Nobody needs a curved smartphone. For all the breathless praise that’s surrounded devices like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and LG G Flex 2, for all the marketing hype that’s pimped them and will continue to pimp their successors going forward, slightly bending part of a smartphone has yet to make that phone more useful.
This isn’t a step forward for mobile computing—it’s a gimmick, a thing whose highest aim is to attract glances on the subway. It’s innovation for kicks, mostly purposeless but distinct enough to justify a higher-than-normal price tag. Software made to utilize curved hardware is virtually non-existent, and the phones themselves aren’t any more comfortable to hold than a standard phone with rounded edges. Any benefits they bring in day-to-day use—like, say, the way the G Flex 2 puts the loudspeaker closer to your ear during a call—are marginal at best. They just look cool.
But here’s the thing: That’s totally fine. The tech world is filled with ostensibly pointless creations that only exist because they look nice and feel like they point to the future; just look at every smartwatch that’s launched in the past two years. What’s more, things like that need to exist, if only because it allows us to figure out if they have any practical value. Weirdness and experimentation (and money) is what makes consumer technology breathe.
So if you can afford it and you’re interested, please, buy a Galaxy S6 Edge or G Flex 2. Neither does much of anything with their respective curves, but they’re high-quality devices regardless, and proving that there’s an audience for these things may make their inevitable follow-ups more than just eye candy. If nothing else, they’ll always look cool. Maybe that’s enough.
Before you run off to pick one up, though, it’s worth taking a look at what each device brings to the table. We’ve done this kind of thing before, but today we’re stacking the S6 Edge and G Flex 2 side by side. Just like last time, our goal isn’t to tell you which device is better, because different users will always have different tastes. Instead, we’re using the spec sheets and our own experiences with the devices to help you better understand what you’re looking at, just in case you ever find yourself choosing between the two. Here’s the tale of the tape for these two bent wonders.
As noted above, even if neither the S6 Edge nor the G Flex 2 takes full advantage of their curves, they’re both stunning to look at. They’re also sequels to less successful stabs at modified displays—the Galaxy Note Edge and G Flex (1), respectively—but both phones improve on their predecessors’ designs.
The Galaxy S6 Edge makes the most dramatic gains. We’ve told you how much we enjoy the reworked build and finish of the Galaxy S6 in the past, and the S6 Edge shares almost the exact same build. It’s got the same smooth aluminum trim and glass back, it’s only a hair thicker (at 7mm, compared to 6.8mm on the regular S6), and at 132 grams, it’s wonderfully light, even more so than its sibling. It also has Samsung’s traditionally blasé design language on its front and a camera that juts too far out of its back, but as with the S6, the rest of the build’s quality makes those annoyances easy enough to look past.
The only difference is that the sides of the S6’s display are gently curved downwards. The effect is much less jarring than the one-sided bend of the Note Edge, and it comes off as more natural-feeling as a result. It’s a little more awkward in the hand than the standard S6, but it’s far from unusable—and again, it’s distinct.
The G Flex 2 is largely made of plastic, which is smooth to the touch but still feels a fair bit cheaper than the finishes of most modern high-end handsets. It’s both heavier (152g) and thicker (9.4mm) than the S6 Edge, but it also has a larger display, and relative to its size it isn’t a burden to hold. It’s sturdily put together in spite of its plastic, and like other recent LG phones, all of its physical keys are placed on the rear of the device, which remains more comfortable to use than stretching your fingers around the sides.
Its back also features the same “self-healing” properties of the original G Flex, which gives you a small amount of resistance to light scratches and dings. In fact, the G Flex 2’s damage resistance is probably the best thing it has going for it—the whole phone can be pushed straight but is exceedingly difficult to break, allowing you to accidentally drop or sit on it without fear of busting it apart.
Of course, what makes the G Flex 2 stand out the most is just how curved it is. Unlike the S6 Edge, it warps the entirety of the device, bending the whole phone inward like a futuristic banana. It leaves a greater impression, but once again, it doesn’t make the phone as awkward to hold as it might first appear. It takes some getting used to, sure, but it isn’t much of a leap from using something like the LG G3—it just bulges out of your pocket a little bit more.
Both phones come with excellent displays, but the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen on the S6 Edge is well above average. Like the S6’s panel, it has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, which is normally reserved for phablets. It’s good for a crazy high pixel density of 577 pixels per inch, which is mostly overkill, but prohibits any momentary lapses in sharpness unless you view your phone under a microscope. It also excels with the kind of lively colors and deep black tones that only top-notch OLED tech can provide. Viewing angles, brightness levels, and outdoor visibility are all above-average too.
The G Flex 2 isn’t quite as overpowered, but its 5.5-inch P-OLED screen still belongs on a flagship device.. It’s a 1080p panel that equates to a pixel density of 403 ppi, which is plenty crisp for everyday use. It too does a great job with coloring and contrast, viewing angles, and brightness. It generally isn’t as eye-popping as the S6 Edge’s display, but it’s more spacious, and it has a slightly higher screen-to-body ratio (about 74% to the Edge’s 71%).
The S6 Edge runs on the same guts as the regular S6: an Exynos 7420 chipset courtesy of Samsung itself, which is made up of a quad-core 2.1GHz Cortex-A57 processor for more intensive tasks and a quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 processor for the basics. That’s joined by a Mali-T760MP8 GPU and 3 GB of RAM.
The G Flex 2, meanwhile, sticks with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 SoC, which carries nearly the same big.LITTLE setup save for a Cortex-A57 CPU that’s clocked at 2GHz. It features an Adreno 430 GPU and either 2 GB or 3 GB of RAM depending on which model you purchase. (We used the 3 GB model in our testing.)
