Is there any point in buying a phone shaped like a banana (or, if you prefer, a smiley face)? And is LG's latest curved phone worth a look, in the face of tough competition? Join Gizmag, for our quick review of the LG G Flex 2.
The LG G Flex 2 isn't quite a high-end flagship, as it feels a bit like a half-step backwards from last year's LG G3 (and should lag even farther behind the upcoming G4). But the Flex 2 does rise above mid-ranged status, with a healthy set of specs highlighted by a fast Snapdragon 810 processor.
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But what makes the phone unique is, of course, that curve. Unlike the Galaxy S6 edge, which uses curved-screen tech to add to the phone's premium design, the G Flex 2 is more like a regular phone that happens to be shaped a bit like a banana. It's also slightly flexible, which you'll notice if you press it against a flat surface.
So what's the point? Well, that's a good question … but we do think it feels good in hand, with the curve sliding pleasantly into the palm. The curved screen also has a slightly immersive quality. It isn't a big difference, mind you, but when doing things like watching video in landscape or reading in portrait, it does give you an extra dimension, with the edges of the screen edging out just enough to greet you on either side.
Would we buy the phone just to get this curve? Nah. It doesn't change the experience of using a smartphone in any significant way, and the phone's other qualities, while very good, are surpassed by its best competitors.
That includes the screen's resolution. The G Flex 2's display is the same 5.5-in size that we saw in last year's G3 flagship, only the Flex 2 has lower 1080p resolution – right when many of its rivals are moving onto Quad HD. The screen is still sharp, mind you, but after making the leap to QHD, my eyes see this 1080p screen as a step backwards.
Brightness could also be better. Set the Galaxy S6 and GS6 edge to 100 percent brightness, then crank the Flex 2's brightness all the way up, and it's noticeably dimmer. Almost dramatically so.
As far as build quality, this is a strictly plastic affair. With Samsung going all-in on premium this year, and Apple and HTC doing that on an annual basis, all-plastic phones like the G Flex 2 are looking more and more behind the times. It doesn't even take the half-premium shortcut of using metal edges with plastic backs, the way the Moto X, Nexus 6 and Note 4 did.
Performance is a high point, and is the only major advantage the G Flex 2 has over the G3. The octa core, 64-bit phone is one of the zippier handsets we've used – and its benchmarks reflect that (1,220 single core and 4,033 multi-core in GeekBench, not too far off the pace of the Galaxy S6).
Its camera is also very good, bringing back the G3's laser-focus rear shooter – one of our favorite smartphone cameras from 2014. The camera app doesn't fire up nearly as quickly as the Galaxy S6's does (the Flex can go from locked screen to snapped shot in about four seconds, compared to as little as two seconds for the GS6), but we still like being able to quickly snap shots just by tapping the focal point on the screen.
Battery life is solid, as it dropped 13 percent per hour in our video streaming test (over Wi-Fi, with brightness set at 75 percent). For a frame of reference, the Galaxy S6 edge dropped 10 percent per hour, the GS6 lost 11 percent per hour and the iPhone 6 dropped 14 percent per hour in the same test. Just keep in mind that the G Flex 2's display brightness was the weakest of the three, so, relatively speaking, its battery life drop is actually a little worse than those numbers suggest.
The G Flex 2 is a solid phone, and a big step forward from the original G Flex. But it also doesn't bring any meaningful stand-out features to the table, and its competition is too good for us to highly recommend it. Looking at Sprint's on-contract pricing for the phone (US$200), it's butting heads with the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6, two phones that we'd put far ahead of the Flex.
Now if you can find the G Flex 2 for a cheaper full retail price (like Sprint's somewhat more reasonable $504 off-contract pricing), then it could possibly be worth a look. It doesn't really give you the best of anything, and it has the misfortune of launching in the same window as some truly awesome phones. But it is still one of many solid all-around handsets you can buy today. And despite our lack of enthusiasm about it, some customers will enjoy the novelty (and maybe the extremely minor practical advantages) of the banana shape.
The G Flex 2 is available now on select US carriers, including Sprint and US Cellular (with an AT&T model on the way at some point).
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