The original LG G Flex was a daring curved Android smartphone that was hampered by lackluster specs and huge footprint. LG learns quickly, and the Flex 2 has specs that can hang with the flagships and a smaller more manageable design despite its relatively large 5.5 inch display. Do you need a curved phone? Probably not. Is a curved phone more comfortable to hold and carry? Yes. The 700mm radius curve (top to bottom) certainly looks cool too. It's not hard to imagine that curves are in our future since they make large phones more manageable and less slabbish.
The LG G Flex 2 runs Android 5.01 Lollipop on the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core 64 bit CPU with Adreno 430 graphics. The display is much improved compared to the 720p last gen model. This time you get a full HD 1920 x 1080 P-OLED display that's bright and has AMOLED's signature rich colors and inky blacks. At 5.5", the screen is bigger than average, but as with the LG G3 the size is manageable thanks to scant bezels. The curve certainly helps when holding it to your face for calls and it fits in a back or front pocket without feeling like a plank as does the 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus. We look at the Sprint version for this review, and AT&T will offer the phone as well. The Sprint version has 2 gigs of RAM and 32 gigs of storage. There's a microSD card slot under the back cover that's compatible with cards up to 2 TB according to LG, and the phone has an IR blaster for TV and home theatre gear control.
Those who've used the LG G3 will feel right at home here: the software and UI look nearly identical, as do LG apps for multi-window multitasking, gestures and quick control access. There's comfort in the familiar, but LG's overwrought UI is getting old and I'm not a fan of their icon styling or the way they've nearly obliterated the actually elegant Android Lollipop UI. Of course, advanced users will download a third party launcher to make things look more attractive and clean, though that might axe some of LG's more desirable features like multitasking and double-tap to wake (that depends on the launcher and how much hacking you do). Happily, the heavy-handed UI doesn't slow down the phone, though given the 2 GHz clock speed and many cores, it would take a lot to slow down the Snapdragon 810.
The phone has LTE 4G, dual band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and NFC. It has a front 2.1MP camera and a rear 13MP camera that can shoot 4K video.
Scratchy, Bendy and Mostly Durable
From the front, the G Flex 2 is a good-looking phone and much more elegant looking than the first Flex. We have the Flamenco red model (the phone is also available in silver gray), and the super-shiny back doesn't scream expensive. It's not bad looking though thanks to the gradient to near black as you move away from the center, and the swirl pattern looks cool. It catches the light and changes tone and seems to shimmer a bit. The material is somehow sticky though it might look slick, so grip isn't bad and fingerprints aren't as much of an issue as with the last model. The Flex 2 is supposed to have an improved version of the healing back that recovers from scratches in a matter of minutes rather than hours (rubbing the scratches accelerates the healing). In our test with a house key, the back didn't fare well (watch our video review to see it yourself). The key put several significant scratches in the back, and though they did look a bit less severe with time, they were still clearly visible two days later. Take that healing back with a grain of salt, we didn't find it to be more durable than normal plastic smartphones.
You will however notice durability improvements over competing phones when it comes to flexing without breaking. There's no Bendgate here: the phone is designed to flex and is thus harder to break if you leave it in you pocket when you sit down. Heck, you could sit on this phone and it would likely survive. We put it face down on a table and pressed the phone until it flattened, and it sprang right back. The Plastic OLED display is flexible, and there's a special variant of Gorilla Glass 3 on top called Dura Guard Glass. You can protect this or any phone from scratches with a case, but you won't find another phone that will survive compression and bending as well as the G Flex 2.
LG likes buttons on the back, so we have the power button and volume buttons on the rear where your pointing finger rests happily (unless you have crazy long fingers and then you'll be greasing the camera lens). I don't mind this design and it does work well for one-handed use with big phones. There's no need to reach around back to hit the power on thanks to LG's Knock On--double tap the screen and it wakes up. There's a new Glance screen too: swipe down slowly from the top bezel and you'll see notifications (at least some of them) as the sleep screen partially peels down.
