After the world’s first bendy phone, the LG G Flex, proved to be a bit of a banana, LG went away and tried again. Now the G Flex 2 is here, boasting better design and more premium specs. Here’s our full LG G Flex 2 review.
Like last year’s LG G Flex, the G Flex 2 is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, the phone only flexes a tiny amount – you can just about flatten it if you lay it face-down and really lean on the back, but that’s about it. The major talking point is actually that subtle curve, from top to tail.
LG gave us a laundry list of reasons for the G Flex 2 being curved, and to be fair most of them are genuine. As well as fitting the palm more comfortably than a flat slab, the curved design means that the phone’s screen is less likely to crack if the phone is dropped and also reflects less glare back at your eyeballs, so you don’t need to max out the brightness on sunny days.
More importantly for LG, being able to boast about making the world’s first bendy phones helps to thrust the Korean company into the limelight, despite the slew of premium phones being launched this month. And it’ll help to spread the brand via word of mouth too. Chances are, if you rock a G Flex 2 on the street, you’ll quite like the attention it musters – and you’ll proudly exclaim that it’s your new LG phone when people ask.
The glossy finish on the back is a result of the protective film which coats the surface. Unfortunately that glossy sheen gives the G Flex 2 a rather cheap and reflective look, but that film supposedly serves a purpose: this is the latest version of LG’s self-healing skin, which is supposed to automatically recover from light scratches in just seconds.
Now, I don’t know if I’m cursed, but I’ve found that this healing tech simply doesn’t work for me. I took a key to the back of the G Flex 2, just as I did with the original, and nicked the surface ever so slightly. A day later, the scratch is still present. Even vigorous, panicked rubbing seems to do nothing to shift it. And a few days later the phone had picked up some more, even lighter scratches, which hadn’t healed themselves either.
As is now the norm, LG has slapped the power and volume buttons on the back of the handset, so they fit snugly underneath your index finger. And as usual, I love them. There’s a small period of adjustment, after which you’ll naturally tap the power button as soon as you pick up the phone. No fumbling or turning over the handset to see where the thing is – the design is perfect.
I love how the G Flex 2 handles, a serious improvement over the original phone, thanks mostly to the reduction in size. While last year’s G Flex was a mighty 6-incher, this year’s G Flex 2 has been trimmed down to just 5.5-inches. Still massive, right? Well, bear in mind that the LG G3 was also 5.5-inches and LG worked its voodoo to make that fit well in the hand. The G Flex 2 boasts the same one-handed usability (just about), helped in part by the curved screen which makes reaching the far corners with your thumb a little easier.
You can prise off the rear plate to access the Micro SIM and Micro SD memory card slot, but the battery sadly isn’t removeable. Good thing, then, that the battery life is decent – but more on that later.
Finally, you can pick up the G Flex 2 in dark silver when it hits the UK near the end of March. However, a sexy red variant will be available soon after and personally we recommend waiting, as the red model is gorgeous (shiny rear or no shiny rear).
Screen and media
For the sequel, LG didn’t simply crush down the screen from 6-inches to 5.5-inches. The G Flex 2 also boasts Full HD visual, a marked improvement over the 720p display of the original.
That means over 400 pixels are packed into every square inch of the G Flex 2’s display, keeping images beautifully sharp. That may be a step down from the LG G3, which packed an insanely detailed Quad HD screen giving a frankly mind-boggling 538 pixels-per-inch. However, even with both screens playing the same video side-by-side, you’ll really struggle to make out any difference.
HD movies look amazing, bold and bright and as crisp as a bumper pack of Walker’s. They sound good too thanks to the powerful solo speaker, although it’s sadly positioned on the back of the handset and pointed away from your face, which diminishes the overall effect.
And while the curved nature of the screen does help to cut down on irritating reflections, the panel itself picks up smudges rather easily, so you’ll have to constantly rub it off on your sleeve to get rid of fingerprints and grime.
User experience and features
Our G Flex 2 review model, like every review handset to hit the UK so far, was direct from Korea – so we won’t talk in too much detail about the software on the handset, which LG clearly stated wasn’t final version.
