Huawei P8 – can the new Chinese flagship smartphone keep you out of contract?

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SIM-only contracts for smartphones are getting cheaper all the time and more and more discerning individuals are opting not to tie themselves into a talk plan for years, even if that does mean stumping up a fair whack for a  new phone. For many this puts the flagship phones from the major players just out of arms reach, but if you’re willing to forgo the more established brands there are some pretty special devices vying for our attention.

So says Huawei anyway, with a new handheld we’ve been hearing a bit about recently. It’s called the P8, and is the new flagship model for a Chinese manufacturer that’s been gathering a bit of a following among those who aren’t afraid to think outside the box.

When you look at the specs, you can see why Huawei is using this as its current head-turner. It has a 5.2” display at 1920×1080 resolution and 424ppi – the same as the Xperia Z3. There’s 3GB of RAM, between 16 and 64GB of storage with microSD and a Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A53 to keep things ticking over. For media you’ve got a 13MP primary camera capable of full HD video at 30fps, with an 8MP selfie on the front. It’s water and dust resistant and has even shelled out on Gorilla Glass 3 for a toughened screen. And it looks pretty sweet as well – check out that slim side bezel.

But looks can be deceiving, as can an apparently impressive collection of internals, so we’ll cast our eye over some early reviews to see if it lives up to its billing.

Let’s begin where we left off with the design. The Independent is a fan and calls it “a leap forward in design and build quality” for the company, lauding its all-aluminium one-piece frame and the fact that:

“Huawei proudly boasted that a higher proportion (78.3 per cent) of the front of the phone was screen than on rivals like the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6.”

The display in action is thankfully up to scratch:

“The wall-to-wall screen looks great, even if its HD resolution is less impressive than the Samsung Galaxy S6’s far higher pixel count. Even so, the screen looks attractive and full of rich, realistic colours and detail.”

Some of the other tricks in Huawei’s arsenal are examined here, such as the Voice Wake function, which works a bit like one of those car-key whistle locators except here you speak a pre-recorded phrase and the phone wakes, plays music and sings “I’m here”. It also proves that it’s down with the current generation with something called Perfect Selfie – a soft focus effect designed to enhance those spotty head-shots, and a light painting mode that:

“Essentially lets you shoot a video which combines light effects into a still picture, though the examples given included dazzling fireworks brandished around remarkably brave models.”

It summarises by saying that good things could be on the horizon for Huawei in terms of breaking into the western market – it’s “a company that for some time now has felt like it’s been on the brink of the big time”. Could this be the thing that tips it over?

TechRadar is fairly measured and likes the premium design, the display and feature-packed camera, but does have some issues with the performance. It’s not quite as snappy as the Galaxy S6 Edge you see, though considering the price point on that beauty we’d be surprised if it was, and the jury is out on Huawei’s Emotion UI – its OS overlay that leads the reviewer to suggest:

“Don’t get too excited at the mention of the Lollipop operating system either, as it hasn’t escaped the clutches of Huawei’s Emotion UI on the P8.”

Elsewhere the camera impresses, and it points out that Huawei claims it “outperforms the snapper on the iPhone 6 Plus”, which would be an impressive achievement. This is likely down to a new technology:

 “Low light enhancement promises clearer, brighter images in poorly lit areas thanks to the world’s first four colour RGBW smartphone sensor, independent DSLR-quality ISP (image signal processor) and beefed up OIS.”

TechRadar concludes by saying “The Huawei P8 is the most exciting handset to come out of the Chinese firm over the past few years, possibly ever, and it shows some very real promise.”

But all of this is a bit early doors. What we really need is someone who’s put the P8 through its paces, and here we turn to PC PRO. It has a full review with benchmarks, awarding the phone 4/5 but suggesting it’s not quite up to the task of challenging the big boys. There’s nothing wrong with the design though, being “super-slim, measuring a mere 6.9mm from front to back, it weighs only 144g, and it looks great.” The removable microSD gets a mention, as do water and dust resistance when comparing it to the Samsung Galaxy S6, which has none of these.

As for those fancy camera tricks, PC Pro says

“The results are impressive. The camera is quick to launch and take pictures, plus it focuses quickly and confidently. Importantly, the quality is fantastic, particularly in low light” and “In good light we were impressed to find that the camera dealt well with even tricky scenes, retaining detail in bright skies without losing detail in shadowy areas. Video looks just as good – crisp and rock-steady in all but the most extreme situations.”

