It’s rare to see a flagship smartphone that actually innovates at this point. They’re all starting to blend together as similarly-sized unibody metal slabs with nearly identical features.
But I genuinely feel like the LG G5 breaks that mold. It has a replaceable battery that’s removed through a unique detachable bottom, it has a fingerprint scanner and power button on the back side of the phone, and it has two rear-facing cameras. That’s the most unique mainstream phone out there right now.
Let’s take a look at everything this device has to offer – and we’re giving this one away to one lucky reader!
Dimensions: 149.4mm x 73.9mm x 7.7mm (5.88in x 2.91in x 0.30in)
Weight: 159 g (5.61 oz)
Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Cameras: 16MP f/1.8 and 8 MP f/2.4 rear-facing cameras, plus 9MP f/2.0 front-facing camera
Speakers: Single speaker along the bottom
Operating System: LG UX 5.0, a skinned version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Extras: LED notification light, fingerprint scanner, microSD card slot, optional modules, IR Blaster
Design-wise, the G5 has gone in a relatively different direction from last year’s G4 (our review). This all-metal design is sleek, and also kind of slippery. It has a slight curve around the edges, but it also has sharp corners. It definitely feels and looks premium, but does so without copying from Samsung, HTC, or Apple.
The screen is 5.3″ with a better-than-Full-HD resolution of 2560 x 1440px, so rest assured that you won’t see any pixels here. Also, it is an astoundingly bright screen that does very well outdoors. Compared to my OnePlus One and the new HTC 10, the LG G5 is the brightest by a long shot.
The volume buttons, which were on the backside in its previous iteration, are now nestled in the standard upper left side of the phone. However, the power button, which now doubles as the fingerprint scanner, was left on the back — we’ll discuss that later. The two rear-facing cameras sit just above the fingerprint scanner.
Along the top is the headphone jack, while the ride side has the slot for the nanoSIM and microSD card (up to 2TB), and the bottom is home to the USB Type-C charging port and the lone speaker.
The bottom section is actually removable. There’s a small button on the lower left of the device that you hold down while you pull it off. Annoyingly, when it’s attached, it doesn’t sit perfectly flush with the body of the phone, so there’s just a little ridge on the front and back.
Overall, the G5’s design is a marked improvement over the chunky faux leather G4. This is now a true contender for best premium smartphone.
Those three thin slots on the bottom of the G5 might not look like a booming speaker, but in my testing, it was surprisingly loud — louder, in fact, than the OnePlus One and HTC 10. On the G4, the speaker was on the backside, so upping the volume and placing it on the bottom is a big win here.
Well, it wouldn’t be a flagship phone without a fingerprint scanner. The big difference here is that LG’s is on the back. It’s still incorporated into the home button, so you can wake and unlock the device by just resting your finger on that circle on the back.
Depending on the situation, this can either be very convenient, or very annoying. If you pick up your phone one-handed, that’s likely where your finger will land anyway. But if it’s resting on your desk, or you just grab it by the bottom to tap away with your other hand, you’re out of luck. You’ll just have to type in your backup PIN to unlock it.
It’s fast, of course, and you might as well use it in addition to your PIN lock, but the rear design is really up to personal preference.
If you wanted unique, you found it. The G5 has two rear-facing cameras, one 16MP and one 8MP. The reason for that is the 8MP is wide-angle, so if you want to capture a whole scene that the 16MP shooter can’t (without doing a panorama), just switch to the 8MP.
In my tests, they both did really well. I absolutely love the wide-angle lens. People actually buy add-ons for their phones to have a wide-angle effect, but here you have it built-in!
Above, you can see a photo of a tree using the regular 16MP camera.
And this is a photo from the exact same location, only using the 8MP wide-angle camera.
Honestly, the wide angle camera adds so much value to this phone. It’s quick and simple to switch between them (a one-tree button for regular, three-tree button for wide-angle), it’s extremely useful for capturing large areas, and it’s something no other phone offers.
The G5’s main “gimmick” is its ability to swap out the bottom section for different modules that LG calls Friends. Currently, the only one available on the market is the LG Cam Plus, which adds a physical grip for taking photos and costs $70. In the coming months, we should see another module from Bang and Olufsen called the Hi-Fi Plus for improved audio, and possibly others.
Perhaps the nicest part about the removable modules, though, is that LG has solved the age old problem of unibody metal design vs. removable battery — by giving us both. You could swap out your battery in seconds and get on with your day.
Android manufacturers love to mess with stock Android — and LG’s at it again. This time, they’re calling it UX 5.0, and it’s a tweaked version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
It’s not an unattractive skin by any means, but it’s certainly different than the stock experience. The biggest difference is that there’s no app drawer; all your apps are just out on the home page. Just like iOS.
If you don’t like this, you could always just get an alternative launcher. Other than that, you’ll probably notice the white notification menu and modified Quick Settings. The normal Settings menu has also been split up into four tabs. Here, you can add or remove buttons from the navbar, or change it’s default color, which is a nice change.
LG has also pre-loaded a bunch of apps (which some might call bloatware), like LG SmartWorld, LG Backup, QuickMemo+, LG Health, LG Friends Manager, and others. One helpful app is Quick Remote, which allows you to control your TV using the built-in IR blaster. LG also just swapped out a lot of the default apps for their own, like the Calendar, Calculator, and so on.
And strangely, the DPI is super high. This was one major problem I had when I first got my OnePlus One, because when a phone’s DPI is too high, it (counter-intuitively) means that everything appears larger. For instance, compared with the HTC One (which has a smaller 5.2″ display), the G5 actually shows far less information — less of a web page, less of a text message conversation, etc.
That’s because it’s just showing everything larger. If you have bad eyesight, that’s fine, but I prefer smaller information so I can fit more on the screen — and the G5 has no way of adjusting that.
Due to the power button being on the back, the G5 also supports double-tap-to-wake and double-tap-to-sleep on the lockscreen and notification bar, which I found myself using a lot.
The relatively small 2,800mAh battery usually lasted me through the day, but it wasn’t spectacular. I would get around 4 hours of screen on time on average, depending on my brightness settings. Heavy usage could certainly kill it before the end of the day.
However, what was spectacular was how fast it charged. It went from dead to 100% in about an hour. That’s incredible. If you’re willing to plug it in for just a few minutes in the afternoon, it could get you a lot of extra life.
Also of note is the new USB Type-C port, which is wonderful and reversible and not backwards compatible with old micro-USB ports. You’ve been warned.
Should You Buy It?
At the end of the day, the G5 has very similar specs to a lot of other flagships. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM are obviously powerful. What your decisions comes down to should be based on the expandable storage, the removable battery, the wide-angle camera, and if you like LG’s software.
If you find those things to be gimmicks and prefer stock Android, you might want to keep looking.
The LG G5 is a massive improvement over the G4 and is easily one of the best Android phones out there. It has a unique module system, a great speaker, an awesome wide-angle camera, powerful internals, and a gorgeous screen. It only suffers from an awkward power button placement, average battery life, too much bloatware, and an awkwardly high DPI. Our verdict of the LG G5:9/10