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Retrospect: LG G Flex 2

Loud auditoriums, ballet dancers, camera flashes, YouTube video reviews and then silence. This is the short, floodlit, winding road that is universally traversed by all global players in the mobile industry when unveiling “the next big thing”. Sooner or later – usually sooner – the bandwagon then moves on to the next, “next big thing”. So, just over 6 months after launch, we look back at the LG G Flex 2, in Retrospect.

February 2015 was the date that LG decided to introduce us to the LG G Flex 2 the spiritual and logical successor to the LG G Flex from 2013. The Flex line has always been a little niche. It was LG’s attempt to deliver something new and fresh into a slightly form factor-stagnant market. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Round of 2013, the LG G Flex delivered a vertical curve when held in portrait whilst still maintaining many other features worthy of a flagship device. The LG G Flex 2 looks to build upon that approach.

It seems Samsung has made quite an impact on other industry heavyweights with their targeted device approach to smartphone tailoring. With the likes of the cool all round Samsung Galaxy Sx line and the professional power user Note product family, LG clearly saw an opportunity to deliver something slightly different themselves.

What’s It Got Going For It?

The LG G Flex 2 not only delivers a banana-esque curved 5.5″ 1080p screen (which should be enough on its own right?), but also a very compelling hardware package consisting of a Snapdragon 810 chipset, 3GB on the 32GB model, a micro SD card slot for expandable storage as well as a 13MP laser auto-focused camera with optical image stabilisation. Back in February of 2015, the LG G Flex 2 was the first device to be announced with the then, long-awaited Snapdragon 810 chipset. Given the hardware specifications of the LG G Flex 2, and the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S6 wouldn’t be released for another few months, and would still only really deliver better screen resolution, weighing in with a QHD display, it delivered power the market hadn’t yet seen. Likewise, the HTC One M9 would be launched in a similar time-frame to the Galaxy S6 and deliver a very similar hardware package to that of the LG G Flex 2, but with poorer performing optics by all accounts.

An SD Card slot isn’t to be sniffed at either. Launched around the end of the era when 32GB was the highest storage package you’d regularly expect to find, an SD Card was almost a must, and with the LG G Flex 2 accepting up to 128GB cards, it had you covered where other devices didn’t.

The design was also enough of a change from the other Android devices to get some attention. LG continued with their design aesthetic by positioning the volume rocker and power buttons to the rear of the device as was the case since the release of the LG G2 in 2013, as well as shipping with the daringly named “self-healing” back cover once again. The idea of the latter is to provide a level of extra protection against minor scrapes and scratches. Given a but of time, and usually a little rubbing, the self-healing back cover would render most minor scratches invisible. A neat touch!

Oh, and it’s curved. Did we mention it was curved….cool!

What Does It Fail At?

There have been endless paragraphs written about the Snapdragon 810 chipset in the current generation of smartphones so we will try not to add to them too much. Using our 20:20 Retrospect glasses here and cutting a long story short, many found an overheating issue when devices were taxed a little, causing the performance of these chipsets to throttle and as such, deteriorate. This rumoured to be the main reason behind Samsung’s eventual decision to stick with their homebrew Exynos processors for the Galaxy S6 line. Similar to the HTC One M9 Retrospect piece, we didn’t particularly find any huge bottlenecks. However there is no denying its existence and it has shown up to a lesser or greater degree than reported, on occasion.

At 5.5″ it was perhaps considered slightly too large in a time where many were sticking to around the 5″ mark as a supposed sweet spot. Whilst you’d expect a horizontal curve (a-la Galaxy Round) to provide a better in hand feel, the LG G Flex 2’s back cover does taper off at all edges which helps to provide an adequately comfortable fit in the palm. It definitely is quite large however which some would have had issue with.

Finally, there’s the optics. 13MP isn’t a big number for the masses to clamour over any longer. Despite possessing an identical optical package as the then current LG flagship, the LG G3, reviews of the device’s optics were a little more critical than that of the G3 at the time. Judge for yourself.

