We called out to you loyal Giz UK readers, and you answered in force. Our inbox was inundated with hundreds of applicants for the LG G Flex2 Testmodo season, and we've now got our four lucky test subjects. Say hello to Jassen Payen, Tom Price, Suzanne Atkins and Samuel Hudson, who will be putting the curvaceous LG smartphone through its paces.
Though our Testmoders get to keep the handsets they've been sent, they first have to give us a full report on what the smartphone is like. Their first task? Getting to grips with the uniquely curved design of the LG G Flex2...
The LG G Flex2 is pushing design innovations that aim to make smartphones feel more natural and fit better into our lifestyles. It’s easy to pass off the banana-like design as just another gimmick, yet its curviness is bound to garner a lot of attention when used out in public.
The screen is a curved P(lastic)-OLED display meaning not only does it have gorgeous saturated colours that ‘pop’ and deep blacks OLED displays are known for, but it also allows it to be ‘flexed’ to a certain level. This also means the screen is even stronger than Gorilla Glass 3 and can withstand being sat or even stood on without causing damage.
My favourite design innovations in software include the ‘Glance View’, which allows you to check the time and some status info by dragging your finger down on the screen when it is off; very handy when discretion is needed! Also setting a ‘smart knock’ code works well, and is where you tap out a pattern on the screen to unlock the phone instead of the flawed swipe lock system, which can leave smudgy clues on screen whenever used.
When holding the phone, your finger will naturally rest around the power button on the rear, so it’s easy to find the volume and power buttons. These buttons are also slightly recessed from the rest of the back so there is little chance of the buttons being pressed accidentally when in bags or pockets.
The screen curves inwards at an angle of 23 degrees, which affects the entire device, but it’s quite subtle in the rear. I’ve found the phone comfortably rests in the recessed area of your palm making it feel more secure to hold without fear of being dropped. It’s easier for my thumb to navigate towards the corners of the screen that bend slightly upwards with one hand.
I’ve found the curve of the phone helps it fit snugly in my pockets, but its size can still cause somewhat of a dodgy-looking trouser bulge. However the contour does feel natural against my face when making/receiving calls making the device deceptively smaller-feeling and svelte.
Typing on the phone is great. Not sure if it’s the curved bottom edge, but it’s the most accurate I’ve ever been able to thumb-tap on an Android phone.
The back is covered with a polycarbonate shell that has been treated to allow it to ‘self-heal’ from minor scratches like a well-known Marvel mutant. It can heal itself from small scratches in as little as 10 seconds, which along with the resilient front, has given me confidence in forgoing cases or screen protection in favour of its naked beauty.
The phone is free from any buttons or slots on either side. Instead, the power button has been moved to the back of the device, and is flanked by volume rocker controls, all positioned slightly under the 13MP camera. Having clean lines around the side of the phone makes it feel sturdy and premium. It is solid, and you won't find any rattling or creaks here.
Lastly, around the bottom, you’ll find a Micro USB connector, a 3.5mm headphone jack and microphone. Along the top, a secondary microphone for noise cancellation, and an IR Blaster which can be used as a universal remote.
So does the LG G Flex2 live up to its name? It just might do. I look forward to delving into the deeper aspects of the phone in the coming weeks.
Cards on the table, I normally wouldn’t consider anything but an iPhone when upgrading. The thing is, I couldn’t tell you why – I think Apple's PR just worked really well on me. Getting my hands on the LG G Flex2 though, a phone that I wouldn’t normally consider, opened up a world of new possibilities.
Obviously the main niche for the phone is its curved nature; but the curve is slight, sleek, and incredibly, incredibly subtle. After only a couple of hours with the phone, people had to mention the curve for me to even remember that every other phone has straighter edges. So does the arch add enough to be worthwhile? Initially no, but when you spend more time with it – the more the curve seems to make sense. Whether it was how the phone feels in your hand (incredibly comfortable as it seems more fitted to your palm), to how immersed you feel when viewing pictures or videos on its 5.5 inch screen – it seemed like curvature could be more than a gimmick.
That’s not to say that the bend doesn’t lead to a few problems though. With LG placing all buttons on the back of the phone, I noticed that the bend led to a lot of pocket unlocking. Every time I seemed to get it out on the first day, I had been locked out and had to use my backup pin – as the buttons had been clicking throughout the day.
Of all the slight flaws though, the most confusing is the placement of the speakers on the back. Whilst they’re admittedly loud, it seems weird that any music is further away and not coming right at you. It is also slightly tinny sounding, so their placement hasn’t been any more beneficial.