The only downside was slightly washed out pictures in some conditions, and that some of the software functions seemed a bit gimmicky, but otherwise it seems like good news for snappers.

When it comes to performance it’s unfortunately not up to scratch against the likes of the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6, with the GPU being the main cause. For pure number crunching it’s still fairly good though, so if you’re not an avid gamer you might not notice much of a difference.

And when it comes to the battery it’s a similar story – it lags behind rivals such as the Xperia Z3 and Galaxy S6 to a noticeable degree, sucking around 15% of power for an hour of video playback and around 7% for streaming audio, both below average.

Still, there’s plenty to like about the P8 overall and some features, such wind-noise reduction, automatic microphone sensitivity and earpiece volume control sound genuinely useful, even if others, such as “Knuckle sense” that allows you to capture a screenshot with a tap of your knuckle” do not.

PC Pro concedes that the P8 certainly has its attention but “it isn’t quite cheap enough to get our wholehearted recommendation”, which brings us back to our original point.

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Is this affordable enough to keep you from the suffocating embrace of a two-year contract? Just about. The standard version will cost £360, with the premium £430, which is around 25% off what you’d pay for a “badge” with a similar spec and possibly more if you factor in how cheap microSD cards are. Even despite potential performance issues, we definitely think this is worth keeping an eye on.

Visit Huawei to find out more.

Microsoft’s Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL: what do the critics think?

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At last, the highly-anticipated Lumia 640 has hit the high streets and online stores. Lumia’s latest addition to its portfolio will soon be joined by the Lumia 640 XL, due to be available by the end of April.

So how are the latest Lumia handsets bearing up to the scrutinising eye of the tech press?

Lumia 640

According to Wired, Microsoft is expecting ‘big things’ from the latest ‘hero’ in its budget stable phone. In a hands-on review, Wired – notoriously not easy to impress – seemed pretty bowled over by the 640.

Claiming the 640 to be a pretty decent mid-range phone with matching mid-range specification, for Wired, what lifts the 640 out of the conundrums of the ordinary, is the fact owners get a free year’s subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal. This means you can have Office apps on the phone as well as an additional PC or tablet.

So asides getting the main Office apps plus Publisher, Access and Outlook, you’ll get 1TB of online storage and 12 month’s free Skype calls, a package normally worth £60  year – a nice little extra for sure.

Okay, so we all love extras, but what about the real guts of the phone?

Wired are pleased to see that the new Lumia’s screen size has been increased from 4.5 inches to 5 inches, and with an HD 1,280×720 pixels, the resolution has improved too.

The Wired reviewer is also quick to point out that the 640 runs of Windows Phone 8.1, which is “slick and functional” and requires “less grunt from the processor to deliver a quick and smooth performance.”

The voice recognition is pretty good too. The ‘Cortana’ assistant genuinely helpful, says Wired.

On the downside, the processor could be a bit more powerful, concludes Wired, but for £120, it’s a general thumbs up from techies that are not easily awe-struck.

‘The world won’t change’

In a quick play around with the 640, Tech Radar admitted that with the same design language as its predecessor, the Lumia 635, the world won’t change with the 640.

Despite its predictable design, the new handset’s bonus is, according to Tech Radar, its removable back panel, which means the SIM card and microSD slots are hidden but could prove tiresome to remove if you’re using them regularly.

On the upside, during a play through of the apps, the 640 looked beautiful and was “one of the brightest Windows Phone handset” the reviewer had ever used.

For selfie-lovers, the device’s front facing camera should be able to cope.

In its review of the Lumia 640, PC Advisor concentrated on the camera and admitted that despite taking trial shots in difficult conditions, the camera did a pretty good job.

However, PC Advisor’s net verdict isn’t too inspiring as despite being nice looking and relatively cheap, there’s no need to get excited in terms of spec, as the 640 offers little more than what’s already on offer in a crowded Lumia market.

Lumia 640 XL

So what about the yet-to-be-released 640 XL, the 640’s bigger and beefier version, what’s the word on the street so far?

According to Recombu, despite the handset’s thickness, it doesn’t come across as bulky and is in fact quite the opposite. Its matte finish is accompanied with a pillowed back for extra grip and comfort.

With vivid colours, good visibility in bright sunlight and respectable viewing angles, the XL’s display “packs a wonderful punch”, claims Recombu.

