There aren’t many phones like LG’s G Flex 2. Formally introduced at this year’s CES, the Korean firm’s latest mobile device keeps the original G Flex’s weird banana-like curves, but compliments that idiosyncrasy with a phone that feels noticeably more stable across the board. It still doesn’t make an immediately compelling case for why it needs to be bent in the first place, but it’s at least easier to accept that when most of the phone is so high end.
That said, the G Flex line is always going to be defined by its truly weird shape, if only because very few devices share its form factor. Like its predecessor, the G Flex 2 is curved inwards from top to bottom. The effect is a little less dramatic than it was on the original, and because the display has shrunk from an unwieldy 6 inches down to a more reasonable 5.5, this year’s version is much less of a hassle to use for everyday tasks.
On paper, the point of the bend is to make the phone feel more natural when held up to your face, and to provide a more “immersive” experience when looking at its big display head on. In practice, it makes the device feel like a fancier LG G Vista. It’s a marvelous piece of mobile design, for sure, but many of the things it appears to excel at could very well exist without the bend being there.
Yes, the way it contours around your cheek when taking a call is neat, but that wasn’t much of a pressing problem for phones to begin with. That it makes the device more difficult to view from the sides, and that it makes the phone harder to use with one hand compared to other phablets, doesn’t help LG’s case.
Neither does the polymer that makes up much of the G Flex’s back. It’s a glossy plastic straight out of the Galaxy S III era, and though it’s got the same weaved aesthetic (and wonderful rear-mounted buttons) as the flagship LG G3, it doesn’t feel much better than all the slimy phones we complained about three years ago. It’s also a bit thicker (9.4mm) than we’d want a higher-end device to be – again, it’s more G Vista than G3 — though one benefit of the plastic is that it also makes the phablet noticeably light (152g) in the hand.
Besides the bend, the other hook here is that the G Flex is more durable than the usual media consumption device. LG says it’s fused the Gorilla Glass on the front with a special chemical treatment to make it 20 percent more durable than usual, while the rear of the device is still capable of “self-healing” from light scuffs.
All of that does appear to have a positive effect: We were able to bang and knock the phone around without any consequence, and the back did indeed wipe away a few minor scratches from our keys within seconds. We do mean minor, though, as heavier markings are still capable of permanently scarring the machine. None of this requires that the phone be shaped like a banana, but it’s still a gimmick that should make you feel at least a little more comfortable using the device.
Questionable design aside, the rest of the G Flex 2 brings some noticeable spec bumps over last year’s model. The G Flex’s painful 720p display has been replaced with a 1080p panel, for one, which looked plenty solid in our short time with the device. It was sharp, coloring was comparable to that of the G3’s display, and viewing angles were fine when the bent sides weren’t totally in the way. One area to look out for is how it looks in low brightness settings – that was an issue for the original G Flex, and LG strangely locked its demo units from going below a certain brightness point during the show.
Internally, the G Flex 2 is the first of what will be many phones to run Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 810 chipset. That’s complimented with 2 GB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, which can be upgraded with up to a whopping 2 TB of extra space through microSD. The iffy camera of last year’s model has been replaced with what’s essentially the same 13-megapixel shooter of the G3, which should be a good thing, while a 3,000mAh battery should provide the usual longevity we’ve come to expect from today’s phablets. LG claims that battery will be able to get up to halfway charged in under 40 minutes as well.
We’ll hold off on making any final judgments until we’ve spent more time with it, but the G Flex 2 should at least be able to compare to most other high-end phones on the market. It didn’t feel any faster than what we’ve seen from recent flagships during our demo, but we’re still a few weeks away from launch, and what was there was more than serviceable. It’ll be hard for it to go wrong with that kind of power onboard.
On the software side, we’re looking at Android 5.0 over what’s pretty much the same skin LG used with the G3. That, again, should be fine. The one noticeable upgrade comes with the addition of a “glance view” mode, which lets you swipe down from the top of the screen while the phone is asleep to peek at the time and notifications bar. This took a few tries to work in our preview, but it’s a nifty enough way to check for alerts without diving too deeply into the device.
LG deserves praise for pushing a something that’s genuinely weird in today’s worryingly homogenous mobile world, but without an obvious incentive for using a curved phone, it’s hard to say what will make the G Flex 2 more useful than the inevitable LG G4. This is especially the case given that LG plans to sell the phone at a flagship price — though it wouldn’t give us any specifics — despite the all-plastic build. If you’re determined to be different, though, LG will begin selling the G Flex 2 in its native Korea later this month, with AT&T, Sprint, and US Cellular to sell it in the States sometime thereafter.