LAS VEGAS -- Doubling down on its uniquely bowed G Flex smartphone, LG unveiled its successor, the aptly named G Flex 2, today during a CES 2015 press conference. Equipped with a 5.5-inch touchscreen that has a 23 degree arc, the device will initially launch in Korea later this month with other countries following suit.
Available in platinum silver and flamenco red, the G Flex 2 sports a more premium aesthetic than the original, and during my brief time with it, it felt incredibly luxe. At 5.9 inches tall, 3 inches wide, and with a profile of 0.3 to 0.4 inches at the thickest (149 by 75 by 7.1 to 9.4mm), the device is smaller and 15 percent lighter (5.4 ounces or 152 grams) as well. Given my petite grip, this size tweak meant that the handset is more manageable and comfortable to hold. It also fit easier (though not effortlessly) in my jean pockets.
As for its eye-catching curve, the phone has a 23-degree arc, which lends to a more immersive viewing experience. Though not a rugged device by any means, the G Flex 2 is designed to withstand a certain degree of abuse. It can flex straight when you push or step on the handset with the display facing downward.
LG has also improved on the slick protective coating that's on the back of the phone, so that it can mend everyday scuffs and scratches faster. I got a chance to run my keys across the back several times. While I didn't notice a faster healing time per se, the coating did well to protect the G Flex 2 against any markings my keys might have left.
One of the biggest improvements with the device is its display. I was previously disappointed that the first G Flex only had a 720p resolution, but LG has now bumped that up to 1080p. And given the size decrease (it now measures 5.5 inches instead of 6), the screen has a higher pixel density of 403ppi, resulting in a noticeably sharper display.
LG also reported that the Gorilla Glass touchscreen is treated in-house to make it more durable. The process requires the panel to be chemically treated with a very hot gas, and makes it 20 percent stronger than when left untreated.
The G Flex 2 joins the ranks of Samsung's Korean-exclusive Galaxy Note 4 as one of the first few mobile devices to include the powerful Snapdragon 810 quad-core processor from Qualcomm. The 64-bit octa-core CPU has a clock speed of 2GHz, and promises smooth game play and graphics rendering.
Also powering the handset is a 3,000mAh battery. Though its capacity has decreased (the original had a 3,500mAh battery while T-Mobile's G Flex had a 3,400mAh battery), LG reports that battery performance has altogether improved. It will charge faster, and the company says the G Flex 2 can regain 50 percent of its juice in under 40 minutes. Of course, once we get our hands on a review unit, we'll see if these numbers hold up.
The G Flex 2 will ship with Google's latest mobile OS, Android 5.0 Lollipop, with expected software goodies like notifications on the lock screen, and a richer approach to recent apps known as Overview. LG's own user interface will be layered on top as well.
In addition to previously seen software features like the company's KnockOn and KnockCode gestures (which let you wake up or unlock, respectively, your LG device with various tapping gestures directly from a sleeping lock screen), the G Flex 2 will also have GlanceView. Activated by a downward swipe from the top of the screen, GlanceView allows you to quickly check the time, date and any missed notifications, without having to wake up the handset.
The smartphone has two different storage capacities (16 or 32GB), and includes either 2 or 3GB of RAM depending on availability. Like some variants of the LG G3, the G Flex 2 has a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 2TB. But don't jump for joy just yet -- no one's really mass producing 2TB microSD cards, and the largest one you'll likely see on the current market is 128GB.
For your video chatting and selfie needs, the G Flex 2 has a 2.1-megapixel front-facing shooter. Due to the popularity of selfie sticks, LG has integrated motion recognition that allows the camera to sense whenever it's being lowered from on high by a stick or a raised arm. When it picks up on this movement, a preview of the last taken photo will immediately appear without the user having to manually check for him or herself.
On the back is a 13-megapixel shooter that can record full HD video. Like the G3, it has a laser-guided auto-focus, as well as dual flashes and optical image stabilization. For a glimpse of the rear camera's photo quality, check out my snapshots below.
LG isn't the only mobile manufacturer to make a curved smartphone. Its main Korean rival, Samsung, launched the Galaxy Round (which has a vertical bend) before the original G Flex in October 2013. But unlike the Flex, the Round didn't have as wide of a reach -- for example, it never made its way to the US (in comparison, the Flex got support from three major carriers), and Samsung hasn't announced any plans to make a sequel.
With the G Flex 2, however, it looks like LG may be leading the way when it comes to the curve. By consciously making the device higher-end, LG has given users more of an incentive to be interested. If the bend doesn't hook you in, what about its top-of-the-line processor or ultra-crisp display? Understandably, with this bump in hardware, users will be expected to fork out much more money than before. But if the success of many top-tier smartphones reveals anything about the market, it's that people are more willing to pay up if the specs are right.