 

In Retrospect, How Does It Contend Against Current Devices?

Back at the start of 2015, the LG G Flex 2 had to compete in-house with the current LG flagship, the G3. The LG G3 was nearing 9 months old at this point, but due to its success, was still a viable option for those coming out of a contract or wanting to pickup a new device. Both devices sported a 5.5″ display, with the G3’s delivering QHD resolution (2K) compared to the G Flex 2’s Full HD (1080p) screen. Aside from this, both were similar in size, screen to body ratio, RAM and Storage capacity, as well as their optical deployments, as previously mentioned. The LG G Flex 2 did however have a bit of a performance boost in terms of chipset with its 810 over-powering the G3’s 801 in most instances, including synthetic benchmarks.

Other devices around today sport better optical packages, and more premium build quality (see the HTC One M9, the Apple iPhone 6x series and the Samsung Galaxy S6 series of devices to name a few), however not many, or any currently over power the LG G Flex 2 in pure grunt. The Snapdragon 810 is still a very capable chipset despite the potential for overheating.

The LG G Flex 2 can also hold its own in the video stakes. Delivering 4K video recording at 30fps sits neatly alongside most current generation smartphones, including the most recent releases of the iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, and the S6+/S6 Edge+. That’s good company to be in.

Where the LG G Flex 2 does lose a few brownie points however is the lack of emerging technologies. Qi Wireless Charging is included on current Samsung devices and fingerprint sensors are included on Samsung, Apple, and other devices currently such as on the OnePlus 2, Honor 7, Meixu MX5, and the upcoming Sony S5 range.

One particular area of note which might well be the biggest consideration for some consumers however is pricing. With Samsung’s cheapest current generation device, the Galaxy S6, tipping the scale at around the £370 mark, the Apple iPhone 6 (already a half, or full step behind depending on your belief) shipping at around £450 and HTC’s One M9 around the £400 mark, the LG G Flex 2 has a significant leg up being £100 cheaper than its nearest rival based on those prices. A brand new LG G Flex 2 will set you back as little as £275 with a little searching currently. That’s a significant saving on a ‘new’ phone.

Conclusion

The LG G Flex 2 is a good device. Don’t let anybody tell you different. Sure it’s unique in some ways, has a much maligned, but still capable chipset, and a camera package that gets the job done quickly and most of the time efficiently, whilst not scaling the heights that the Galaxy S6 manages, but it’s a solid option, even 6 months on from launch.

It recently received the Android 5.1.1 upgrade which has fixed a number of the early bugs in the Lollipop software, and still seems quick, and stable. Stability is a good word to choose here as it has decent specifications all round. Performance, check! Camera, check!, Ram and Storage, check and check! Battery life and charging, check (albeit no wireless charging)!

The only weak point here might be availability, and the fact that technology is moving on and the fundamentals of later-2015 flagship devices denote fingerprint scanning, wireless charging and metallic bodies be in situ. Then again, consumers pay for those technologies, and whilst a nice to have, aren’t essential.

To use a boxing analogy, the latest Samsung and Apple devices for example are more likely to be big box office, dance around and talk up a big fight, as well as finishing with a knockout blow after you’ve paid a pretty penny for the privilege to watch it. Whereas the LG G Flex 2 would be a work and train hard, provide a stable footing in the early rounds to build upon, and beat most opponents on points. The conclusion being, there is always another flashy fighter waiting just around the corner to knock the bird of its perch, however a good fighter is always a good fighter, despite not being the best at everything or indeed, anything perhaps.

To quote my brother who gave suggested this to be the case, “The LG G Flex 2; the forgotten flagship”. That kind of sums it up.

For more information take a look at the LG G Flex 2 website, or Vodafone UK for pricing.

About Craig Bradshaw

Tech enthusiast and Editor-in-Chief of MobileTechTalk

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