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Retailing from £219, the XL’s affordable price is one of its plus points according to the Tech Radar review. Other ‘pros’ include its large battery, bright screen and the fact it feels good to hold. On the downside, it’s only available on Windows Phone 8.1 – for now – and is 1080p on a 5.7 inch screen.

For more information visit Microsoft.

Archos 50 Oxygen Plus: Taking the ‘smart’ out of the smartphone?

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Archos, the French multinational producer of tablets, phones and other electronic devices, has extended its range with the 50 Oxygen Plus. Okay, so its name might sound more like a medical device designed to help people breathe than a smartphone, but that doesn’t mean to say it’s not worth bothering about.

On the contrary, according to Archos, the 50 Oxygen Plus combines an ergonomic design with performance and power for an affordable price. Well they would say that, but what we ask is what do the critics think?

Tech Radar: stifled by the ‘big shots’

After a hands on review of the Archos 50 Oxygen Plus, Tech Radar came to the conclusion that whilst it’s a decent affordable smartphone, it will be difficult for the 50 Oxygen Plus to stand out amongst the ‘bigger names’ in the market.

With a SIM-free retail price of just £149.99, Tech Radar is quick to point out that the 50 Oxygen Plus offers value for money – on paper at least.

While the current model is available on 3G, Tech Radar advise to hold out until June when 4G variant with Android Lollipop makes an appearance for just £30 or so more than the current model.

Asides its low cost and incoming 4G with Lollipop, Tech Radar praise the 50 Oxygen Plus for its “strong spec.”

The key features of this “strong spec” include a 5-inch 720p display, 1GB of RAM, 1.4GHz octa-core processor, 8MP and 5MP cameras, 16GB of internal storage with a microSD slot for expansion, dual SIM support and a 2000mAh battery.

On the downside, Tech Radar thinks the 50 Oxygen Plus looks awful and a “bit like the iPhone 6” but with a cheap look and feel. As well as limited availability another weakness of the low-cost French smartphone is that its performance is a “little lacking.”

Digital Versus: Uncanny iPhone 6 resemblance

Deeming the 50 Oxygen Plus as an “extremely thin mid-range smartphone with an undeniably Apple-inspired design”, Digital Versus doesn’t seem too impressed with Archos’ new smartphone.

The review places the phone’s spec as “pretty traditional” but quick to point out the fact the handset is available in two versions.

Mobile Tech

Mobile Tech Review seem a little more forthcoming of the 50 Oxygen Plus, claiming that because the phone is powered by an Octo-Core 3G processor and a powerful GPU, users have the ability to “enjoy games, video and applications without lagging.”

Mobile Tech Review also seems pretty impressed with the handset’s 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 5MP front camera with multiple picture-taking modes to apparently capture “crystal clear memories”.

All in all, the Archos 50 Oxygen Plus is a cheap smartphone and, as we all know, cheap can often come at the expense of quality.

That said, it’s not a total thumbs down for the 50 Oxygen Plus and to regard the handset as taking the ‘smart’ out of the smartphone would be a little unfair.

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If you’re looking a smartphone that doesn’t break the bank and with its iPhone 6 resemblance certainly “looks the part”, then the Archos 50 Oxygen Plus could certainly be one to consider.

For more information visit Archos.

Hands On With The HTC M9 – Evolution Or Revolution?

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The release of HTC’s M9 is perhaps the company’s most significant launch since the M7 – a device that for many represented the very pinnacle of the premium smartphones market. Since then Samsung has delivered some all-metal beauties of its own and Apple made a significant generational leap with iPhone 6 and 6+, so everyone was hoping that HTC would do something special to get itself back in front.

First impressions are that it hasn’t. The now familiar dual-speaker array still runs the design, which in some ways may be holding it back because there are no immediate stand-out new features such as a fingerprint scanner or waterproofing. It has ditched the UltraPixel experiment though – or at least in terms of the main camera. Now you’ll find a beefy 20MP number at the rear, though the front-facer still uses Ultrapixel technology with 4MP resolution, which certainly seems like a sensible switch.

Elsewhere the M9 offers some pretty impressive core architecture with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit processor and a whopping 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a microSD slot for expansion with a 2840mAh battery.  The 5” display is stuck at 1920×1080 but does boast a sharp 441ppi and there’s fast-charging here courtesy of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0.