The more time you spend with the LG G Flex2 though, the more LG’s decisions seem to add up. Placing the buttons where your fingers already are anyway, making it the optimum size (your fingers stretch to reach the top but not too much), and obviously including the bend – it all seems to have been created for more ease of use than I’ve ever had on a phone before.
When I presented the LG G Flex2 to my friends and family, I got the same mixed response: “It looks awesome but why is it curved?” Well, when you think about it, your hand naturally curves in on itself, your face is curved, and your thumb swipes up in a curving manner. A curved phone actually makes a lot of sense!
Taking the phone out of the box, the first thing I noticed is that the Flex2 is lightweight but sturdy. Yes, the back is plastic but it looks and feels more substantial, and you feel like you're holding a solid piece of kit. I’m not concerned that it will shatter at the first sign of impact, and the ‘flex’ aspect of the design means that the “Bendgate” issue shouldn’t be anywhere near this phone.
Compared to the G3, the Flex2 has a certain sleek look about it. Despite them only being 10 months apart in age, the Flex2 very much has the appearance of the younger brother who got the better deal in the gene pool.
I quickly found the Flex 2 to be incredibly comfortable to hold and quite natural to use. As someone with small hands, my gripe about large smartphones was that I found them hard to hold in one hand, which causes problems when trying to use them whilst crammed into a small space on the London Underground trains. Whilst the size is still a little tricky at times, the Flex2 sits a lot more securely in my hand than I expected. This means I'm free to feel cultured by reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on my Kindle app, without jeopardising my balance. Definite bonus points all round.
However, as a girl who wears girl jeans and doesn't carry a handbag very often, the 5.5-inch phone can be a bit cumbersome in my pocket. The curve digs further into my thigh than a flat phone does when I'm climbing stairs or sitting down. I don't notice any difference when walking normally, but I am conscious of the fact that it's on view unless I'm wearing a long top. In short, the size and shape of the phone doesn't work with the pockets in girls clothes. My boyfriend assures me it's quite comfortable in his man-sized pocket, though.
It doesn't take a genius to notice that the 'call' symbol on any phone is a curved old-style handset. Phones were invented to be curved for a reason: to easily reach your ear and mouth at the same time! Taking calls on the Flex 2 shows phones were invented this way because it works. Sound clarity is sharper, and the caller has no problems in hearing me speak.
Reverting to using my flat phone, I was surprised at how quickly I had gotten used to the curved one. It’s nicer to handle and use, and having a curved phone provides an easy talking point in the pub.
Well… it’s curved. But you probably already knew that. However, what you might not know is why this matters. Is it just a gimmick? Is it beneficial? Or is it totally irrelevant?
The first thing I noticed about the phone is its looks. In my opinion it is a simple, well-designed device and is gorgeous to look at. But I would say that having previously owned an LG G3.
The Flex2 has a small bezel with silver edging which gives a classy look to the device and makes it stand out from the slightly older G3. But the curved back does make it sit up slightly when ‘flat’ on the desk and takes away from the sleek look LG have tried to create, whilst also making navigation of the phone difficult without picking it up which, to be completely honest, could just be me being lazy.
The G Flex2 feels great in the hand, with the curve definitely adding to the experience. However I can’t say that it adds to the experience of using the phone itself. Typing isn’t really better, only different, and when navigating the phone the screen feels large even though it is exactly the same size as my G3’s screen. This is due to the fact there is a very slight difference in phone size overall. Having said this, the Flex2 is still relatively small compared to other devices available, such as the iPhone 6 plus, which could be confused with a small house.
Where the phone does well is when it is actually being used as a phone. During a call the Flex2 feels great in the hand and during calls I found a definite improvement in overall call quality. This was mainly due to the other person actually being able to hear what I am saying, as the microphone is located in the perfect position to sit near a user's mouth.
The self healing back is definitely an improvement from the G3’s backing as it gives more grip to the phone, making it less difficult to accidently destroy on the well known enemy of every smart phone… the ground. And whilst the build quality is not as high a standard as that of some rival flagship devices, it is by no means a poor quality phone, with its lightweight feel making up any lost marks.
One of the main concerns raised by people I have showed the Flex2 to (and I have shared similar fears whilst using the phone) is that the curve is slightly terrifying. There is a constant fear that it will be bent the wrong way and despite what anyone may say, this makes putting the phone in your pocket a nerve racking event. Unless you remember to put it the right way round, in which case you may just forget the phone is there at all due to its snug, thigh/bum hugging fit.
All I can say is: so far… so good.
Check back for the next Testmodo challenge on May 15th, and follow our Testmodo winners' tweets using the hashtag #testmodoGFlex2.