LG G Flex 2 – First Impressions
CES 2015 has seen LG flex its mobile muscles, returning to the curved smartphone race with the LG G Flex 2. A smartphone powerhouse with an innovative twist, the G Flex 2 is a substantial improvement on 2013’s LG G Flex. It pairs Qualcomm’s latest 64-bit Snapdragon 810 processor with a Full HD display, a 13-megapixel, OIS-enhanced camera and, of course, a curved, flexible design.
Has LG finally made curved phones useful, or is this array of premium components just a way to sugar-coat the novelty? I went hands-on to find out.Watch our LG G Flex 2 hands-on video
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LG G Flex 2 – Design
As impressive as the G Flex 2 might be under the hood, this handset is about just one thing – its innovative curved body and flexible design.
Compared with the clunky and chunky original G Flex, the second-generation model is something of a revelation. Having dropped from a 6-inch to a 5.5-inch screen, things are instantly more manageable. Add to this slimmer bezels, a more streamlined body and a reworked shape and LG is on to a winner.
Sadly, however, the curving credentials haven’t been improved. The phone still features a 700mm-radius curve and can only be flexed enough – when under large amounts of pressure – to edge towards being flat.
Although LG hasn’t beckoned in the future with improved bendability, what the company has done is package its original concept up in device that would finally be possible to live with.
Despite its plastic form – necessary for its flexible exploits – the G Flex 2 looks great. The phone features sleek lines, two colour schemes – Platinum Silver and Red Flamenco – and, like the LG G3 before it, wears its plastic build in a particularly high-end fashion.
It’s not just visually that the G Flex 2 has been improved, either. Shrinking it down to smaller than the original G Flex has made it a far more enjoyable phone to hold. I found the handset to be less bulky and more ergonomic than its predecessor.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though. The handset’s corners are too angular, causing a little discomfort when held. What’s more, the gloss plastic finish is prone to attracting fingerprints. It also gives the handset a slightly slippery feel.
The G Flex 2 weighs in at just 152g and is between 7.1 and 9.5mm thick, depending on where along the curve you measure. Like the original G Flex, it features LG’s now trademark rear-mounted volume and power keys.
Another design boon bestowed upon the G Flex 2 is its self-healing rear. Whether technical witchcraft or chemical genius, the phone’s plastic back possesses, like its predecessor, the ability to ‘heal’ scratches. This technology has been enhanced, however, with reported healing times slashed from 3 minutes to 10 seconds.
As you might expect, LG wasn’t keen for us to take our keys and coins to the back of its latest product samples. As such, further testing in our upcoming LG G Flex 2 review is required before we can vouch for these abilities.
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LG G Flex 2 – Screen
Design innovations aside, the G Flex 2’s P-OLED screen is a visually impressive offering in its own right. While a plastic substrate helps give the device its headline-grabbing curves, the use of an OLED panel ensures deep blacks and crisp colours are achieved.
Although the identically sized LG G3 features a 2560 x 1440-pixel QHD panel, the G Flex’s more traditional 1080p resolution is still perfectly ample. Text is sharp and the 403ppi image density ensures images are suitably detailed.
Watching the Interstellar trailer at 1080p, content was sharp and detailed, action fluid and engaging. Colours were vibrant and full of pop, while blacks were impeccably dark.
Contrary to what LG would have you believe, however, I didn’t find the screen’s curves made video content any more immersive or enjoyable.
While the curve doesn’t distort images, neither does it offer much of a visual benefit. The same panel on a traditional, flat handset would offer an equally pleasing experience.
During our short time with the device, we faced no issues with the reactions and response rates of the screen’s touch elements. All gestures were handled with suitable ease and aplomb, with everything from simple swipes to pinch-to-zoom and multi-finger commands hitting their desired results in a timely, fuss-free manner.
Overall, the G Flex 2’s screen is a major improvement over the frankly dire 720p panel mercilessly stretched over the 6-inch form of its predecessor. It doesn’t set the device apart from the flagship masses such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the HTC One M8, however.
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LG G Flex 2 – Features
What does set the G Flex 2 apart from the current crop of flagship phones, however, is the processor at the handset’s core.
The first consumer-available smartphone to sport Qualcomm’s eagerly awaited Snapdragon 810 chipset, the G Flex 2 packs all the processing power it could ever need thanks to the 2.0GHz, octa-core offering. Pair this with 3GB of RAM and the phone is lining up alongside the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Nexus 6 at the sharp end of the smartphone specs race.
Given my limited time with the handset, I have as yet been able to truly push this CPU to its limits. Although app launches were suitably swift and I experienced no lag or stuttering in the handset’s performance, further testing is required before we can fully sing the praises of the handset’s power.