It’s a little early for full reviews but plenty of people have been getting their hands on the new M9, so let’s see if it has enough to keep HTC on the consumer’s radar.

Speaking of which, TechRadar sums things up quite well from the off by describing it as “a great phone if you’re upgrading from two years ago the concern here certainly seems to be that there’s not enough of an upgrade from the impressive M8. It lauds the beautiful design that needs to be seen up close to be truly appreciated.

“It needs to be felt. To speak about it, or even show it in pictures, doesn’t really do justice to the premium finish in the hand, to the well-balanced design, to the way everything feels weighty and solid.”

The power button has been moved to the side below the volume controls, which is slightly frustrating as they are all the same size and shape so it can be difficult to tell them apart by feel, and the familiar black band containing the HTC logo is still present but feels like it unnecessarily adds to the bulk of the phone. The display is impressive without being outstanding, with a colour temperature that’s a little on the cool side, and it points out that avoiding an upgrade to QHD resolution will do favours for the battery life. Elsewhere the high specs contribute to a pleasant user experience as:

“everything [is] feeling a little snappier again compared to the mode from last year. It’s clean, fast and apps are almost infallible in opening and closing”.

The “upgrade” to Dolby powered Boomsound  over Beats doesn’t appear to be particularly noticeable, but the important thing is that it’s not any worse, and it concludes by saying that as an upgrade from the M7 it’s great – “night and day better” in fact, but not quite the leap forward we’ve seen in the past.

Forbes continues on a similar line and describes the M9 as a “beautiful, basic upgrade” and points out that HTC has responded to questions about the design with this:

“I would describe it much like the Porsche. When you’ve got a design that works incredibly well – that’s timeless and classic – you don’t want to chuck out all that experience you’ve gained from before and start afresh”.

Fair enough. There’s obviously plenty to like about the design and here again it’s described as “one of the best looking smartphones I’ve ever held” and importantly is also very nice to use. Sense 7 brings some nifty improvements such as the ability to be contextually aware and deliver a more intuitive user experience.

“It senses when you’re at home, work or on a night out and appropriately changes the apps on the home screen”

Learning and refining based on your habits over time. Recommendations pop up depending on where you are – train times when arriving at a train station for example, and the new theme generator can use a picture you’ve taken to generate a theme based on the colours in the image.

It is also impressed by the new Dolby integration and describes it as “louder and better than the M8, with the addition of more clarity, base and a more 3D sound” and has positive things to say about the battery life (in lieu of a proper test) due to the increased capacity and power-saving features of Android 5.2 and Sense 7. Forbes concludes by saying that while not a significant upgrade, the M9 takes the important step of ensuring that it’s at least bang up to date with today’s market.

If there’s one area that’s been a point of contention for HTC it’s been the camera and rather notorious “Ultrapixel experiment”. Having distanced itself from this with the M9 and considering this is a major feature for many users we thought we’d have a look at what CNet had to say in its dedicated day and a half test of the snapper.  The switch to megapixels for the rear camera may be welcomed, but does mean it’s not quite as unique, removing, for example, “the Duo camera, which took innovative (but not always great) two-level focus photos” . More concerning than this is that CNet says “it just isn’t that good”. It’s described as a step down from the iPhone 6 Plus – photos can be grainy and struggle a bit in low light environments, the auto-focus is a little slow and though it is capable of taking some very good images, is ultimately a bit disappointing. Close-up shots fair better if you fiddle with the settings and it’s capable of 4K video recording, which is neat, and this is generally handled well. Where it does score some points, ironically, is with the front-facing Ultrapixel camera.

“It’s wide-angle, has great light sensitivity, is super-crisp, and is generally one of the best front cams I’ve seen. It’s better than the iPhone 6 Plus’ FaceTime front camera, easily.”

The only slight downside is that there’s more distortion at times due to the wider-angle but the benefits of fitting more into the shot outweigh this considerably.

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So the HTC M9 is certainly evolution rather than revolution, but fans of the original should still find plenty to like, even if M8 owners might find it a bit more difficult to justify an upgrade. The official price SIM-Free is £579 and on contract you’re looking at around £40 a month if you don’t want to pay much up front for the handset.

Visit HTC to find out more.

Samsung S6 EDGE – Game Changer or Flawed Beauty?

