LG wants you to play more. Presumably, play with your phone, going with all the interesting things that LG is touting its new G5 smartphone as being able to do. One big similarity to last year’s model — the removable battery — is achieved in an extremely different way, opening up the door for LG to try some new and exciting things with its brand new flagship phone.
The Friends: Everything Is Modular
The big talking point about the G5 is the fact that it falls to pieces. But in a good way! On the side of the G5 at the lower edge of the bezel, there’s a small recessed button. Push it, and the base of the phone — from the lower edge of the screen downwards — pops out, revealing a proprietary port and the G5’s internal 2800mAh removable battery. Pull that, and the battery slides out, letting you replace it with a fully charged one; almost like recharging a rifle with a new magazine.
The battery being replaceable is a given — it’s great. But it’s that accessory port that matters, because you can take the battery off the small piece that comes away from the G5’s base, and instead attach something entirely different. That gives LG and its phone owners the ability to actually customise their phones in a way that noticeably impacts them, moreso than just a case or just a screen protector might.
LG has plenty of different Friends that will plug into the modular port and that will hook up with the G5 more generally. A Bang & Olufsen-designed 24-bit hi-fi DAC and a camera grip module with zoom dial and shutter button and 1200mAh extra battery were both shown and demonstrated — this tech works — but it’s up to LG and other partner manufacturers to work together to try new things and see what fits. A bigger battery would be the first of many different accessories that LG could sell alongside the G5.
The Hardware: Australia’s First Snapdragon 820
The processing power inside the LG G5 is great, although is confident enough of its greatness that it doesn’t really want you to pay attention to it — there’s more important things like Friends to talk about, right? But we care about power, and the G5 has a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core under the hood that is a first for Australia. Paired with 4GB of RAM, and LG’s traditionally quite lightweight software stack on top of Android, this should mean a phone that is fast and consistently capable.
Being a new phone, it’s great to see that LG has gone all-in in adopting USB Type-C where its chief competitor Samsung has fumbled. Although the modular design would have made the G5 easy to switch to Type-C anyway, it’s on there right now and that means great things for fast charging, video output and accessories like docks and break-out modules like LG’s own virtual reality headset for the G5, which weighs in at barely 100 grams and draws power from the USB port itself.
The Display: Smaller, Sharper, Always On
LG has made the G5 a little smaller and more accessible than the G4 and G3’s 5.5-inch size, and the new 2560×1440 pixel panel is a 5.3-inch IPS quantum dot LCD that has a higher PPI than the G4, although it falls slightly short of Samsung’s equal-resolution 5.1-inch display in the Galaxy S7. Being a unibody metal phone, too, means that the bezels are very slightly smaller than before and this makes the entire display look a little larger than that 5.3-inch figure might suggest to you.
Like Samsung, LG has decided to innovate by creating an always-on display that only switches on a third of the LCD panel, saving significant power — the company says it only uses 0.8 per cent of the battery per hour of usage. Sure, that’s an extra 20 per cent battery drain over a day, but it’s a convenience thing — and you can, of course, just turn it off if you don’t like it. Always-on displays are convenient for tracking notifications without powering up the rest of the phone, so they do pay for themselves in energy savings.
The Cameras: Three, Not Two, And Wider Angles
The LG G5’s rear camera is actually two cameras — one 16-megapixel sensor behind a lens with a relatively standard 78-degree field of view, and one 8-megapixel sensor with a 135-degree super-wide-angle lens. This is a little wider than the human eye, and it has me thinking that the G5 would actually make an extremely handy impromptu dashcam. In a quick usage session, I can see the main camera being far more useful for most of the time, but the 135 degree lens would be very handy for landscape shots.
It’s certainly a different and more interesting approach to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 lens and sensor improvements, but we’re actually seeing the biggest difference in years between what are usually the two best and most compelling Android smartphones. And this is a great thing! If you have to make the decision, you can either go with the tried and tested Samsung, or experiment and potentially do some really cool and really extraordinary things with a new LG G5.