Metal Unibody Design With A Removable Battery
LG has long been known for making all-plastic phones, and although you can certainly craft a premium device from this material, in most peoples' minds, a plastic phone just doesn’t carry as much value as a metal one. When Samsung went premium with the Galaxy S6 last spring, we were sure LG would do the same with the G4, but it disappointed us with another plastic device, with its one concession to high-end design being its optional leather backs. It wasn’t until last fall’s V10 that we finally saw LG up its game in the design department, but that phone used its stainless steel for more than just looks. Its steel construction and impact-absorbing plastic back allowed it to be more durable than most smartphones.
With the G5, LG has decided to use metal in a more conventional way, creating a metal unibody device in a similar fashion to Apple and HTC. The back of the G5 has sides that curve down to what LG calls a “shiny cut edge” -- a lip with a polished finish that contrasts with the matte metal of the back. The curved sides add comfort, and the lip helps with grip when holding the phone.
The G5 is available in four colors (silver, pink, titanium and gold) through what LG is calling “advanced micro anodizing,” which likely refers to micro arc oxidation, a process that produces a more durable finish that regular anodizing. The G5 doesn’t use stainless steel though -- just aluminum -- so LG doesn’t make any additional durability claims like it does for the V10, and it unsurprisingly doesn’t have any element protection, either.
No Antenna Lines And Buttons On The Side
Impressively, LG has managed to integrate the G5’s antenna into the body without the unsightly plastic seams found on the iPhone and HTC One handsets. The smooth back is only broken by the camera module hump, the combination fingerprint reader/power button below that, and the seam for the removable bottom (more on that in a moment).
You are probably wondering where LG’s characteristic rear buttons have gone, and the ones for volume have been moved back to the side where many of you feel they should be. I for one liked their placement and am a little disappointed to see this move. At least the power button is still on the back. The SIM card and microSD card are inserted into the phone using a pop-out tray on the right side.
Around front, the G5 has a 5.3-inch display covered in what LG is calling “3D Arc Glass,” with what looks to be a very gentle curve in the glass towards the top of the phone. The G5 is a lot less squared-off than its predecessors, the G4 and G3, and its shape is closer to that of LG’s Nexus 5X. However, despite its smaller screen (when compared to the G4), it’s a tad taller that all three of those phones, but at 7.7 mm thick and 73.9 mm wide, the G5 is a slimmer and narrower device.
A removable battery is something LG has long touted in its marketing as a core feature on all its phones, unlike most of its competitors. To allow for this on the G5 with its metal unibody, LG had to get creative. What it came up with is ingenious: There is a button on the lower left-side of the phone, and when pressed, it releases the entire lower part of the G5 below the screen. The battery then simply slides out from inside the phone, which you can see demonstrated in our hands-on video above.
What does concern us, though, at least from our experience with the phone we tried, is how good the fit will be of the removable bottom (and, therefore, the modules mentioned below). The seam where it meets the G5’s main body was very noticeable on all the phones on display. Because these were likely pre-production models, we hope LG tightens up the tolerances on the shipping units.
A Mainstream Modular Phone
We’re not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg. Did the need to have a removable battery on a metal unibody device open the door for LG to make modules that could also be connected, or was it the other way round? We can’t answer that question, of course, but we can definitely say that when it was revealed to us that the G5 would have this feature, we were shocked, in a good way.
The idea of a modular smartphone has been a concept that has been kicking around for the past few years, with Google’s Project Ara and Circular Devices’ PuzzlePhone. However, we never expected to see this concept applied to a mainstream device from a big manufacturer any time soon. Although the modularity of the G5 is a far cry from what’s proposed in the aforementioned projects, it’s a start and is probably the most interesting aspect of LG’s newest phone, even though there are only two modules so far.
The first is the LG CAM Plus (shown in the slideshow above) that adds a camera grip and buttons to the G5 to turn it into almost a proper point-and-shoot. The buttons are a shutter, video record, and power, and there is also a zoom wheel that is used with the G5’s dual camera setup that we’ll cover later. The CAM Plus module also incorporates a 1,200 mAh battery for additional shooting time.
The other module is the LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O PLAY, and we, unfortunately, weren’t able to see a working version of it – the images shown above are of what clearly is a mockup. This module adds high-end audio hardware to the G5, with the same 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC found in the LG V10. The B&O PLAY also supports 32-bit 384KHz HD audio playback, and surprisingly it can also be used as a standalone DAC with other phones or even your PC.
Another morsel of info that LG shared with us is that it is open to third-party modules for the G5, and we’re very interested to see what some of them come up with. Well, that is if the G5 becomes popular enough to warrant investing in its module ecosystem. Whether or not third parties get on board, we’re sure there will be more modules coming from LG, and it will be interesting to see if this feature inspires other phone OEMs to try something similar.