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Samsung’s certainly doing what it can to get noticed in the smartphone arena, not that this seems particularly necessary. After delivering all-metal bodies in the A5 and A3 for those who crave a sleeker shell it’s now thinking outside the box with the S6 Galaxy EDGE, a device that aims to take aesthetics to a new level by wrapping the screen around the side bezel.

It’s a beautiful looking device and will certainly appeal to those who like to turn heads with their mobile, but we’ve seen too many examples of form prevailing over function in the past to want to rush out and buy one quite yet. Going by the specs sheet at least, this doesn’t seem to be the case here. An uber-powerful Octacore 2.1GHz processor and 3GB of RAM runs the thing and the 1,440 x 2560 resolution of the 5.1” display, boasting a whopping 576ppi shows that it’ll probably be needed. A 5MP front camera and 16MP round the back is as much as you’ll probably ever need, but with no microSD slot you’ll have to make do with up to 64GB of in-built storage.

We’re sure everyone would want to get hands-on with the EDGE, and luckily a fair few have. Let’s see what they think.

PCPro describes it as a “stunner”, offering a range of photos but admitting that “it’s impossible to precisely replicate in a photograph just how the metal catches the light and shimmers as you move it around.”  Those curved edges importantly offer an ideal compromise in terms of a big screen and comfortable size, with it feeling very comfortable for one-handed use, and the only downside is that the battery is no longer (easily) removable and there’s no microSD slot, and sadly also no apparent waterproofing or dust resistance like the S5. Display-wise there’s some questions here as to whether it needed to be quite so high resolution, but first impressions were positive nonetheless.

“The S6 Edge’s screen certainly looks great subjectively, with bright, vibrant colours and perfect contrast”

and with Gorilla Glass 4 ensuring that extra curved area will have to take a hell of a pounding to result in serious damage we could be looking at one of the best on the market. Finally it looks at the camera, which is one thing that doesn’t seem to have undergone any major revisions, retaining the same 16MP as the S5. Some welcome tweaks should improve the overall experience though:

“The aperture is larger at f/1.9 (the S5’s was an f/2.2 snapper), and the S6 Edge now has optical image stabilisation, which should improve the sharpness of images shot in low light. It also boasts a new quick launch feature: double-click the home button and the camera app will launch in a claimed 0.7 seconds.”

Round the front the 5MP is a welcome upgrade over the previous 2MP, and with object-tracking autofocus added to video it seems as though Samsung has done enough to deliver on this front again.

KnowYourMobile certainly doesn’t hold back in its praise for the new handset, lauding the fact that the specs are up there with the very best but reserving its biggest plaudits for the display. According to tests done of the EDGE and standard S6 by Display Mate, “these are the BEST smartphone displays on market. Bar none.” Everything from pixels per inch and resolution to colour accuracy, brightness and contrast wowed the judges and it’s impressive to say the least that Samsung has somehow improved on the excellent Galaxy Note 4, when other manufacturers may have sat on their laurels.

Elsewhere it goes into detail on some of the additional features, like Samsung Pay and an improved fingerprint sensor. The former runs via the latter, using the sensor for authentication, and the whole process (on paper at least) appears to work very well.

“Samsung Pay does seem to have some advantages over Apple Pay. Namely it does not rely on NFC alone. Samsung Pay also works with MST, which allows you to use contactless payments even at cashier terminals that lack NFC—such as ones that only take swipe cards.”

Finally, TechRadar is similarly in love with a phone that it describes as “a bit bonkers” but with a screen that looks amazingly next generation.  It’s a very tidy design, managing the clever trick of being able to fit a 5.1” display into a device that’s about the same size as the iPhone 6, and though the camera does protrude from the back, which affects the overall aesthetic slightly, nobody could argue that this isn’t an uber-premium device. The display is similarly lauded, being described as “something to behold” and it seems clear that Samsung has nailed this part of the design, which will be its main selling point.

Moving on to operation, TouchWiz has been improved and offers some nice features that’ll help users take advantage of the USP.

“For instance, when the phone is flipped on its front the sides will glow a specific colour when one of your favourite contacts calls in, so you can see who it is without having to turn the Edge over.”

It’s a shame that features from the Galaxy Note Edge, such as being able to control music while browsing the web won’t make it to the S6 due to the refined design but the ability to see notifications like time and weather from the sidebar when it’s asleep will still be present, and no doubt a raft of apps will open up possibilities even further.

