There were several new, innovative products announced at MWC 2016, most notably was the LG G5 and “friends.” Along with the LG G5, with it’s swappable modules, LG released a new VR device, 360 camera, and the LG Rolling Bot (a remote controlled ball with a camera). LG has taken a few chances with the new phone design, both in physical design and in the UI. Will they appeal to the consumer and pay off in the end? Only time will tell, but we can take a look at everything and let everyone decide for themselves.
At first glance, the G5 looks very similar to it’s predecessors, but that preconception is quickly dispelled by simply turning over the device. LG has re-positioned some of the back buttons in favor of a single fingerprint reader that doubles as a power button. The G5 is LG’s first flagship device to have a metal unibody design. What really sets this phone apart from others, both previous versions and competitors, is the modular bay at the bottom of the phone dubbed the “magic slot.” The bottom of the phone can be removed to reveal the removable battery. While most manufacturers are going away from removable batteries and expandable memory, LG has seemed to embrace these items and trying to provide them in innovated ways. Whether or not this new design will be embraced by the masses is yet to be seen, as most people are split on it being positive or negative. I’ll touch on the modules a little later.
The rest of the specs on the phone are rather impressive: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with an Adreno 530 GPU and 4GB RAM. LG has stated that this configuration will provide graphics that are 40% faster and 40% more energy efficient than the Snapdragon 810. The G5 comes in a single 32GB internal storage variant, but with the aforementioned MicroSD expansion slot. The battery has been decreased from 3000mAh to 2800mAh. LG’s thinking here is that the smaller display and more efficient processor will offset the larger battery. The G5 will also support Quick Charge 3.0 which will allow you to charge from 0% to 80% in around 35 minutes. LG has also forgone the microUSB port for the ever popular USB Type-C.
The screen has dropped slightly from 5.5″ on the G4 to a 5.3″ QHD display. The big difference here is the “always on display” that will show the time and select notifications using a built in IPS display. According to LG, this display will only use .8% of the battery per hour, so the energy hit should be minimal. The camera is a 16MP cam with OIS, similar to that on the V10, backed by an 8MP wide-lens and a 8MP front facing camera.
Back to the modules, LG has created two interesting modules right out of the gate for the G5. There’s no indication they are planning on making any more, but they are going to release the information to allow for third parties to create their own modules. Whether or not any actually do will depend on the popularity of the phone and if consumers actually buy into the modular concept. The two modules are a camera module and a speaker module:
- Camera Module – The camera module doesn’t add any additional equipment for sensors or zoom capabilities. What it does add is a “better” grip for holding the camera with a physical wheel for zooming, buttons for taking pictures, recording video, etc. It does add an additional 1200mAh battery to supplement the existing one, so you can take pictures to your hearts content.
- LG HIFI+ (with B&O Play) – Designed in collaboration with B&O, this module adds two headphone jacks optimized for HiFi+. It supports 32-bit DAC with upsampling, and 384KHz audio. This module also has the ability to be used as it’s own independent device with a cap to close it off and a USB Type-C connection that can be used with another smartphone.
The G5 will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow and the UI has been tweaked a bit from the previous versions. Some of the bloatware has been reduced and the unique items like Qslide and dual screen are no longer included. Most notable is the absence of an app drawer. Again, this is something that has most people split between it being a bad thing or something that won’t matter. Personally, I see this as a step backwards, but I can understand it might be more of a preference. I like nice clean screens with as little icons and clutter as possible. There have been rumors that Android N was also going to remove the app drawer, but that is unconfirmed and in some cases refuted. Fortunately, there are any number of launchers that could be downloaded to provide an app drawer if that’s what you prefer.
LG also revealed a few new devices that they are dubbing as “friends” to the G5. Here is a very brief description of each one. Information is limited, so we’ll relay more details as they become available.
- LG 360 CAM – The LG 360 CAM is a 360 degree recording camera with multiple cameras at 200 degrees a piece. Images can be displayed in a spherical or flat view. Images are saved on the device itself with 4GB of internal storage and microSD expansion and has a 1200mAh battery.
- LG 360 VR – A VR headset that gives the impression you’re looking at a 130″ TV from 2 meters. It’s required you are tether to the G5 via USB Type-C. The lenses can be adjusted for different eyesight and it has built in headphone jacks (as well as blutooth) and physical buttons for screen responses. You can also use your G5 screen to respond to screen
- LG Rolling Bot – The most interesting, and certainly the strangest, friend that LG revealed was the Rolling Bot. The Rolling Bot is basically a remove controlled ball with a camera, speaker, and laser pointer built in. Why you ask? You can control the bot from anywhere via your phone and see what’s going on in your house while you are away. You can see video, hear audio, and even use the laser pointer to entertain your pets. It also has the ability to connect to other devices within your home, such as your TV, lights, or other WiFi connected devices. No pricing or availability has been released yet, but I’d certainly love to get one of these to play with!
LG has definitely taken some chances and gotten lots of people talking, which is always a good thing. Many people complain at the lack of innovation differentiating all the competition for Android devices, so something that’s a little out of left field is always welcome. We’ll be trying to get our hands on some of these devices, so keep an eye out for some upcoming unboxing and reviews!