LG’s new G5 is the most innovative phone in a long time

As the G5’s launch drew nearer, LG veterans would have certainly been expecting a continuation of the rear-mounted volume buttons. Android veterans would certainly have been expecting a continuation of the app-drawer. Guess what, though? They’re both gone now. 

What LG has done with the G5, while seemingly head scratching-ly confusing, is actually pretty damn smart. These two major changes seek to draw iPhone users over to LG by providing them with a foundation similar enough to iOS while still being Android at the core.

It’s modular… like Lego

Pop! comes out the battery
Pop! comes out the battery

Not only is LG trying to entice the iPhone crowd with these changes, it has also made another change which I can only describe as… wow. A true breath of fresh air from the iterative smartphone generations we have been seeing (especially last year in September/October), LG has decided to give the bird to everyone who claims the choice between a removable battery and a ‘premium’ metal body with sealed components is black-and-white. The G5 is metal, and has a removable battery thanks to its absolutely brilliant modular design.

Detached

To put it simply, the LG G5 is an aluminium cylinder with a removable bottom cap. It’s not a unibody chassis, but it comes pretty close and the trade-offs are definitely worth it. From the top of the device to the bottom of the LCD, the G5 is made out of one solid piece. But the bottom bezel is detachable. Push a button on the side, and it, alongside the battery, come right out when you pull. Swapping the battery is straightforward from that point on.

While the LG G5 does have a modular battery, it is not hot-swappable. What that means is that when you pull out the bottom bezel, the phone will (quite obviously) switch off due to the lack of… well, a battery, in the phone.

The battery is not the only thing you can replace when pulling out the bottom bezel, however. You can replace the whole bezel itself. LG has plans to release several modular accessories that will work together in lieu of the standard bezel to enhance many aspects of your mobile experience. So far, LG has announced the CAM Plus and Hi-Fi Plus with B&O PLAY.

CAM Plus

The former is a smartphone camera grip accessory, where you can transform the G5 into something that strongly resembles a point-and-shoot camera. When you slide the CAM Plus into the G5, you get a proper camera-like grip as well as dedicated shutter/video buttons and a zoom dial. You also get a 1200 mAh boost in battery capacity. Just like how Sony has been doing it for a long time, a long-press on the shutter button will launch the camera directly.

The DAC attachment also adds an extra headphone jack on the bottom
The DAC attachment also adds an extra headphone jack on the bottom

The latter is something that LG has designed for anyone who wants their smartphone to be the ultimate audio playback device. With the Hi-Fi Plus, LG has worked with B&O PLAY to create a DAC audio player that includes 32-bit Hi- Fi DAC upsampling technology and 32-bit 384KHz high-definition audio playback. If you didn’t understand that, then this isn’t the module for you, but LG is already in the process of designing other modules.

What is inside it?

Unfortunately, the S810 ran pretty much like this image
Unfortunately, the S810 ran pretty much like this image — hot

The G5 is the first few phones of 2016 to be powered by the all-new Snapdragon 820, the successor to the (almost) unmitigated disaster that was the Snapdragon 810. The older SoC (System on Chip) ran extremely hot and crippled almost every devices’ performance that it was used in.

Much of the blame for the heat issues was laid at the feet of Qualcomm’s switch from its custom “Krait” CPU cores to generic ARM cores. After all, how else would Qualcomm have caught up to Apple and satiate customer desire for a 64-bit SoC? Needless to say, that rush-job was one of Qualcomm’s worst decisions.

Thankfully, the time that has passed has allowed for Qualcomm to develop new, custom 64-bit cores for the S820, dubbed “Kryo”. The graphical capabilities have also received a boost in the form of the Adreno 530 GPU, claimed to be 40% faster and power efficient than the Adreno 430 that was paired with the S810. The S820 is also manufactured using a 14nm process, similar to Samsung’s Exynos 7420 in the S6, which Qualcomm estimates will make the new chip 2x faster than the S810.

Display

In terms of the display, it is still a 2560 x 1440p IPS LCD panel, but now features am always-on mode for a quick check of the clock. This is certainly a surprising feature to be included on an IPS panel for fear of perpetual battery drain, but LG claim to have made it as efficient as AMOLED panels.

Memory is 4GB, and storage options comprise the 32GB internal capacity as well as an external micro-SD card slot. The battery capacity is 2800 mAh by default, which rises to 4000 mAh with the camera grip module. Also included is NFC, an IR blaster, and a fingerprint sensor located right below the cameras.

Dual Camera

I say cameras because similar to the HTC One M8, the LG G5 also has dual-cameras. One of them is a standard 16MP unit with a 75° field of view, while the other is an 8MP unit with a 135° FOV. Now this is a feature that seems to be a gimmick more than anything, for the only practical benefit we can see is slightly better digital zoom. The depth-of-field feature (also known as Background Defocus or Bokeh) feature we saw in the M8 might also come back. Otherwise, the G5 has the same camera assists as we saw in the G4, with laser autofocus and colour spectrum sensor.

How is it designed?

The G5 doesn’t really strike a chord with me in terms of its looks, if I’m honest. It looks like a generic Chinese smartphone knock-off, which isn’t to say it looks bad. It just doesn’t look great either, which is a disappointment after the rather good looking G4.

The top of the device has a headphone jack, secondary microphone, and an IR blaster. The bottom has a microphone, speaker, and a micro-USB Type C port.

Fingerprint

On the rear is the fingerprint sensor, but it’s slightly different than the one we saw in LG’s Nexus 5X (and Huawei’s Nexus 6P). While that had a touch-activated power button, this is a physical button that can be pressed down, similar to Apple’s TouchID. The volume buttons aren’t there any longer, though — they’re on the sides again.

When can I get my hands on it?

Colours

LG was coy with the release dates and pricing, though we’ll probably see them soon enough. It also has a range of colours, namely dark grey, pink, silver, and gold.

We’ll be updating this article as more news rolls in. In the meantime, have a look at Samsung’s Galaxy S7, and do share your thoughts about the G5!