A couple of years ago we looked at the best LG phones and called the LG G5 “the most ambitious LG phone ever”. We stand by that – the phone brought some features that had a marked impact on the market and some that did not, not even on LG’s own lineup.
The G5 was the first phone with a proper dual camera, at least the way we understand it today – not a 3D camera like the Optimus 3D, no depth sensor, but two camera modules with different focal lengths.
The LG G5 was a bold, innovative phone that failed to resonate with the markte
You might argue that the LG V10 featured a combo of wide and ultrawide cameras the year before and it. However, they were on the front, which made them less useful – more on the V10 in its own Flashback.
The LG G5 had a 16MP main camera with a 26mm lens (1/2.6” sensor). This module featured Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and was helped by the Laser autofocus system, something that LG was pushing heavily back then.
The ultrawide was stunning – its 9mm lens is wider than most smartphone ultrawide cameras you will find even today. The 8MP resolution (1/3.6” sensor) was not much to cover the 135° field of view (FoV), but this was definitely one of the standout cameras of 2016. Even today some phones go only as wide as 105° and it’s noticeable.
Here’s a comparison of the FoV of the main and the ultra wide cameras.
As for the front-facing camera, it was a single 8MP unit on the upper bezel – LG didn’t repeat the crazy dual-camera, second-screen design of the V10 from a few months earlier.
The company also dropped its characteristic design quirk of putting the volume rocker on the back, something it had been doing since the G2. However, LG still tried to shake up the world of smartphone design, which was settling into a boring routine.
The LG G5 was actually a modular phone. It didn’t have the kooky patchwork design of Google’s Project Ara, instead it took a more practical approach. The bottom was removable (which also pulled out the battery, making it easy to replace). This was the so-called Magic Slot.
The idea was that this bottom segment could be replaced with various modules. At launch time these included the LG Cam Plus, a camera grip with an extra 1,200mAh battery and hardware camera controls (shutter key, camcorder button, a zoom dial and an on/off toggle).
LG Cam Plus module for the LG G5
Another module augmented the phone’s already good audio capabilities. The LG Hi-Fi Plus was branded “B&O Play” as it had a Bang & Olufsen DAC, plus a more powerful speaker. The cool thing about it is that it could also operate as a standard USB DAC and AMP for PCs and other Android phones.
LG Hi-Fi Plus for the LG G5 (and other phones too)
For more details, check out our LG G5 Friends article from back then. LG was also experimenting with 360° cameras and VR headsets, it was a fun period in smartphone history.
The Magic Slot design meant that the G5 was not water resistant like other flagships of the day and the relatively small 2,800mAh battery offered only average endurance. On the plus side, it supported 18W fast charging and, of course, you could carry a spare battery. Or there could have been a battery module, something with a bit more juice than the Cam Plus accessory (no such module was ever released, however).
Modularity aside, the LG G5 represented a course change for the company. The G5 ditched the large 5.5” display of the G3 and G4 and went with a smaller 5.3” panel. The phone’s body was made out of an aluminum alloy, though the so-called “microdizing” process left the exterior with an odd finish that didn’t feel like metal.
LG G5 flanked by the Galaxy S7 and the LG G4
A few months after unveiling its flagship at the MWC, LG launched a cheaper version for South America and China dubbed the LG G5 SE.
The original G5 was powered by the Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm’s flagship chip of the day. The SE switched over to the Snapdragon 652, an old 28mm part. LG also trimmed a gig of RAM, leaving the SE with 3GB, plus the 32GB UFS 2.0 storage was swapped for an eMMC 5.1 drive of the same capacity.
The cameras were changed as well, the 16MP main module got an even narrower lens (29mm vs. 26mm), the ultrawide became narrower as well (at 12mm it was still quite wide even by today’s standards but still).
For what it’s worth, the G5 SE also featured the Magic Slot design, LG was trying to build a modular ecosystem around it. Well, it didn’t try too hard, there was no Magic Slot on the V20 that launched later that same year and none on the LG G6 either. Also, the company gave up on launching new modules.
As innovative as the LG G5 was, its legacy is not bright. If you have been following the smartphone market over the last few years, you know of the company’s struggles. In the quarter after the G5 launched LG had to drop its shipping target from 16.5 to 15 million phones and the underperforming G5 got blamed for it. Estimates for the flagship were initially 3-3.5 million units, that was revised down to 2.5 million.
LG was already on a downwards trajectory, the LG G4 from the year before underperformed as well, so it didn’t live up to the ambitions 12 million sales target. LG posted a loss in Q2 2015 as well, with blame falling on the G4.
The company spend years and millions of dollars trying to return to popularity, but despite bold and innovative designs its sales kept declining and losses kept mounting. Eventually it left the smartphone market it 2021.
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