It’s not just the phone’s processing speeds which look set to impress, either. The G Flex 2 has been bestowed with Cat 6 LTE connectivity options. This means theoretical download speeds of up to 300Mbps will be available on compatible networks.
Completing the phone’s specs sheet is a sizeable 3000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery. Promising more than a day’s use on a single charge, this power pack also benefits from quick charge credentials. LG has claimed the phone will be able to achieve a 50 per cent charge after just 40 minutes connected to the mains. We will test this claim fully in our full G Flex 2 review, coming soon.
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LG G Flex 2 – Camera
2015 looks set to be a year when smartphone cameras hit new heights and, on paper at least, LG has got the year off to a bang with the 13-megapixel offering bestowed upon the G Flex 2.
The same camera unit as that found on the flagship G3, the 13-megapixel sensor is enhanced by optical-image-stabilised plus technology, LG’s high-speed laser focussing and dual LED flashes. Given the praise we heaped on the G3’s camera, I approached the G Flex 2’s camera which high expectations.
Early test shots, however, have left me slightly underwhelmed. Shooting in admittedly far from ideal lighting conditions, colours were bleak and washed out, focussing was slightly off and overall results did little to push on from the masses.
I must stress however, that the sample handset used was a pre-production model and our time with the device was limited. Further testing with a final production unit is required before we can pass full judgement on the G Flex 2’s camera
Sadly, things aren’t looking up around front either, and selfie lovers could be facing disappointment. While many leading phones are now moving to 5-, 8- or even 13-megapixel secondary snappers, the G Flex 2 has persevered with a lowly 2.1-megapixel offering.
The result, as you might expect, is soft, flat, grainy images that lack definition and detail.
That’s not to say the phone’s front-facing camera isn’t without its merits, however. In contrast, I found the camera benefits from one of the best camera features on the market – Gesture Shot.
LG’s Gesture Shot mode was introduced on the LG G3 and it makes a welcome return here. Ridding you of the need to fumble your phone in an attempt to hit the shutter button while taking a selfie, you can instead simply hold up your free hand – palm open – and close your fist. This starts a three-second shutter countdown to let you fine-tune your framing and get the perfect vanity shot.
In practise I found this feature to be fluid and flawless. What’s more, lowering the handset from the typical selfie pose – up and away from the body – to your eye line kicks the accelerometer into gear and automatically opens up the gallery.
This simple and effective feature is an elegant application and is sure to have a lot of fans.
The usual collection of additional camera features are also in tow. Panorama and dual-camera shooting modes line up alongside 4K and slow-motion video recording credentials. Again more time and a broader range of testing conditions is required before we can pass judgement on these abilities.
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LG G Flex 2 – Software
The camera isn’t where the phone’s software delights end, either. Running Android 5.0 Lollipop direct from the box, the LG G Flex 2’s user interface will be familiar to anyone acquainted with the LG G3, our Phone of the Year in the TrustedReviews Awards 2014. The company’s lightly skinned UI still lacks refinement but is a strong and stable take on Google’s dominant OS.
Pleasingly, LG hasn’t crammed the G Flex 2 with all manner of unnecessary software additions, just for the sake of bringing something new to the table. Instead, the few new introductions are small, simple additions focussed on being practical, not sexy or buzzword-focussed filler.
While the G3’s Smart Keyboard has been further refined, LG’s now iconic Knock On and Knock Code lock screen options have been added to with Glance View.
Cutting the need to wake the full screen, a swipe-down gesture can be made at the top of the screen to reveal the time, date and any awaiting notification options. This discrete feature should offer small battery savings and act as a quick access point to key info.
I did, however, find Glance View to be slightly temperamental, albeit on a pre-production device.
It looks like this interface is going to be greedy on the storage space, though. A quick look in the settings menu showed that this app-bereft phone had less than 22GB of its original 32GB storage capacity available for consumers.
Fortunately the now customary microSD expansion options are available on the G Flex 2, with LG claiming the device can support expansion up to a theoretical 2TB – assuming such high-capacity cards were available to consumers.
Read More: Android 5.0 Lollipop Review
LG G Flex 2 – Early Verdict
The LG G Flex 2 is an undoubted step up from its predecessor in every aspect but one. Sadly this unprogressed component is key to the phone’s being – its curved, flexible screen. Yes, this handset has made two-year-old technology manageable and appealing for the first time, but at the cost of innovation.
With a mass of Snapdragon 810 handsets on the way, the G Flex 2’s impressive specs sheet simply isn’t enough to justify the added expense of the curves. Especially as these curves still offer few discernable benefits.