Technophile

The modular smartphone is here

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on June 01, 2016

LG-G5.jpg

LG’s G5 features a dual-camera setup and an extremely innovative design. But is that enough to corner the flagship market?



You probably wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance, but LG’s new flagship smartphone, the G5 represents the most significant advancement in smartphone design in almost a decade. During this period, processors have gotten faster and more efficient, interfaces have gotten slicker and the app ecosystem on the two major platforms has exploded in a way few would have foreseen. But the sealed rectangular slab form factor that the original iPhone turned into a gold standard has seen little improvement since 2007. LG has taken that slab and hollowed it out to enable the addition of external modules that could add extra functionality to the device. Whether this is the beginning of the modular smartphone revolution we’ve been promised or just another false dawn, remains to be seen.

Design

The G5 looks pretty much like every other smartphone in the market these days. There’s a 5.3-inch Quad HD LCD that occupies most of the front surface. The rear features the unlock button integrated in classic LG style, now with an integrated fingerprint sensor.

The volume buttons are back on the left edge and the right side features a hybrid dual SIM / microSD tray. The all-metal construction does elevate its premium quotient and the dual camera setup at the back will definitely draw attention, but beyond that it is hard to differentiate it from any other Android-powered rectangular slab. Until you find an unobtrusive little button at the bottom of its left edge.

Pressing it ejects the chin of the handset, along with the battery. You can then opt to fill the hole in the device with a module of your choice. For instance, the Cam Plus module made by LG, which adds a hand-grip like you’d see on a DSLR with integrated shutter and record buttons, a zoom wheel and 1200 mAh of extra battery capacity. LG has a couple of other modules on offer and is opening up the specifications for third-party developers to build their own, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to get our hands on any of them.

Performance

The flagship phone demands a flagship processor and with the thermal throttling issues of the Qualcomm’s previous generation headliner relegated to the stuff of bad dreams, the Snapdragon 820 will be the default pick for all manufacturers in the premium space. The G5 is no exception, pairing four Kryo processor cores with Adreno 530 graphics, 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage.

The only real competition for any phone equipped with an 820 chipset is another phone with the same chipset and for those that couldn’t care less about the benchmarks, suffice it to know that in any configuration, it passes the tests that matter with flying colours – multitasking fluidly, never stuttering or hanging and running any app or game you can throw at it with consummate ease.

The LCD display is extremely bright, pixel-dense and offers fantastic viewing angles. There is only a single speaker at the bottom but it does get pretty loud. The fingerprint sensor on the G5 is quite accurate and extremely quick. However, getting used to the unlock button being on the rear takes a bit of time and practise.

Battery life

The G5’s achilles heel is its battery. 2800 mAh is toeing the extreme low-end of acceptable battery capacity, but once you throw in the fact that this handset has an always-on display, you basically have a phone that’s going to be constantly crying out for a plugpoint. In our testing, which constitutes fairly heavy usage involving constant push notifications, streaming music, gaming and browsing with brightness set to auto, we did not make it through a single day without requiring a top up.

Camera

The dual camera setup on the rear is one of the highlights of the G5. Unlike previous implementations we’ve seen, the two lenses don’t work together to produce a better image but offer different capabilities instead. The primary 16 MP sensor is unaltered from the previous-generation G4 – which offered excellent detail, fast-focusing and good low-light performance. It continues to deliver similar performance, which is great, but unfortunately short of the new benchmark set by Samsung’s excellent Galaxy S7. The new 8 MP sensor is paired with a fisheye lens with a much wider field of view. Obviously, the quality of the photos produced by this lens is significantly lower, but it is very useful when trying to frame landscapes or large groups of people.

LG’s camera software is top-notch, offering all the features you’d expect without cluttering the screen with unnecessary visual elements. It also offers a few interesting options to combine the results of the two lenses.

Verdict

The G5’s modular design is inevitably going to be compared with Google’s Project Ara platform. While the latter is much more ambitious, LG can claim credit for getting out the door with a device first.

However, the point of a modular design is defeated without an ecosystem of modules and it is hard to see third party developers being interested in building such addons for a single device. Until then, the G5 has to be judged on the merits of what is in the tin and that is a well built, capable smartphone with a unique camera setup and a weak battery. And that package is not good enough to challenge Samsung’s Galaxy S7.

However, if the modules do start to materialise, all bets are off.

Price: ₹52,990

Love: Performance, Camera, Design

Hate: Battery

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Published on June 01, 2016
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