LG (LGCEY) has mailed out a select number of pre-production models of its latest G5 smartphone, unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month. Fortune has one, and while this version is not quite ready for a full review, but the sample works well enough to gather some initial thoughts about the upcoming device.
Consumers will find a new, smaller screen size on the G5. Dropping from 5.5-inches to 5.3-inches, the G5 is easy to hold and lends itself to easier, one-handed use. As with the Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy S7 line, the G5 also offers an always-on display.
But LG’s implementation is far better than Samsung’s—mainly due to the fact that all notifications are supported and displayed on the screen as opposed to limiting notifications to few select applications. Additionally, the screen isn’t that bright, and the image remains still on the display of the G5, which helps in limiting how much of a distraction it is.
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On paper, the G5 hits every specification most Android devices in 2016 will hit. It runs Google’s (GOOG) Android 6.0 Marshmallow, it is powered by Qualcomm’s (QCOM) Snapdragon 820 processor, and it sports four gigabytes of memory, 32 gigabytes of internal storage, and expandable storage space.
LG wanted to move to an aluminum housing while keeping a removable battery as a key feature of the G5. In order to achieve both, LG developed a modular system, which involves the device’s battery sliding out from the bottom of the phone. The user removes the lower section of the phone by pressing a button on the left side of the device. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen or used on a smartphone, but it works surprisingly well.
My biggest concern when talking to LG about this implementation was that it would be easy to accidentally pull the battery out. In practice, however, removing the battery calls for a concerted effort to press the button in far enough to activate the release.
My only remaining worry about LG’s design was how durable the phone is going to be. With the preproduction unit I have now, I can see through the small crack where the removable bottom meets the phone’s screen. That tiny opening is just begging to be filled with dust and pocket lint. Then there’s the increased likelihood the entire internal compartment of the phone will fill with water should you accidentally drop it in the washing machine.
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Hopefully, the variance is something that’s just part of previewing an early build, and it’s nothing to worry about once the G5 is released in April. I rather like the thought of having a device that can have hardware added to it, as the G5 can, through this modular design. For example, the LG Cam Plus is an accessory that adds battery life while also adding better physical controls for snapping photos with the G5.
Another unique feature of the G5 is its dual-lens rear camera. LG isn’t the first company to embed two camera lenses on a smartphone, but it is the first to offer one lens capturing standard 78-degree photos and the second lens capturing 135-degree wide-angle shots.
The combination of the two viewing angles means users can now digitally zoom in when framing a photo or zoom out to activate the wide-angle lens.
After using the wide-angle lens to capture some photos and videos this weekend, I wish more smartphones had this feature. Instead of having to take a few steps back or ask people to squeeze closer together to ensure everyone is in the shot, I can tap a button and capture the entire scene.
Two more quick notes:
- Just below the camera module on the back of the phone is a fingerprint sensor used to unlock the device, doubling as the power button. So far, I’m having a hard time adjusting to having the power button on the back of a device.
- LG’s custom software ditched the long-standing app drawer found on nearly all Android devices. Instead, users can expect an iPhone-like app layout in which app icons are placed on the various home screens for the user to rearrange.
Best Buy will begin taking preorders for the G5 on March 18 with carriers and more retailers sure to follow. Fortune will have a full review once the G5 is officially available.