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Featured Review: LG G Flex 2 (Sprint)

April 4, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Back in late 2013, LG announced their first curved display smartphone, around the same time Samsung announced theirs. Which was the Galaxy Round. Needless to say, only one made it to the US, and only one made it to the second generation. That’d be the LG G Flex 2. At CES, LG took the wraps off of their LG G Flex 2 and once we saw the red color, we were in love. But are we still in love after spending some quality time with it as our daily driver? Let’s find out in the full review.

Hardware

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If you’ve used the LG G3, LG G Flex or even the LG G2, then the LG G Flex 2 will likely feel familiar. The LG G Flex 2 is curved, obviously. It is also made of plastic. LG has brought back the self-healing back (spoiler, it’s amazing), so that when you have the LG G Flex 2 in your pocket with your keys, it’ll still get scratched up, but it will heal itself within a few seconds. That’s pretty amazing. I’m excited to see this technology make its way into other smartphones.

LG did bring the removable back to the LG G Flex 2 – even though their domestic competitors, Samsung, got rid of it on their flagship. Removing the back of the device reveals the microSD card slot, SIM card slot, and the non-removable battery. Yep it is a non-removable battery, most likely because it is a curved battery. Around back, you still have the 13MP camera with laser auto-focus, dual flash as well as the volume rocker and power button.

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This time around, LG did redesign the rear-facing buttons. They are a bit more square this time, and actually easier to press. Compared to the LG G3, they look even nicer, and are a bit less flush than the buttons on the LG G3 and even the LG G2. Even with the redesign of the rear facing buttons, I still prefer the rear-facing buttons, as they are right where you put your fingers. Making it easy to adjust the volume as well as turning on/off the device.

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On the front, LG gave us a 5.5-inch 1080p display, which is a stark difference from the original LG G Flex which had a 6-inch 720p display. While it is a 1080p display, it’s still a Plastic OLED or POLED display. So it’s not as great as an AMOLED or IPS display, but compared to its predecessor, it’s way better. With the original LG G Flex, there was a few issues with ghosting. It appears that is gone on the LG G Flex 2. As I haven’t seen any ghosting affects on this G Flex 2 at all.

Performance

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We do have a Snapdragon 810 from Qualcomm inside the LG G Flex 2. And we have heard all kinds of overheating problems with this processor, and the LG G Flex 2 is affected. While all smartphones have thermal throttling – where a device can’t ramp up past a certain speed, to keep it from getting too hot – it appears that the throttling is pretty low on the LG G Flex 2, unfortunately. Without any gaming at all, I saw plenty of lag with the LG G Flex 2. Tapping on Twitter or Google+ from the home screen, it’d take about 3 seconds to open. I know that doesn’t sound like a long time, but it gets longer the warmer the device gets. Additionally, pressing the power button to turn on the device also takes a bit to actually turn on.

Compared to the HTC One M9, the LG G Flex 2 seems to have more of an issue with the Snapdragon 810. As the performance is drastically different, and the internal specs are pretty much the same, aside from the larger display. Hopefully an update from LG comes out soon to fix the performance, or at least make it better.

Battery Life

Unlike some of the other LG smartphones we’ve seen in the last few months, battery life is not as stellar. While it is enough to get you through the day. The 3000mAh battery will definitely keep you running for 24 hours, but it won’t get you far past that, unfortunately. Now this one is running on Sprint’s network, and in my area Sprint’s network isn’t too strong, and I lose signal quite a bit. So that could have an impact on battery life.

 Software

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We do have Android 5.0 Lollipop here, however you won’t really notice that due to LG’s skin. If you’ve used the LG G3 or even the LG G Vista recently, you’ll be very familiar with LG’s software here. While there isn’t a huge difference – probably a good thing for the market that LG is targeting overall – there are still some changes. Most of them are under-the-hood. Unfortunately, the LG G Flex 2 launched with Android 5.0, so it’s hard to compare it to the KitKat version of LG’s software, as it was on different hardware. Nonetheless, you’ll notice right away from the lock screen. On the lock screen, LG is using AOSP notifications, so they are right there front-and-center. If you have a notification you want to check on, just tap on it, then you need to swipe to unlock the device to get into the app for that notification. HTC is a bit different, just tap on the notification, and the Nexus 6, you have to double tap.

