The LG G5 is one phone in the increasingly large crowd of flagship Android phones vying for attention and trying to knock Samsung off its perch. It’s also the most unique one, thanks to a removable bottom section that lets you swap out the battery, despite the G5 not having a removable back. After its debut at Mobile World Congress in late February, we’ve been able to spend a few weeks with a preview version of the phone. Since it’s not the production model, we won’t be able to run a full review, but we can share some impressions on the G5, especially on how its marquee feature has been implemented.
The removable battery module falls somewhere between gimmick and being genuinely useful. Ultimately, it’s a good idea — even if the execution isn’t perfect, LG is the first to figure out a workable compromise in smartphone design. Android smartphone makers have been stuck between equally vocal crowds clamoring for more premium builds and the ability to swap out batteries and microSD cards, two features that don’t usually go together. While the microSD card problem has been solved by hybrid SIM/microSD card slots (which the LG G5 has), getting a swappable battery into an all-metal phone hasn’t been possible until now. Samsung caught plenty of heat from longtime users for making the switch to an all-metal build with the S6, backlash that might have steered the direction of the G5 early on in development.
In practice, the feature has a long way to go. The biggest problem here is that the battery isn’t hot swappable — there’s no backup power in the phone, so removing the battery module will power the phone off. It’s a small gripe, but if you are going to swap out batteries with the G5, know that will mean having to turn the phone back on afterwards. That’s more disappointing when it comes to the extra modules, like the camera grip and the DAC. It would be nice to swap those modules quickly with no downtime, but that’s not quite possible with the G5 (here’s hoping for the G6). We didn’t get to test either of those modules, though, so we can’t say for sure how much value those add.
As we mentioned before, the LG G5 has an all-metal build and doesn’t have a removable back. That means the optional leather back from the G4 is gone, replaced by a pretty familiar slate of metallic colors — silver, titan (dark grey), gold, and pink (we got the pink one, which is a nice, subtle shade). Although it’s made of metal, it feels a lot lighter than other Android smartphones. Most of that is because the G5 is a little smaller than most marquee Android phones now at 5.3″ — the 5.1″ Galaxy S7 is slightly lighter. Size always depends on preference, but it’s worth mentioning that the G5 is much more comfortable to hold than 5.5″ – 6.0″+ phones, and the rounded edges and soft touch to the metal only add to that.
LG has added an always-on display to the G5, so you can leave the phone on a desk and be able to check time, date, and notifications at a glance, without waking the phone. It’s dim (as it has to be to preserve battery power), but it’s bright enough to see easily when indoors. The G5 also has tap to wake, allowing you to bring up the lock screen with a couple taps. It’s convenient, but also a practical consideration — with LG always putting their power/wake button (also the fingerprint scanner) on the back of the phone, tap to wake allows you to unlock the G5 without picking it up from your desk.