In a vacuum, both phones are more than strong enough to handle anything you throw at it. Games, movies, heavy webpages, opening and loading multiple apps—the Exynos and the Snapdragon can run fast and smooth them all. Casual, ordinary use with these two is a breeze.
It’s when you ramp things up over a longer period of time that you start to see some differences. Samsung, long one of Qualcomm’s biggest partners in the US, opted to use its traditionally overseas-only Exynos chip in its highest-profile phones this year in large part because the 810 has a tendency to overheat when pushed too hard.
This doesn’t cripple the G Flex 2’s performance, but it does produce some tangible warmth, and it makes the device more likely to see choppiness under duress than a high-end phone should be. The Exynos is more consistent and energy-efficient by comparison, aided in part by its use of the Universal Flash Storage 2.0 standard to get faster read and write speeds. Along with the regular S6, it is likely the fastest Android phone on the market today.
Outside of pure performance, the entry-level S6 Edge carries 32 GB of storage space, twice as much as the entry-level G Flex 2. The former comes in 64 GB and 128 GB variants at a higher cost, while the latter maxes out at 32 GB by default. However, in its attempt to tighten up its flagship design, the S6 Edge does lacks microSD support, meaning that the space you get out of the box is what you’re stuck with. The G Flex 2, on the other hand, does support microSD expansion for up to 128 GB of additional room.
Battery-wise, the G Flex 2 fits a 3,000mAh pack into its curvy frame, a good deal larger than the 2,600mAh battery in the S6 Edge. In practice, however, we were able to get about a day and a half of average use out of both phones—despite the fact that the S6 Edge is powering many more pixels.
Unfortunately, neither battery is removable, so if these early tests are deceiving, there’ll be no way to upgrade them. Both do support fast charging technology, however, allowing you to regain a significant portion of juice in less than an hour.
Both the S6 Edge and G Flex comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, but neither Samsung nor LG are on our favorites list when it comes to Android skins. TouchWiz and Optimus UI are still thick and bloated, filled with a number of programs that are either redundant or of little value to the user experience.
Neither is particularly good looking too, with icons and animations that just seem a bit bland next to the liveliness of stock Lollipop. It’s good that both devices are running Lollipop in the first place, but the pieces of Google’s Material Design aesthetic that have been implemented look out of place next to each skin. It’s tough to imagine many scenarios where we’d opt for either of these over the stock interface.
All that said, both of these skins have improved as the years have gone on. In the S6 Edge’s case, TouchWiz now turns off or hides a good chunk of its bloat by default, and still includes nifty features such as the ability to run two apps side by side and a genuinely responsive fingerprint reader for additional security. It’ll also support Samsung’s new mobile payment system, Samsung Pay, in the coming months. And while it doesn’t try to make much use out of its bent sides the way the Galaxy Note Edge did, it still gives them a modicum of functionality in the form of news and (heavily simplified) notification alerts.
Optimus UI on the G Flex 2 is more or less than same as it is on the G3—we expect an updated version to be unveiled with the LG G4 later this month—but getting around it is still mostly straightforward. It now has a “Glance View” option that lets you quickly check the notification bar just by swiping down on the sleeping screen, in addition to the same multitasking capabilities and various gesture controls that let you lock your device with a custom tapping pattern or take a selfie by making a fist in front of the camera, among other things.
Comparing the cameras on these two devices is much like comparing their displays: Both are generally great, but Samsung’s is among the best on the market. Officially, the S6 Edges features a 16-megapixel unit with optical image stabilization and LED flash. It excels in nearly every area you’d want a smartphone camera to excel, producing sharp, detailed, and well-exposed shots with a lens that shoots fast. Colors are consistently accurate, noise is kept to a minimum, and its performance in low-light settings is admirable. The only negatives here are its slight troubles in nailing down moving objects, and Samsung’s overloaded camera interface. It, like the S6 Edge’s display, is likely the best camera on an Android phone to date.
The G Flex 2 borrows the same 13-megapixel camera (with OIS and dual-LED flash) that was on the G3, and while it’s not as powerful as the S6 Edge’s unit, it’s still no slouch. LG’s most touted feature is an infrared-aided autofocus system that finds and focuses on a given object almost immediately as you press the onscreen shutter button. (Most flagships are quick to focus nowadays, but the minor boost is still appreciated.) It’s also above-average when it comes to coloring, detail, and low-light performance—not as consistent as Samsung’s unit, but hard to gripe about all the same. LG’s UI is also less stuffed up than Samsung’s.
Neither phone puts the same effort into the front-facing camera, however. The S6 Edge’s 5-megapixel selfie cam is superior to the G Flex 2’s 2.1-megapixel, noise-heavy equivalent, but that’s not saying much.
The Galaxy S6 Edge is more widely available than the G Flex 2, but it’s also pricier: You can get it at Verizon for $700 unsubsidized, Sprint for $770 unsubsidized, or AT&T for a whopping $815 unsubsidized, with all three also offering the phone for $300 with a two-year contract. T-Mobile, meanwhile, sells it for $32.50 per month for two years, or $780 outright.
The G Flex 2 is only out for Sprint and U.S. Cellular at the moment. At the former, it retails for fairly affordable $504 outright or $200 with a two-year contract. At the latter, it goes for $630 on a prepaid plan or $150 on a two-year contract. An AT&T release has been scheduled for the near future. There’s been no word of a potential Verizon and T-Mobile launch as of this writing.