The LG G5 is one of the first genuinely interesting flagships to be released in years. It’s the first “modular type” smartphone, in that the chin can be swapped out for a couple of optional add-ons that improve either your sound or camera experience, respectively.
Obviously the most notable thing about the G5’s design is the removable chin. It’s fairly secure, and very easy to detach thanks to a little button on the right side of the device. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite sit flush with the rest of the phone. It’s enough that it’s noticeable even when you’re not looking for it, and it detracts from the overall appearance and feel.
That being said, the G5 wasn’t a particularly stunning device to begin with. True, it is a full metal body, but LG has employed a protective coating that feels like plastic to the touch, stripping away what would have been an in-hand feeling of quality, replacing it with a dull lack of tactile impact.
The near-featureless aesthetic design has probably received more criticism than it deserves, but it is true that it won’t turn many heads. It’s a dull grey return to last year’s affordably-priced, LG-made Nexus 5X, a phone that cost between half and two-thirds of this one and was moulded from plastic.
Where your forefinger would sit around the back is the home button, complete with in-built fingerprint sensor. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: this sensor placement is a huge improvement over the standard mid-chin front-side style employed by Apple, Samsung, and now even HTC. It might not seem like much, but when the average person unlocks their phone dozens of times each day, you can see how an easier-to-reach option would make a difference.
The G5 has a 5.3 inch IPS LCD - a bit smaller than last year’s model, but not so much you’d notice or care. The resolution is still a huge 2560 x 1440, which is standard for an Android flagship in 2016.
Interestingly, when held side-by-side with its predecessor (the LG G4), the G5’s screen comes across as lacking in brightness, colour vibrancy, and even viewing angles. This was unexpected. On paper the G5 should be significantly brighter at 900 nits, compared to the G4’s 455 nits. Try as we might, we just couldn’t see how this could be so, despite lengthy treks through the menu system and checking online, we just couldn’t pop that brightness up to or beyond G4 standards.
If you weren’t comparing it directly to another phone, you might not notice. After all, it’s still bright enough to see outside on a sunny day, colours are fine and the viewing angles aren’t abysmal, but it’s odd to see a manufacturer, especially one with the kind of display R&D clout that LG has, take a step backwards, however small that step may be.
For some reason, LG decided to ditch the app drawer. That means every app you have needs to be stored somewhere on a home screen. It’s a cluttered and unusual approach to Android, and it’s not one that’s traditionally been met with enthusiasm by the Android user community.
The LG G5 is a good phone, but it doesn’t quite seem like enough to justify over something like the Galaxy S7. The physical design is lacking, the default UI is simplified beyond usefulness, and its main feature – the modules – are optional, added-cost extras that we can see the majority of users totally passing over. A modular-type smartphone is a great idea, but it either needs more options for customisation (two is a little on the trim side), or to sacrifice absolutely nothing if all you want is the default smartphone.
We appreciate what LG was trying to do here, but there needs to be a larger range of modules, or more options than simply replacing the chin, before we can see the sacrifices being worth the payoffs.