LG's G5 Shows Bold Mobile Move, We Go Hands-On


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.

  • jgskpx0389
    I'm just loving this modular battery. I'm currently using Note 5 and I love the fast charging feature but at the same time it feels like the battery drains faster than my previous phone because I have to charge during lunch time and then at night time when i'm at home

    with this new modular battery by LG I can finally go back to having 2 batteries and just swap them out so i don't have to charge battery at all during daytime
  • LordConrad
    Still has a button on the back. This is the only thing keeping me from buying this phone, as I find rear buttons to be highly annoying.
  • l1ghtm4st3r
    Still has a button on the back. This is the only thing keeping me from buying this phone, as I find rear buttons to be highly annoying.
    The buttons are on the side. It's only the fingerprint sensor on the back.
  • pocketdrummer
    Still has a button on the back. This is the only thing keeping me from buying this phone, as I find rear buttons to be highly annoying.

    What's truly annoying is their insistence on ruining the android experience with their own crappy launcher. Why would anyone want to have their home screen cluttered up with every single app they own? Stupid...
  • seth89
    No rear rocker buttons, WTH LG!
    Anyone who has a LG G3,G4, or V10 gets it.

    It's ugly too, I was really looking forward to the same body the G series has always had but metal not an iPhone knock off.

    <-----this guy is let down.
  • Chris Droste
    I really would have appreciated a more evolutionary step this time. I think the G5 should have been the G4(leather back and back buttons in all) with the new, slightly smaller screen, the built-in DAC from the V10, the new Snapdragon chip, improved camera software, clean up the UI bloat even more (though i still love QMemo, QuickRemote, and Dual Window) and keep the dark theme, i really don't want to get my face bleached in the dark when i pull down the notification bar. the Dark Theme was clean, good contrast and easy on the eyes. this reminds me of the stupid color removal thing on the top icons after upgrading from Jellybean (STUPID!!!) App drawer; I'm indifferent. it helps when i lose a homescreen icon after a software update but millions of iPhone users may find it's removal another ease of use to draw in former apple devotees. And for the love of god what was wrong with the 3,000mAh battery? I personally loved that curved back!
  • mobtus
    What's truly annoying is their insistence on ruining the android experience with their own crappy launcher. Why would anyone want to have their home screen cluttered up with every single app they own? Stupid...

    I have a V10, the android version it has is actually pretty close to vanilla android... You might be thinking of Microsoft's launcher
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