BARCELONA: THE LG G5 was one of the first devices to debut at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), and LG is boastfully claiming that it’s the most exciting we’ll see at the show full stop.
In fairness to LG, it’s probably right. In a bid to stand out from the crowd and prove that not all smartphones nowadays are “boring,” the LG G5 features a modular design which as well as offering access to the battery, allows for additional modules to be attached to the smartphone – something promised by Google’s Project Ara, but until now undelivered.
The LG G5, in a move that’s probably for the best, looking nothing at all like its LG G4 predecessor. Gone are the plastic and leather case options, and in struts a new full-metal, unibody design that feels wonderfully premium in hand. Despite the aluminum upgrade, the LG G5 is a little odd-looking – it’s like a sort of amalgamation of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P – but it at least stands out in a crowd of tired, samey-looking smartphones.
Gone are the rear-facing volume buttons, too, and in its place sits a Nexus-style fingerprint sensor that doubles up as the G5’s power button. We didn’t get a chance to try the scanner out, but its placement on the phone’s rear felt natural.
Of course, the most interesting thing about the LG G5’s design is its modular functionality. A small, near-invisible button sits on the bottom left of the smartphone which, when pressed, allows you to remove the bottom of the handset.
As well as giving users access to the handset’s battery – a feature missing on most of today’s top-end smartphones, LG is also offering add-on modules, in a similar way to Google’s never-released Project Ara handset. There will be two of these available at launch: the LG Cam Plus which doubles up as extra 1,100mAh and a grip for photography and, and the LG Hi-Fi Plus for boosted sound quality. This modular design also means the handset’s 2,800mAh battery can be removed.
At the forefront of the LG G5 sits a 5.3in 1,440×2,560 IPS display. While lacking the 4K credentials of the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, the QHD screen is pin-sharp, while the IPS panel makes for decent levels of brightness and impressive viewing angles. Colors aren’t quite as punchy as those offered by AMOLED screens, but many unlikely will notice the difference.
The choice of an IPS display has an added benefit, too. The LG G5 is the first in the series to come with Always-on Display, which means you can slyly glance at your smartphone to see the time or any notifications, similar to the functionality offered by the secondary display on the LG V10.
While this likely has some alarm bells ringing for those concerned about battery life, LG claims it drains just 0.8 percent of the phone’s juice per hour.
Software and performance
On paper, the LG G5 fares well in both of these departments, packing Google’s latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow software and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip.
Android comes skinned in the company’s barely-there LG UX 5.0 skin, which upon first glance could fool some into thinking it’s a vanilla Android phone. LG has made some tweaks here and there, though, adding its own home screen animations and design touches to the Notification Bar, for example. One tweak we’re not so fond of, though, is LG’s decision to rid of the app menu, instead of placing all of your apps on the main home screen in an iOS sort-of fashion. Others might be miffed to hear that LG has got rid of the side-by-side multitasking functionality, too, touting the move as one made to ‘simplify’ the software experience.
There’s a bunch of LG’s own apps loaded onto the G5 too, thanks to the ‘LG Friends’ accessories that debuted alongside it. These companion devices, which include the LG 360 VR headset and the Sphero-like LG Rolling Bot, means that LG has stuffed the phone full of apps to accompany them.
In terms of speed, the LG G5 proved as fast as any flagship we’ve used during our hands-on time with it. Apps were lightning fast to open and multitasking was smooth, but we’ve of course yet to put the processor fully through its paces.
If you thought the LG G5’s design was odd, wait until you hear about its camera set-up. On the rear of the phone, there are both 16MP and 8MP camera sensors, the second which offers 135-degree wide-angle imaging.
Even during our brief hands-on time with the handset at MWC, we were able to appreciate the wider capture, with the dual camera sensor capable of capturing almost panoramic still images. Images looked sharp and colorful, too, while the 8MP front-facing camera appeared to struggle more under the harsh MWC lights.
In terms of storage, the LG G5 comes with 32GB built-in, although a quick shuffle through the smartphone’s settings shows that you’ll only be able to make use of 23GB of that yourself. However, there is a MicroSD slot on board, which means you can expand this onboard storage by up to 2TB.
The LG G5 isn’t the best-looking smartphone on the market, but it’s hard to argue with LG when it claims it’s the most exciting handset out there right now. We’ve long been promised a modular smartphone at LG is the first to make the upgradable smartphone a reality.