LG’s G Flex 2 is an interesting smartphone in the South Korean company’s lineup. It’s a premium smartphone packed full of next-generation tech and top-of-the-range components but it’s not their flagship smartphone; that seat is taken by the LG G3.
Instead the G Flex 2 stands alone as an example of LG’s engineering prowess, crammed full of all of the latest tech from LG’s various departments.
But does that make a good smartphone?
Last year’s G Flex was an engineering marvel but failed at being a great smartphone. Can the G Flex 2 live up to the promise shown by its predecessor and finally give us the tricked-out, uber smartphone of our geeky dreams?
We played with one to find out, so that you don’t have to.
As with the original G Flex, the G Flex 2 has a distinctive banana-like, curved profile which helps keep the ergonomics of the 5.5 inch display-toting smartphone in check. That display is both down from the 6 inch display of the original as well as slightly less curved, making it far more comfortable in-hand as well as in-pocket.
It feels dramatically smaller than other 5.5 inch smartphones like the iPhone 6 Plus, which looks comically large next to the G Flex 2.
As with all of LG’s high-end smartphones, the power and volume buttons are found below the camera module on the back of the phone. We’ve always been fans of this button configuration, which is made especially useful by LG’s ‘Knock On’ double tap to wake function.
The flexible display and battery once again allow the G Flex 2 to be bent out of shape for short periods of time, springing back into place when released, and its plastic back cover utilises the latest version of LG’s self-healing coating, a marvellous feature that magically heals small scratches and nicks faster and better than in the original G Flex did.
The curved design also lends a helping hand to the single, rear-facing speaker on the G Flex 2 by allowing sound to escape rather than forcing you to flip the phone over to hear music playing.
The LG G Flex 2 sports a lot of 2015’s best high-end componentry, putting it on par with most of its flagship contemporaries.
Qualcomm’s latest 64-bit Snapdragon 810 processor does duty in the G Flex 2 and, as with the G3, the 16GB model has 2GB of RAM (which is the unit we reviewed) while the 32GB model has 3GB of RAM. Storage is expandable by up to 128GB via microSD card, so buying the smaller storage size will only really result in a slight sacrifice of system memory.
The usual suspects for wireless connectivity are present and accounted for, including 802.11ac (Gigabit) WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and LTE.
Rounding out the list of specs are a 5.5 inch P-OLED display, a 3 000mAh battery and a 13 megapixel camera, which all get special treatment in the sections below.
LG’s interpretation of Android has improved over time; so much so, in fact, that the software in the LG G3 was one of our favourite things about the phone. The G Flex 2 unfortunately breaks our previously-held opinions of LG’s ability to tweak Google’s software, however.
While the G Flex 2’s interface is nigh-on identical to the G3’s software, it’s the sluggishness with which every action is performed that kills it in everyday life. Simple actions like pulling down the notification tray have a perceptible delay which completely ruins the user experience.
Worse still, we had several app crashes including Gmail and Chrome as well as the entire Android UI system, which forced a reload of LG’s stock launcher several times during our 2 weeks with the phone. Not a great advertisement for a phone boasting a spec sheet like the G Flex 2’s.
LG is one of the few companies that makes smartphone display panels for its own phones, letting it use the best technologies for its handsets. Indeed, with the exception of Samsung, LG is the only other company to offer flexible or bent displays in its smartphones.
As we mentioned earlier, the display in the G Flex 2 has been cut down from the 6 inches of its predecessor to 5.5 inches. It makes for a vastly improved experience when using the phone one-handed, as it fits just that much better in the average hand.
The plastic organic LED (P-OLED) display is like any other OLED display with its ability to produce deep, rich black colours and high contrast levels for watching videos. The curved display even helps cut out some of the glare we would normally have to put up with when using the G Flex 2 outside.
The curved display is marvellous for watching video and playing games, but gives long pages of text and pictures a slightly warped appearance that could be slightly disconcerting at times.
All in all, the screen is vastly improved over its predecessor, and barring the drop in pixel density, it’s better overall than even LG’s flagship G3.
LG’s work on its cameras has been sterling ever since the introduction of the G2. Like the G3 the G Flex 2 boasts a 13 megapixel, optically-stabilised camera module with laser autofocus.
The minimalist camera UI is still one of the best implementations in the Android world and it makes for a simple, quick and user-friendly experience when taking snaps.
The real killer feature of the G Flex 2’s camera is the near-instant HDR (high dynamic range) shots, which we’ve only really seen bettered by Apple’s iPhones for speed.
All of this combines into what is probably the best Android camera on the market right now.
If LG’s smartphone cameras have been worth a mention then the work that has been done on the battery front should have a parade thrown in its honour. Once again it’s LG’s manufacturing prowess that has allowed it to make a flexible battery with the same 3 000mAh capacity as both the G2 and the G3.
However, while it couldn’t match the G2’s battery claims, its 1080p resolution display helped it to easily best the G3 for day-to-day runtime.
Once again Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology is included in the G Flex 2, allowing you to rapidly restore battery life with the use of a compatible charger.
LG has once again proven that it is at the top of its game when it comes to display and battery technology. It has shovelled all of the latest and greatest hardware into a beautiful package that offers everything a savvy smartphone buyer could want. At least on paper.
But unfortunately, none of it matters because the phone fails in key areas that cannot be ignored.
We’re certain that LG will update the operating system to eliminate some of the bugs that bothered us so much, but while you wait for that to happen you’ll wonder every day why you didn’t buy something else.
We love that LG keeps pushing the envelope but next time, could we please just get a bendy phone that works?
Price: R10 499
Display: 5.5 inch 1 080×1 920 resolution P-AMOLED display (403ppi)
Operating System: Android 5.0.1
Processor: 1.5GHz quad core Cotex-A53 + 2GHz quad core Cortex-A57 64 bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
Memory: 2GB (16GB model) OR 3GB (32GB model)
Battery: 3 000mAh
Camera: 13 megapixel rear camera with laser autofocus, optical image stabilization and dual-LED flash
Networking: dual band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, LTE
Other: curved display and body, flexible display and battery, self-healing back cover