However, we didn’t see much in the way of quirks or funnies on our G Flex 2, besides the occasional message or menu option in Korean. Android Lollipop is completely coated in LG’s own interface, which once again packs a load of features which you never knew you needed. The best part, as always, is the multi-tasking abilities. You can run a few apps side-by-side, fading them in and out of view using Q-Slide, which is and always has been an awesome feature.
Truth be told, there aren’t many exciting new features in the G Flex 2 that weren’t already lurking on previous handsets, but we’re happy to see the return of old favourites like Knock Code (a more private version of a PIN pattern) and Glance Screen (check for notifications when the phone is locked).
We’ll cover the G Flex 2’s features in more detail when we get the full UK review unit, but as you’d expect you also get full NFC and LTE support, and the phone will also support a special bendy Quick Circle case.
Performance and battery life
Performance is again difficult to accurately judge considering this wasn’t the final UK handset, even though the hardware won’t be changing between countries. The Korean software seemed to run well for the most part, even when multi-tasking with two or three apps. We did however see some chugging while zipping around between different apps – something we didn’t expect at all considering the Snapdragon 810 packed inside.
On the whole, the experience is fine, but it certainly isn’t as premium as we’d expect given the price. We’ll be sure to put the UK model through some punishment when it arrives and we’ll report back on whether there’s any difference.
Battery life is an area where LG has excelled lately, with the likes of the G3 lasting a full day and a half between charges. The G Flex 2 doesn’t quite last a full 36 hours unless you ease back on use and if you’re constantly fiddling with the thing it’ll be dead within the day, but if you’re a bit more restrained then you’ll happily get over a day of use between plugging in.
And if you do the opposite and cane it with non-stop video streaming, the G Flex 2 will still last a respectable six to seven hours. That’s well above the average (roughly five hours for a modern phone) and on par with recent handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy A5.
LG has smartly used the same 13-megapixel optics from the G3 for this phone, complete with that snazzy laser-guided autofocus. That’s good news, as the G Flex 2 now also sports one of the best smartphone cameras around.
As with the G3, the G Flex 2’s lens snaps onto your subject in no time at all (cheers, lasery thing) and photos take almost the instant you tap the screen, so you’re less likely to miss that amusing moment when your cat yawns or your baby spits up. The camera interface is gloriously simple, too, with most settings tucked away out of sight. You don’t even have a shutter button – just tap somewhere on the screen and the lens will focus on that point and snap.
Of course, all that would be academic if your photos looked like a heap of crap. Thankfully that’s not the case. When we checked out our collection on our home telly, we were impressed by the results. A couple of shots taken outside were a little dark in places, but the HDR setting generally made sure that my snaps were uniformly lit, even when dealing with tricky outdoor photos.
The level of detail crammed into every picture is seriously impressive. You can shoot a restaurant from about thirty feet away and pick out menu details through the window, and even when you zoom into your snaps on a large telly, they still look sharp.
LG has gone for the HTC approach of minimal shooting modes to keep things simple and we’re perfectly okay with that. You can snap a panorama or a weird dual photo using both front and rear-facing camera, as well as anything up to 4k video, but that’s your whack. Our video looked great on our TV even in Full HD mode, and of course 4K footage was gorgeous – although there’s a five minute limit, most likely to prevent the phone from overheating and your storage from filling up with just one overly long clip.
Then of course, there’s the inevitable selfies. LG has once again implemented the fist-pump gesture to take an easy shot with the front-facing camera and it works as well as ever – better, in fact, as you can now pump your fist around two metres away and the phone will still activate. That’s great news if you can’t afford a proper selfie stick – just tape the G Flex 2 to an actual stick and you’re good to go.
We weren’t entirely sold on the original LG G Flex, which was just a little too bulky and gimmicky, not to mention overpriced given the middling specs. Thankfully the G Flex 2 sports a much nicer form factor and a Full HD screen, plus one of the best smartphone cameras around right now, making it the phone the first G Flex should have been (bar the occasional sluggish performance).
However, the G Flex 2 is still a pricey little sod, just like its predecessor. The handset is only free from Carphone Warehouse with a £34.50 a month contract (that’s with 1GB of data), a cost comparable to the very best flagship phones out there. In comparison, the LG G3 – our favourite phone of 2014, packing many of the same specs but sans curve – is £26.50 a month.
So ask yourself, how bad do you need that flex?