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LG G5 impressions: Our first 24 hours with LG's latest flagship phone

Jon Phillips | March 17, 2016
Ahead of the phone's official launch, LG sent us a "pre-production preview" version of the G5. It's been a mix of highs and lows.

Our LG G5 didn’t come with any Friends modules, like the Cam Plus or Hi-Fi Plus. It’s not even a reviewable unit—LG cautions it’s “pre-production preview” hardware, and the user experience could be different in the final shipping version. And on top of all that, we got the pink iteration of the G5. Too bad we ran out of Hello Kitty stickers, because they’d look perfectly at home on this phone.

Yeah, the G5 I’ve been using for the last 24 hours comes with a few caveats—but none of them are serious enough to prevent me from drawing some early conclusions. LG has done a lot to reimagine its flagship Android phone, and while not all of its design decisions are successful, they’re all bold and inspired. Indeed, in this age of Android samey-sameyness, we have to give LG props for relentless innovation.

Stunning new industrial design

Last year, I used the LG G4 for about five months as my daily driver, so I’m fully versed on that phone’s strengths and weaknesses. As such, the G5’s unibody metal shell emerges as LG’s biggest improvement.

Sure, I sort of miss the G4’s funky leather back-panel. Ditto the G4’s more angular (and interesting) body lines. But there’s no disputing that LG finally has an expensive-looking, premium-feeling smartphone in the G5. The “microdized” metal surface has a soft, almost glowing luster. And with just the hint of texture to it—a certain, undefinable toothiness—the G5 feels a bit more grippy than its arch-rival, the Samsung Galaxy S7

The move to a unibody construction certainly wouldn’t have happened if LG hadn’t first overhauled the phone’s approach to battery swaps. The ability to replace a dying battery with a fully juiced battery has long been an LG selling point, and the G5 makes this operation even easier. Instead of prying off the back panel with a credit card, fingernail or spork, now you just press a button on the G5’s side, wiggle out the 2800 mAh battery module, and then pop in a fresh cell.

Removing the battery module isn’t as easy as, say, ejecting an SD card from a card reader. It does require a bit of negotiation. But do you really want it to be much easier? It’s not a headphone plug or power cable. It’s a battery, and needs to stay locked down under challenging circumstances. The bottom line is I’m impressed by the clench and muscularity of the battery lock. I think it will survive many more drops than than the G4 ever did. The new clamping scheme also speaks well for the G5’s Friends accessories when those eventually arrive.

Accurate fingerprints, barely on display

 

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