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While we’re talking notifications, another area that’s a bit weird for LG is the notification drawer. You have your “quick settings” there. They are more or less the same as what we had on KitKat LG devices. So when you pull down the notification drawer, you have your scrolling list of toggles, as well as a brightness and sound slider below that. Not a huge deal, but would definitely like to see a bit more consistency with AOSP. The app drawer is virtually unchanged from KitKat however. Sprint and LG have pre-installed quite a bit of bloat this time around. Including Box, Facebook, Flixster, IMDb, NBA GameTime, Spotify, Sprint Fun & Games, Sprint Zone, Thinkfree Viewer, Lookout, and a bunch of others that I uninstalled. Not disabled, but completely uninstalled. So at least you can fully get rid of a lot of these apps.

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A few of my favorite LG features did make the cut onto the LG G Flex 2. That includes Quick Memo+. I like QuickMemo+ as it allows you to take notes quickly, and even straight from the notification drawer. You can also write on screenshots, similar to what you can do on Samsung’s Galaxy Note line of devices, with their S Pen. Another one is Quick Remote. While it may sound simple, having an IR Blaster in your smartphone is amazing. We first started seeing this – again – with the HTC One M7 and Samsung Galaxy S4 back in 2013. LG brought it along with the LG G2 and every flagship since has had it. It works well, while it’s now Peel Smart Remote, it will control your TV.

Knock On and Knock Code make their way back onto the LG G Flex 2 as well. So you can double tap the screen to unlock it. Something a lot of devices have already, even though LG made that a thing with the LG G2. With Knock Code, you can tap in a pattern on your device to unlock your phone. It might sound stupid, but it’s really cool and even more secure than any of the other settings Google has in AOSP. Additionally, you can take a finger and swipe down from the top of the device when it’s turned off and it’ll display the clock as well as your notification/status bar. Which is a nice addition, if you ask me.

Camera

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We have a 13MP OIS+ camera on the back here. It takes some pretty decent shots. I spent an afternoon in Downtown Detroit and another in Dearborn and got some great shots that you’ll see in the gallery down below. No settings were changed except to 13MP and 4K video. To take full advantage of the sensor.

As you might expect, with laser auto-focus, the device is nice and fast at capturing photos. Although I think the HTC One M9 is still faster. The camera UI is still nice and intuitive with your shutter, record, back button and last picture taken on the right side and all your settings on the left side. Now you can’t change the settings as intensively as your can on the HTC One M9 or even the Sony Xperia Z3, but the G Flex 2 does take some pretty amazing pictures in auto. As well as in Auto HDR. We do also have Auto, Panorama and Dual modes here. And that’s about it. LG has done a great job at keeping the camera app nice and tidy and not bloated, over the past year.

Other Odds & Ends

  • Voice quality was pretty good, although while downtown and on the riverwalk I did lose signal from Sprint. However that is pretty common among all the carriers.
  • The performance on the LG G Flex 2 is pretty abismal. I hate to say it, but I think the Snapdragon 810 is to blame. I haven’t seen lag this bad on a device in quite a while.
  • The volcano red color that Sprint has the exclusive on…HOT!
  • If you pick up the LG G Flex 2, you’re gonna get people’s attention. Curved phones are attention getters I guess?

Final Thoughts

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The LG G Flex 2 is no doubt a beautiful looking smartphone. Especially in the volcano red color. However, it’s not a perfect phone. As with any phone it has its flaws. And I have to say almost all of its flaws are due to the processor. The phone does get pretty hot – no heat warnings though surprisingly – and performance is hit or miss with the device. Some days, it’s really snappy, others it’s really slow and almost a pain to use. In fact, the other day, I hit the power button, and waited for at least 30 seconds for it to turn on. I actually though the battery had died. And each movement after that took almost that long. Tapping on Chrome, almost 30 seconds, closing Chrome, another 30 seconds. That’s just not what you expect from a Smartphone in 2015.

Having said that, I do hope that LG can do something about the processor through software updates. However it’s also important to note that software can only do so much.