With the imminent launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note7, my time daily-driving LG’s G5 smartphone is (probably) coming to an end. When it was first announced at Mobile World Congress in February of this year, I called it “interesting” — maybe not the most refined device, but one of the most innovative. After a few months of using it, I’ve decided that despite some flaws, it’s a good phone, with a few things that make it great for some uses. Here are five things that I’ve enjoyed about the G5.
A removable, easily replaceable battery is its killer feature. This isn’t something new to smartphones, and it’s not even a particularly significant change from the way most phones used to be in the last couple of years — but in a world of sealed-chassis Samsung Galaxy and Sony Xperia phones, the G5’s easily removable and replaceable cell is a godsend for long periods away from a charger. A spare battery and dedicated USB Type-C charging battery pack — a $69 extra purchase — more than paid for itself on my recent trip to Portugal and the USA, where long days in a car and at a press conference didn’t lend themselves to charging. Having a spare, completely full battery that I can change in 10 seconds addresses that better than any fast charging could.
The rear fingerprint-reader-button-combo is weirdly convenient. Like lots of other things about the G5, I didn’t like the concept of the rear fingerprint reader that was also the phone’s tactile power button when it was first announced. And I’m not going to lie, it took a little bit of getting used to. But after a couple of weeks, it became second nature to use, and as someone that regularly churns through a dozen different Reddit comment threads on their phone while walking — and I walk a lot at the moment — my phone is at constant risk of putting itself to sleep. Part of that is because I like having the screen power off automatically after a minute, so I’m to blame for a problem of my own making. Having that rear fingerprint reader to gently buzz the phone back into life feels normal, and I’m going to miss it on my next phone.
The weird dual-camera module? Not so weird in the real world. Again, another feature I was not entirely convinced by on launch was the combo of two cameras in one phone — a 12-megapixel sensor with 28mm equivalent field of view, and a 8-megapixel sensor with a much, much wider 18mm lens. I prefer the lesser distortion of the G5’s 12-megapixel narrow-angle snapper, the same one as on the beautiful, much-missed LG G4, but I have found myself happily using the 8-megapixel sensor on more than a couple of occasions where I’ve needed that extra field of view. It’s entirely different, and the kind of thing you can’t simulate by taking a couple of steps back. The dual-camera setup on the Huawei P9 is technically superior in image fidelity, but the G5 can do more.
USB Type-C, from now until forever. The HTC 10, the Nexus 5X and 6P sold me on USB Type-C. But the G5 has been my first extended experience with it, and from now onwards I won’t ever use a phone without USB Type-C for an extended period of time outside a review. There’s just no reason to prefer microUSB over USB-C — it’s no larger, it’s reversible, it supports faster charging (5V 3A) than the microUSB standard (5V 2A) and almost equals Samsung’s fast charging (9V 2A) in maximum power output. The biggest difference that you can’t quantify on paper specs, though, is that Type-C is a much more resilient connector — it clips in more forcefully, and it won’t fall out if you pick the phone up with the cable still plugged in.
The Friends modules — not perfect, but useful for their purposes. I used the LG Cam Plus module for quite a while while I was travelling, not only for the extra battery life that its 1200mAh auxiliary cell holds, but for the physical camera shutter and the dial that switches quickly between the wide- and standard-angle lenses. I tried out the B&O Hi-Fi Plus module, and the small amount of extra bulk that it added was paid for by the fact that — with some good, high quality lossless music files, and some equally expensive and high-end headphones — it sounds great. And, when you don’t want it on your phone, it’s a DAC for your PC as well. No other smartphone manufacturer has done something so daring as that for a long time. Motorola’s Moto Mods for the Moto Z are a more pedestrian implementation of what the G5 pioneered — and I think it deserves credit for that.