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It seems pretty clear that the unanimous verdict for the EDGE so far is along the lines of “wow”. But most are hesitant to suggest it’ll be a real game-changer, at least not right away. The biggest stumbling block here will be the price, which hasn’t been confirmed in the UK yet but in Europe is reported as €849 SIM-free for the 32GB model. Ouch. Couple this with the fact that as gorgeous as it is we’ll only really get an idea for how well the display works and feels for day-to-day use when it’s undergone some full reviews and it seems like there’s still work to be done to convince the mainstream market.

Visit Samsung to find out more.

LG G Flex 2 – there’s no beauty without curves

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“Same is not sexy”. This is the rather bold statement LG is going with to describe its intriguingly shaped Flex 2. We’re not sure how true this is in the grand scheme of things but we’re inclined to agree that as far as sexy tech goes, LG may have a point. It’s nice to see something new in a market swarming with great looking devices that can genuinely turn heads again.

The curved 5.5”, full HD P-OLED screen on this beautiful creation was the main reason why it collected 14 “Best Phone” awards at the 2015 International CES show and now that it’s heading to the UK we’re dying to know if it has the brains to go with these looks.

Fortunately it’s no slouch when it comes to interiors, with a 13MP rear camera and 4K Ultra HD camcorder, so you can finally get your hands on some content for that snazzy new TV. A 2.1MP selfie and full HD video recorder on the front should do most people quite nicely, and with an octa-core Snapdragon 810 2.0GHz CPU keeping things ticking over should have no problems with responsive operation. 32GB of internal memory with an important option of microSD up to 2TB means you won’t run out of space if you’re getting carried away with 4K video, and a 3,000 mAh battery should mean you won’t run out of juice either.

So on paper at least, the G Flex 2 seems like it could be the complete package, but how does it all stack up together, and are there any hidden downsides to a bendy display? We had a read around to find out.

As TechRadar points out this is LG’s second attempt at a curved smartphone and one in which it has appeared to address many of its predecessor’s problems, but that the all-important display isn’t quite as radical as LG would you have you believe: “Instead, the curve gives it a subtle bow in the middle so, like one of LG’s new 4K TVs, its faint curvature goes from a 400mm to a 700mm radius.” What’s interesting here is that it isn’t just curved; it’s also flexible, which importantly makes it more durable and gives the user some degree of comfort control depending on how they’re using it.

“The Flex 2 felt contoured to my face and more accessible with one hand than a normal 5.5-inch phone. I’ve seen the G Flex withstand 1,000 pounds of pressure, and LG claims this one is even stronger. It’s the ultimate anti-iPhone 6 BendGate phone.”

It notes that the flexible nature makes it a little more effective for viewing multimedia, taking phone calls and fitting snugly into a pocket. And like the previous Flex, the Flex 2 has an “advanced self-healing back”, which can recover from light scratches in around 10 seconds. It’s an impressive claim, but may be a little far-fetched as “looking at the back cover, I still received what must be considered “medium” scratches that haven’t gone away. Sadly, it doesn’t live up to the hype.

The only other potential issues with the design are based around the controls and speaker. The sides and top are devoid of power and volume buttons. These have been placed on the rear, which can take a bit of getting used to, and a relatively powerful speaker loses significant appeal if it’s not pumping the tunes in your direction. Despite these foibles Techradar is impressed overall, awarding it 4/5.

Moving away from the USP and onto more conventional matters we’ll pick up TrustedReviews and its 7/10 review as it delves a bit deeper into the core functions. The quality of the display itself is pleasingly impressive. It writes that the smaller 5.5” size feels more manageable and the benefits of OLED (or P-OLED – since it’s made from plastic for the flexibility) shine through.

“Its sharp, black levels really impress for watching films, and viewing angles are excellent. The 403ppi pixel density of the 5.5-inch screen means it impresses for clarity as well.”

With Lollipop 5.0.2 and LG’s UI on top the Flex 2 is pretty up to date on the software front, and many of LGs additions, such as the gesture-related features and smart keyboard, are quite effective, though it is running the risk of feeling a little overwhelming. The processor keeps things ticking over nicely, allocating its cores as and when needed to cope with intensive tasks and optimise performance, but it can run uncomfortably hot, which seems largely to be a drawback of the curved design.

