Software And Accessories
What, No App Drawer?
Unfortunately, this section of the preview is going to be the lightest on info, because LG hasn’t shared very much with us about what they’ve done to the G5’s software. All the press release said is that it runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. However, from the brief time we spent with a demo unit at our briefing, it’s clear that there’s more happening than LG has let on.
To start, the LG’s software has had a substantial visual makeover and looks significantly different than the G4. The G4’s icons and menus, while certainly not stock Android, still seemed to adhere to Google’s Material Design aesthetic. It looks like on the G5 that LG has struck out on its own with a look that is disappointingly more Samsung than Google.
Perhaps the biggest change, and likely to be the most controversial, is that the G5’s Android UI does not have an application drawer. This means all your applications live on your homescreen, just like iOS, or a number of Asian flavors of Android like Huawei’s EMUI. We’re not sure why LG chose to make this change, and we can’t say we’d be happy without an app drawer. (Because it's Android, though, there’s a simple fix – you just need to download a third-party launcher from the Play Store.)
The G5 Has Friends, Including Virtual Ones
The G5 has Friends. Quite a few of them, and although we don’t cover accessories too much here on Tom’s Hardware, some of the “companion devices” LG has announced for the G5 are quite significant. Unfortunately, as it was with the software and camera, LG hasn’t shared with us the complete details of all of them.
The first and probably most exciting LG Friend is the LG 360 VR headset, which you can see in the slideshow above. The model we saw was non-functioning, but we were immediately struck as to how much smaller it was than other mobile VR HMDs. That's because unlike its peers, the LG 360 VR doesn't use a phone as its display. Instead, it has what were we told are two 1080p screens in the headset, and it connects to the G5 via USB Type-C so the Snapdragon 820 in the phone can power the headset. Because there is no phone, the LG 360 VR is considerably lighter (118g) and more compact than something like Samsung’s Gear VR. We were also told that the tethered phone’s screen can be used as a control for the VR experiences.
In our minds, the two other important LG Friends are the LG 360 CAM and the LG Rolling Bot, both shown in the images above. The camera wasn’t at the preview event we attended, so like the VR headset, we don’t have too much to share and obviously couldn’t test it out. It looks a little like a stubbier Ricoh Theta -- it has two 13MP 200-degree wide angle cameras, one on each side, to capture full 360-degree video. It has a 1,200 mAh battery, 4 GB of image storage, a microSD slot, and connects to the G5 for control. It can capture 360-video at up to 2K and has three microphones for 5.1 surround audio recording. LG said the resulting footage can be uploaded to Google Street View or YouTube.
We did get to see the Rolling Bot (see the end of our video above), possibly the most off-the-wall phone accessory we’ve seen, and at first glance it looks like a bigger version of the popular Sphero robot. You control the Bot with the LG Friends Manager app (that is also used to manage the other Friends), and while driving it around, you can take pictures and shoot video with its built-in 8MP camera. LG is touting it as a home monitoring system more than just a toy, because its camera can livestream remotely to the G5, and there is also two-way audio. It even has a “pet mode” and a laser pointer so it can play with your cats!
There are also a number of other LG Friends coming that we didn’t get to see, including a new Harmon Kardon-tuned LG Tone Platinum Bluetooth stereo headset, the H3 by B&O PLAY (which is a set of high-end noise canceling earphones and the LG Smart Controller), and a drone control attachment for the G5.