imaging option that takes things down a notch.
Like the first G Flex, the G Flex 2 uses LG’s own Plastic OLED screen technology, which puts a layer of plastic over the usual OLED glass cover. This allows the screen to be curved, for one, but it also features supremely high contrast that make for above-average white and dark tones. It makes for wide viewing angles and excellent visibility in direct sunlight and other bright environments too. All told, the display overhaul here is an emphatic success, and is one of the biggest factors in making the G Flex 2 a great phone with or without its signature curves.
Because the G Flex 2 is smaller than its predecessor, its battery has shrunk from 3500mAh to 3000mAh. That, combined with its higher pixel count and more demanding software, means that the G Flex 2 won’t last as long as before. And as we mentioned above, the whole pack can’t be removed, despite the fact that the back cover can. All that being said, the phone still gets above-average life compared to most phablets (which are typically big power savers), and will likely last you around a day and a half with everyday use. It’s fine.
The 13-megapixel sensor of the G Flex 2 also borrows from the G3, and that’s still a very good thing. Its accompanying software has been simplified to show only the most basic functions, and the camera itself is still accurate and noticeably fast. The latter is in part due to the G3’s laser autofocus system, which allows the shooter to determine its focus point almost immediately as you press the onscreen shutter button. The resulting images turn out exceptionally sharp, with vivacious colors and only a small amount of noise on larger mono-color surfaces.
The sensor features built-in optical image stabilization as well, allowing for above-average quality for shots in poor lighting conditions. The same sentiments largely apply to videos, with 4K recordings coming out particularly fantastic. The G Flex 2 can also capture 720p slow-motion video at 120fps, but sadly those often ended up being disasters in our testing, looking much grainier and lower-quality than even that relatively modest resolution would suggest. The 2.1-megapixel front camera is similarly unimpressive, producing messy shots at a time where competing selfie cams are only improving.
The G Flex 2 seems like it’s the kind of phone that would live or die by its striking design, but the truth is that it’d be fantastic with or without its curves. Its unique build is both sturdy and comfortable to hold, and its display, performance, and camera are all competitive with any other flagship on the market. The Snapdragon 810’s heating issues are tangible, and being unable to change the included battery is a drag, but neither of those problems prevent the G Flex 2 from being one of the first great smartphones of 2015.