LG G5 hands-on: this modular flagship hits a home run

Let’s not mince words here: last year’s LG G4 was a phenomenal handset with a spectacular camera. It was marred only by the lack of fingerprint reader and so-so plastic build. The V10 mostly fixed this at the cost of being a larger phone. Today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, LG hit a home run with its newest flagship, the G5. It’s smaller and better in every way, with a modular metal build, a unique camera system, and the latest Qualcomm chipset.

At 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm, the G5 is small(ish) for a flagship device. It’s build around a 5.3-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440) quantum IPS panel with the upper-third doubling as a glanceable, always-on display similar to the secondary screen on the V10. The design is attractive — if somewhat generic overall — but stands out thanks to a slight inward curve where the glass covers the 8MP selfie camera and earpiece. A similar curvature exists on the removable (!) plastic end-cap which contains the speaker and USB Type-C connector along the bottom edge.

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The aluminum unibody shell looks and feels sleek. It features a tasteful machined bevel along its circumference and a slight bump on the back for the dual-lens shooter and flash. Below the camera system sits the power/lock button with an integrated fingerprint reader. Unlike LG’s previous flagships, the G5’s volume rocker lives on the left side of the handset. The headphone jack and IR blaster are located on the top edge, and a tray on the right side of the phone accommodates the nano SIM and microSD card. LG will sell the G5 in four colors: silver, titanium, gold, and that sexy pink seen in our pictures and hands-on video.

A latch below the volume rocker secures the aforementioned removable end cap (which contains the speaker and USB Type-C connector). This serves two purposes: first, it provides access to the 2800mAh removable battery, and second, it basically makes the G5 modular, letting the user replace this end cap with others, such as the optional LG camera grip (complete with dual-stage shutter button and additional battery), or the optional Bang & Olufsen-branded HiFi DAC. It doesn’t take much to imagine a module with stereo speakers, one with a micro-USB port, or another with a thermal imaging sensor.

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Speaking of imaging, let’s discuss the unique camera system LG fitted to the G5. Like on the G4, there’s a 16-megapixel f/1.8 main shooter with laser autofocus, color sensor, and LED flash. But, taking a cue from the V10 dual selfie camera, the G5 augments the 16MP sensor with an 8MP f/2.2 camera for wide angle shots (135 degree FoV). This means that as you zoom in and out the camera switches seamlessly between the wide-angle and regular shooter. And here’s the kicker: both lenses have OIS, because why not?

As for the rest of the specs, the G5 is powered by Qualcomm’s latest and greatest chipset, the Snapdragon 820 with Adreno 530 graphics and Category 12 LTE modem. It’s paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB of built-in storage (with microSD expansion, up to 2TB). Yep, it’s a mouthful. There’s also WiFi ac, Bluetooth 4.2 (with aptX HD), and NFC on board (natch), along with LPLE (low power location estimation) and Quick Charge 3.0. Wireless charging is the only feature that appears to be missing from this love fest…

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On the software front, the G5 runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and comes with LG’s latest skin, which follows in Huawei’s (and Nextbit’s) footsteps by dropping the app drawer this year. When pressed, LG was unable to give us a good reason for removing the app tray, so we’ll just assume it’s a case of EMUI fever. No matter, this is easily remedied by installing another launcher like Nova or Google Now.

Anyway, it really looks like LG nailed it with the G5. Our time with the phone was very limited, but we came away extremely impressed and we’re looking forward to playing with the device here in Barcelona, and getting a review unit. Pricing and availability are a mystery at this point, so we’ll keep you posted as soon as we have more info.