It's big, it's curved and yes it does reduce glare a bit and make movies and games feel a little bit more fun and immersive. LG says the 700mm radius curve matches the experience of a 55" curved TV screen in terms of effect that it has on the viewing experience. I'll take their word for that because I personally find the two kinds of devices too different to compare. This is a much sharper and more colorful screen than the first Flex, and as you'd expect from OLED, colors are very vibrant and blacks are black hole deep. Whites are decent (they're not AMOLED's strong point) and grays can look a bit banded if brightness is set low. Text is sharp, though keen-eyed folks will notice the Pentile matrix in this 403 PPI panel. The display gets plenty bright and is sufficient to combat sunlight at the highest settings, though it's not as visible as the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 outdoors. Should you wish to tweak color saturation, LG offers 3 settings: Natural (more IPS like and not wildly saturated), Vivid (crazy saturation and contrast) and Normal (a cross between Natural and Vivid that I quite like).
Deals and Shopping:
LG G Flex 2 Video Review
Voice and Data
We tested the LG on Sprint's network in the Dallas area. Voice quality is particularly good, and both sides of the conversation sounded very clear, full and had good volume. We dropped a few more calls than average however. This might have to do with Sprint's network revamp in our area or the phone, but the G Flex 2 did seem a bit more prone to drops.
The phone has 4G LTE and 3G EV-DO Rev. A for data. Our Sprint Flex 2 averaged 9 Mbps down and 7.5 Mbps up on Sprint's LTE network using Ookla's Speedtest.net app. In our area, Sprint's data speeds lag behind AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, so our test results aren't indicative of a problem with the phone's LTE radio. Those speeds are more than adequate for speedy web browsing and small app downloads, even if they're one third of competitors'. 1080p YouTube video and Netflix streamed without hiccups as well. Signal strength was generally good compared to other Sprint phones we've recently tested.
This is one of the first phones to launch with the new Snapdragon 810 octa-core 64 bit CPU. Rumors said this CPU got too hot or throttled like crazy, and neither has been true with the LG G Flex 2 and HTC One M9 that also uses the 810. It never went beyond warm when playing Asphalt 8 for 30 minutes and speed never perceptibly dropped. We ran a slew of benchmarks repeatedly over the course of an hour and the numbers didn't drop appreciably. The 2 GHz CPU is solid and performs a bit better than the quad core Snapdragon 805 (graphics show the most improvement). There are several variants of the Flex 2 around the world, some with 2 and others with 3 gigs of RAM. Likewise there are 16 and 32 gig storage models. Sprint mixed and matched, and went with 2 gigs of RAM and 32 gigs of internal storage. You can store photos, videos and other files on a microSD card if you like. The card slot is under the removable back cover.
We really liked the camera on the LG G3 and it's back for the Flex 2. It uses the same 13MP Sony sensor with OIS (optical image stabilization) and has laser autofocus for quicker focus and a dual LED flash. The camera takes very sharp, colorful and pleasing photos with good contrast. Our only complaint is the plastic over the lens--it is very prone to light flare and ghosting. That's lovely if you're trying to create a dramatic light flare when the sun is in the shot, but even a bit of backlighting creates an excess of light rays or haze in the upper image area. The camera can record 4K video and the OIS really helps create smooth footage without the usual shake and bounce. Video footage is sharp, contrasty and colorful and is less prone to pick up lens flare.
The LG G Flex 2 has a 3,000 mAh Lithium Ion curved battery that's not swappable (you can see it if you remove the back cover, but it's held in place by a small screw). That's a decent capacity battery for a phone with a 5.5" 1080p display and a fast CPU, and it comes with a Quick Charge charger in the box so it charges impressively fast (40% in 30 minutes). Battery life wasn't grand however, and the phone lasted until bedtime, but not until the next morning, as did the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8.
The sons may well pay for the crimes of their fathers: the original LG G Flex simply wasn't that great a phone, and we have a feeling LG released it because they were in a race with Samsung to produce the world's first curved phone. I suspect some of you won't even consider the LG Flex 2 as a result, but honestly it's worthy of consideration. The curve is truly comfortable and it looks cool too. The full HD P-OLED display is lovely and the phone is fast. We're not fans of LG's manhandling of Android, and their UI is truly dated, but a third party launcher can cure that. Likewise, Sprint puts an amazing amount of bloatware on the phone and it fills an entire home screen panel (some of it is removable, the rest you'll just have to hide). But the hardware on the Flex 2 can keep up with the big boys and it's a wildly better phone than the first Flex. It's also a steal at full retail on Sprint where it costs $504, which is several hundred dollars less than the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
Price: $199 with 2 year contract, $504 full retail on Sprint.