There’s this Gizmodo article that claims how we’ve reached peak smartphone or how there isn’t much of a difference in phone design anymore as everyone has some variant of the same mold, so to speak. At this stage, it’s essential for the tech companies to have something up their sleeves that’ll be too compelling to pass up. LG is taking that unusual approach with the G5. They’re not building on the previous G flagships but starting an entirely different thing. This isn’t our first time meeting the G5, we’ve covered it a number of times here on 2.O but this time we get some hands-on time with LG’s modular flagship.
The G5 can be considered the first commercial modular flagship smartphone out on the market. Think Google’s Project Ara finally making it into production. The phone allows you to swap out what it calls modules to improve certain functionalities of the device (you can also swap out batteries when needed). These modules are what LG calls Friends. And listed below are the first round of buddies for the G5.
LG CAM Plus
Giving you some manual control and a bit of extra juice for shooting, the LG CAM Plus module attaches through the battery slot of the G5. It’s designed to give you more grip on the phone and provide physical buttons for power, shutter, record, and zoom. It also has an intuitive auto focus and exposure lock you see in standalone digital cameras. Trying out the camera with the CAM Plus attached, you get see how quickly the G5 focuses on its subject even while you zoom in and out. There’s a nice feel to the grip. And as mentioned, it has an extra 1,200mAh battery in the module.
From playing around with the G5’s camera at the event floor, I get to see the great potential the smartphone’s camera has. In the shootout section with other latest smartphones from rivals Apple and Samsung, you can see it easily matches them. It has an advantage of having one of its dual rear cameras come with a 135-degree wide angle lens (the other is a standard 78-degree lens) that it gets so much more of the scene in one shot. Well-lit shots come out detailed and crisp , while those in less ideal lighting conditions though you can see it kind of overexpose highlights. But we need to spend more time with it to get more out of the camera.
For audiophiles, the Hi-Fi Plus is a portable Hi-Fi DAC audio player developed in collaboration with B&O PLAY. In addition to the 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC up-sampling technology first introduced in the LG V10, it also supports 32-bit 384KHz high-definition audio playback. It can be used either as a module with the LG G5 or as a separate Hi-Fi DAC by connecting to any smartphone or PC. LG’s also releasing the H3 by B&O PLAY earphones, which is compatible with the Hi-Fi Plus.
LG 360 VR
With virtual reality being all the rage, this is LG’s take on VR headset. It’s unique in that you don’t slot the phone into the headset but connect to it via a dedicated cable that attaches to the USB Type C port. It’ll simulate a 130-inch TV viewed from two meters away with a 639ppi resolution. It’s lightweight, too, which won’t put too much of a strain on you. It’s also foldable so carrying it around is easy. The device is compatible with 360-degree images and videos captured with LG 360 CAM as well as all Google Cardboard content.
LG 360 CAM
This is a compact 360-degree angle camera equipped with two 13-megapixel 200-degree wide angle cameras, 1,200mAh battery, and 4GB internal memory, which can be supplemented by a microSD card. It can easily connect to the LG G5 and provides 2K video and 5.1 surround channel recording on three microphones, letting users effortlessly create high-quality 360-degree contents. Thanks to the partnership with Google, images taken with the 360 CAM can be uploaded to Google Street View and YouTube360, adding the fun of sharing creative contents with others. As mentioned, the images will also be available to view on the LG 360 VR or other devices that are capable of 360-degree content.
LG Rolling Bot
Think of it like the cousin of the BB-8 droid by Sphero. This companion device can roll around your home or wherever you want it to while taking photos and videos with its 8-megapixel shooter. You can use it to monitor things at home, watch over your pet, or serve as a remote control for different home appliances. Its IP camera works via Wi-Fi so you can also use it to remotely monitor your home with the G5 via live stream. We have yet to check the battery life of the Rolling Bot so we can’t say how long it lasts.
LG TONE Platinum
The LG TONE Platinum (model HBS-1100) is the latest in the LG TONE series. It’s a Bluetooth headset that has earned the Harman Kardon Platinum grade, which boasts superior sound quality. Of course, we have to test this out further to confirm this. With a Balanced Armature design for minimum distortion, LG Tone Platinum is expected to deliver exceptionally sharp and clean sound. LG claims this is the world’s first Bluetooth headset equipped with aptX HD codec, delivering lossless 24-bit audio.
To work seamlessly with these, the G5 needs to have the power to back it up and we know it has that in spades. Here’s a quick recap of what’s powering it under the hood. It has a 5.3-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum display with Always-on feature first introduced into the V10. And it’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, Adreno 530 graphics, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 32GB UFS ROM that’s expandable via microSD for up to 2TB. The G5 runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and has a 2,800mAh removable battery.
The challenge LG faces here is will customers be willing to pay that extra cash for all these accessories? You can pick or choose, of course, to see which ones you actually need in your life. But the G5 can be seen as an investment into LG’s ecosystem. It manifests the idea of moving beyond just what a single device can do on its own and branches out into what else it can do if paired with other accessories. And it seems LG isn’t stopping with this round of Friends to join the G5. This flagship is an investment. And if you want to invest in the phone, you’re going to need some serious money to back it up.
The LG G5 is now up for pre-order for P34,990. Those who pre-order until May 1st we’ll also be taking home a free LG CAM Plus (worth P3,000) and LG Quick Cover Case (worth P1,500). The devices are expected to roll out as early as May 3rd.
We’re still waiting for word about the price and availability of the Friends. We’ll update this post for news.
Update: After the pre-orders, the G5 will retail for P34,990 but will not come with the CAM Plus. According to LG, the Friends coming this May include the CAM Plus (P2,990), the Hi-Fi Plus (P5,990), and the 360 CAM (P10,990) .