On the camera front you’ll find the same array as the impressive G3 with a few extra features to improve the experience, such as a dual-LED flash for better close-ups, optical image stabilisation and something called Gesture Shot, which allows you to take pictures without having to touch the screen or device itself. Overall the results are impressive, though it does note that with when it comes to shooting video, the 5-minute limit for 4K might mean that 1080p is a better default option.

We’ll let AndroidPit fill in some gaps for us with a look at the battery, which it points out is a step down from the 3,500 mAh of the original, though doesn’t suffer because of optimisations in other areas. The G Flex 2 also offers fast charging, which offers a couple of benefits. “The G Flex 2 can charge up to 50 percent capacity in less than 40 minutes. The G Flex 2 also makes use of stepped charging technology; where standard battery charging comes in at 1.8A, the G Flex 2’s stepped charging is capable of 2.6A.” It made it through a full day of fairly heavy use quite well, though the more demanding consumer might be asking for a little bit more considering the competition.

AndroidPit also emphasises the durability that a flexible phone can bring and the peace of mind that comes with it for more accident-prone users. LG has actually produced something called Dura-Guard Glass for the Flex 2, which is effectively customised Gorilla Glass that’s 20% stronger than Gorilla Glass 3 with improved strength and shock absorbency at the edges, which are most vulnerable to drops. This all culminates in:

“a premium device with serious hardware backed up by all the benefits of superior durability, flexibility and ergonomics. As a normal phone the G Flex 2 would be great, but adding a near-indestructible build quality makes it truly outstanding.”

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The LG G Flex 2 will be available exclusively on Vodaphone for six weeks from 19th March when it’s officially launched, and you can expect to pay around £500 SIM-free.

Kyocera Torque – budget-priced ruggedized smartphone crosses the pond

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There are few things in life more frustrating than damaging a smartphone. Apart from the expense involved, the thought of spending days without catching up on Twitter and playing Candy Crush is often too much for some people to bear, so it’s no wonder we’re starting to see an increasing focus on durability. Toughened screens and waterproofing are all well and good but if you’re particularly clumsy or perhaps have a penchant for all-terrain activities then you might like an all-terrain smartphone, and there have been precious few of those to choose from.

Luckily one is on the way in the Kyocera Torque, a new version of a phone with the same concept that was doing the rounds a couple of years ago in the US, and it looks like it could stand up to quite a bit of punishment. What’s interesting about it is that unlike some other phones that justify pricing a mid-range handset at a high-end price due to a relatively unique concept; this is a budget model with fairly reasonable specs.

A quad-core 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor powers a 4.5” display with 1280×720 resolution that can also be operated with regular gloves on or when wet, which given the target market could come in very handy. Incorporated into the display, or specifically the glass front panel, is something called “smart sonic receiver”, which uses the whole surface as a speaker detecting both sound and vibrations and is designed to transmit sound through the cartilage of your ear to improve audio for both phone calls and media playback.

An 8MP rear camera and 2MP front facer are fairly standard, though it would have been nice to see a bit more going on in this area given that if you are venturing into the great outdoors with it there may be a fair few photo opportunities, and a meaty 3,100mAh battery offers reassuring impressions that it’ll last quite some time between charges.

In terms of protection you’re getting the latest IPX5 and IPX8 waterproofing, which essentially means it can survive in five feet of water for around 30 minutes, it’s dustproof and shockproof and can also withstand temperatures between -21 and 50 degrees centigrade for three hours. Unfortunately it only runs Android 4.4, which given the specifications is unlikely to be upgraded, but since at this price point many people will be picking one up as a secondary phone it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

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The Torque is already doing the rounds in the US but will be coming to the UK in the spring – in fact it’s the first Kyocera model to be launched into the European market. No prices have been announced as yet, but with a $99.99 tag we expect it to be affordable, to say the least.

CES 2015 Video: SelfieBrush, smartphone holder hairbrush

The SelfieBrush, from the creators of The Wet Brush, shows more of the more quirky side of the gadgetry displayed at CES 2015. The brush allows the user to slide their smartphone (iPhone 5/5S/6, Galaxy S4 and an upcoming Galaxy S5 model) into the brush itself, displaying the screen from the back of your phone. This could be a boon for anyone struggling to get ready with no mirror, or anyone needing to send a quick text while they rush to get ready. Of course, the brush also aims for the social media crowd, many of whom will love the ease of use you will be able to take selfies with the brush. Watch the video above to see the SelfieBrush in action.

The SelfieBrush is available now for $19.99. For more information visit SelfieBrush.