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LG G5: Android is Better with Friends

LG recently announced the next iteration of their flagship Android device, the G5. Taking cues from both the G4 and the V10, as well as some unreleased Android devices, LG takes one of the most impressive innovative leaps with this new phone.

Build2016-02-22 12_20_07-LG G5_ Release Dates, Specs & News _ LG USA

The chassis of the G5 first caught my eye, bearing a striking resemblance to the most recent Nexus devices (the 5x especially), the G5 is a cozy 5.3” screen on a metal unibody. It has a very unique slight curve towards the top of the screen, which sets off the very futuristic look of the device. Unlike any unibody phone ever, the G5 features a removable battery and microSD slot. Samsung has migrated away from these removable components, opting to leave them unremovable like an iPhone. This is to the dissatisfaction of many Samsung customers, who I feel will find a great new home in LG’s ecosystem with this new device.
The rear volume rocker, which has been a unique LG Gx series feature, has been moved to the side of the phone. The back of the phone now houses a fingerprint scanner and an impressive dual-lens camera (one 16Megapixel, one 8Megapixel Wide-Angle).

Software

LG made some interesting decisions on the software side. As a long-time Android user, I’m used to every year meaning more features added to a phone. Most of the time they were a lot of impractical, useless features that I would wind up disabling anyway (ahem, Samsung’s gesture based navigation). With the G5 LG looked into the customer feedback and market research and decided to simplify the UI. LG removed many unnecessary/unused features, such as dual window and Q slide, and much of the bloatware that came with its predecessors. LG also ditched the app drawer and all apps will be on the homescreen of the device, similarly to how iPhones organize apps. This move comes from market research suggesting users would prefer to keep the apps on the homescreen, rather than isolated in their own drawer. The rest of the UI has been slimmed down to run faster, which should fly on the hardware packed into this device.

Hardware

The phone is one of the first to come out with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 820. It comes with 4GB of RAM 32GB of on-board storage. As I mentioned before, the phone has a micro-SD slot for expandable storage and a replaceable battery, which you access by pulling the bottom of the device down. The battery and bottom lip slide out and so do all the replaceable components. This mechanism is what makes the device truly innovative, as the bottom lip can be replaced with different modules to enhance or add to the features of the phone.

Friends

Beating out the highly-anticipated Project Ara, LG introduces modular accessories to the G line with what it calls “Friends”. Currently LG has produced two Friends for the device, but they are allowing third party manufacturers to access the specifications to create many more unique tools for the phone. The two that LG have produced give a good idea of what kind of potential these modules have. The first is the LG Cam Plus, which looks like the shooting side of a standalone camera. This Friend adds additional hardware controls to the dual lens camera and even adds additional battery life, bumping the phone up to 4000 mAh. The second module is called the LG Hi-Fi Plus, which adds a 32bit amp to the phone to improve the quality of audio coming out of the 3.5mm jack on the phone.

 

While the Friends are the most exciting part of the phone, they are also the most risky move by LG so far. With every other change made to this device emphasizing simplicity, will the modules scare users off? I can think of at least a dozen people I know personally who wouldn’t want to deal with extra parts to keep track of, and would probably never even remove the stock Friend on the phone. Hopefully the move towards modules sticks, and other OEM’s will start implementing similar features to their flagships, but we will have to wait and see how the G5 sells to make any predictions for their competitors.

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