LG Announces the G5: A Real-Life Modular Smartphone

The LG G5! (Yahoo)

BARCELONA — In 2016, LG continues to try to piece together a winning smartphone brand.

Sunday, as part of Mobile World Congress 2016, the Korean company announced the LG G5, an all-new sequel in its flagship Android handset line. This iteration adds some new tricks, namely a modular system for swapping in hardware extension accessories. But the G5 also does well to shed weight in both the software and hardware departments, too, by cutting out the Android OS app drawer and shrinking down and replacing the rear volume buttons we’ve seen on the last two G phones.

Here’s a rundown of what the LG G5 has to offer.

A modular accessory system

The LG G5′s bottom hatch can be replaced with extension modules. (Yahoo)

The G5 has a removable hatch at its bottom which allows for the swapping out of the phone’s battery. That part is cool, sure, but the true novelty here is that hatch itself can be replaced with Modular Type accessories to give the G5 extended functionality. Promoted during LG’s announcement for the G5 were the LG CAM Pro extension, providing the phone with a dedicated shutter button and zoom scroll, and the LG Hi-Fi Plus, which adds a second, higher quality (30bit) headphone port to the phone’s bottom.

The LG CAM Plus extension. (Yahoo)

LG says it will invite third-party vendors to create their own Modular Type extensions for the G5, opening up possibilities for a kind of modular smartphone accessory market. The plug-and-play modular smartphone concept has been teased by Google for years, but LG’s G5, even without any ability to swap out main components like processors, screens, or cameras, is about as close to a real-life modular smartphone as we’ve seen thus far.

A screen that’s always on

The phone screen that never goes to sleep. (Yahoo)

The G5 has a 5.3-inch Quad HD (or 2K) screen. Since it’s two-tenths of an inch smaller than the G4′s QHD display, the G5 carries an improved pixel density (or PPI). LG says the G5′s screen is also brighter and particularly more readable in sunlight, thanks to an auto-detecting Daylight Mode.

The most important functional improvement to the new G phone’s screen, though, is probably the Always-on Display. When the phone is asleep, this function shows a minimalistic view of things like the time, your calendar events, and weather. Using a special backlight configuration, Always-on sips battery power at less than one percent for every hour that it’s on, LG says.

Dual rear cameras

Two-eyed rear camera. (Yahoo)

The dual-camera attack that LG’s 2015 V10 premium smartphone sported on its selfie side has come to the G5’s rear camera setup. The new phone has a 135-degree wide angle lens next to a standard lens, clocking in at crisp 8MP and 16MP ratings, respectably. And instead of forcing you to choose a shooting mode when taking a snap, the two cams work together: Zooming all the way out in the camera’s viewfinder will automatically switch you live to the wide angle lens, for instance.

Big body changes

Wrapped in metal, with a fingerprint reader on its back. (Yahoo)

Another hardware feature LG has transported to the G5 from a sibling device is the rear fingerprint reader on the LG-made, Google-branded Nexus 5x. The circle sensor also serves as the phone’s power button, but gone from around it on this G phone are the volume buttons, which have been put back on the side of the phone.

The body of the G5 is wrapped in a microdized metal casing, and it feels more slabby than the previous two G phones, but only slightly. The extra girth is necessary to provide space for its modular expansion system, we’re guessing. So space well spent, perhaps. LG has also built a slight backward tilt on the earpiece part of the phone above its display, which does nothing but add a bit to its aesthetic.

The phone comes in Silver, Titan (a dark grey), Gold, and Pink colors.

Power and speed

USB Type-C: check! (Yahoo)

A Snapdragon 820 processor pushes the G5, bringing double the speed and power efficiency of the G4′s Snapdragon 808. This is in addition to a bump in the phone’s RAM, up to 4GB from last year’s 3GB, which should help with multitasking and running large apps more smoothly.

Built-in storage on the G5 is 32GB, but this is expandable up to 2TB with an microSD card.

USB Type-C, the future of computer and mobile device connectors, has also come over to the LG G5 from the Nexus line of Android phones. It, of course, provides fast charging times and, like iPhone’s Lightning cable, can be plugged in any way – upside down or downside down.

The phone’s battery is slightly smaller than its G predecessor. And though LG hasn’t given direct estimates on how long it should last on a charge, we’d guess the typical “one day” rating should work out to be true.

The software

On the G5, there is no app drawer. Apps are left to live out in the cold. (Yahoo)

The LG UX 5.0 software that runs the G5 is built atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The custom OS parts itself from standard Google-made Android not only by design differences here and there but also with its axing of the Android app launcher. This means that all apps installed on the phone simply live on the device’s home screens, just like on an iPhone. In fact, LG said the decision to get rid of the app drawer was informed by market research that showed customers are “used to the iPhone.”

The cool-cat LG Friends stamp. (Yahoo)

Another LG-only feature baked into the G5 software is setup-free compatibility with LG Friends devices, including the new LG 360 VR headset, the LG 360 CAM, and the LG Rolling Bot, which is a BB-8-like smartphone-controlled ground drone. While LG Friends devices may be used with most Android phones, only certified LG Friends phones, like the G5, can automatically detect and hook up to them right out of the box – no going to the Play store to download extra apps.

On pricing and availability for the G5, LG is mostly mum, only saying that the phone should come to most markets this April.

Email me at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter atdanielwbean.

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