The LG G5 & Friends Are Showing the Real Chops of the Mobile Space

g5Mobile World Congress 2016 is upon us and the announcements and releases already have me buried here at the Dark Android Project. So much to sift through. One of the early (and likely most interesting) things to be announced at Mobile World Congress this year is something I’ve talked about before here: The LG G5 smartphone (pictured above).

LG’s “G” flagship phone series has been interesting the past couple of years since it is the only flagship line that still offers a removable battery (something not just rare in flagships anymore), as well as a MicroSD card slot. In fact, the removable battery in the G5 is particularly interesting since it’s not just a “pop off the back cover” solution. The battery actually slides out from underneath the phone.g5batteryVery sleek. Very clever. As for the specs on the LG G5, it’s everything a modern flagship phone should have, including the pre-requisite (in my opinion) 4GB of RAM. As for the other specs, there’s a 5.3″ Quad HD IPS Quantum display with a curved glass surface, a Snapdragon 820 SoC, 32GB of storage with a MicroSD slot, a reduced 2800mAh battery (compared to the G4’s 3000mAh and the G3’s 3200mAh), and all the connectivity features you’ve come to expect of modern smartphones. There’s a fingerprint scanner on the back (which is not a plus, in my opinion, these are privacy and security nightmares), NFC obviously, and a USB Type-C port for power and data transfer that also uses the newer USB 3.0 for faster speeds. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 is in tow as well, which I’m not 100% clear on the advantages of Quick Charge 3.0 over the now-common Quick Charge 2.0. And the phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will be available in 4 different colors: silver, titan, gold, and pink

As for the camera, this gets somewhat interesting. There’s an 8MP front shooter for selfies above the display, but the more interesting camera setup is on the back of the phone. You’ll find two cameras: a standard 78-degree 16MP lens and a 135-degree wide-angle 8MP lens, which LG says is 1.7 times wider than smartphone cameras and the widest on the market. It’s even 15 degrees wider than the human eye’s field of view. That should be great for landscape photography, monuments and tall buildings, and large groups of people. Beside providing better results by harnessing both sensors, the dual lens approach allows for a new Pop-out picture mode which creates a picture-in-a-frame effect.

Wild stuff. So it’s a fine phone (minus the fingerprint reader, and unfortunately it likely has an always listening voice co-processor, but concerning for security and privacy), and it has all the power money can buy in a smartphone at the moment…but we’re not sure on release date or pricing.

Would I recommend it for a Dark Android setup? As long as someone develops a CyanogenMod build for it, it could work well enough as long as you turn the fingerprint sensor part of it to “stay the fuck off” (though I doubt there’s a checkbox that says that is worded exactly that way). And really, almost every flagship phone from the major manufacturers gets a CyanogenMod build.

But wait…there’s more! A whole lot more actually. The “more” is what LG is called “G5 Friends”. Take a look:lgg5

What the Hell is all that? Well, obviously, it’s a full suite of complimentary hardware products, from VR goggles to rolling drones, to the G5. LG is effectively pulling what Scamsung (spelled correctly) has been doing for years with their Galaxy line of products (Gear VR, Galaxy Gear, etc.). I’ve written about and predicted that more companies would do this before. Now it’s a reality.

Personally, I love the idea of full-on, functional hardware accessories and product ecosystems, especially around mobile devices. Whether or not LG will be as successful with their line as Scamsung is starting to become is impossible to know, but the “risk capital” that a company like LG is putting into R&D and actually releasing the product from that R&D is refreshing and exciting (please note, I’m not saying LG is a great company, I’m just saying I appreciate the act, not necessarily the actor).

Why don’t we break down these products quickly:

First, the CAM Plus adds more grip and width to the device, for better usability while taking photos. It has physical buttons for power, camera shutter, video recording, zoom, and an LED indicator. It also functions as an external 1200mAh battery.

Second, the Hi-Fi Plus with B&O Play is a portable Hi-Fi DAC audio player that supports 32-bit 384KHz high-definition audio playback. The additional benefit that it brings is the fact that it can be used with the G5 or independently of it, with PCs and other smartphones.

As for the additional accessories, there’s the 360 VR, a VR goggle that connects to the G5 via a cable and simulates a 130″ TV viewed from 2 meters away thanks to its 639ppi display. LG tries to sell the fact that the phone isn’t inserted in the goggle itself by focusing on the light weight of the unit. It’s compatible with Google Cardboard content as well as the images and videos captured with LG’s 360 CAM.

Which brings us to the 360 CAM, a small camera equipped with two 13 MP 200 deg wide-angle lenses, 3 microphones, 4GB of internal memory with MicroSD slot, and a 1200mAh battery. It’s capable of taking 2K videos too. The resulting images and videos can be uploaded to Google Street View and YouTube 360.

Then there’s the Rolling Bot, a Sphero-like ball that rolls around and captures 8MP photos. LG says this isn’t just a toy, it can also be used as a pet companion, as a home monitoring system thanks to its WiFi-connected camera, speaker, and microphone, and a remote controller for other home appliances with its two embedded infra-red sensors.

And finally, there are a couple of random accessories like the TONE Platinum Bluetooth earphones, the H3 by B&O Play wired earphones, and the Smart Controller for drones.g53

This is a crazy line-up for the G5 that effectively came out of nowhere. While enthusiasts had previously heard about the so-called “Magic Slot” on the LG G5, no one knew that they would expand their product line in this way. It’s just wild. And the inclusion of another, more premium mobile VR headset into the mix intrigues me all the more.

If you want to buy into an entire hardware line (and I don’t really blame you if you did), I would recommend the “LG G5 & Friends”, despite the privacy and security issues that come with the voice co-processor and the fingerprint sensor. I applaud this new development in the mobile space of having an expansive line of serious hardware accessories. Of course, all of that will likely come with a very steep price tag, so if you’re just wanting a great phone without all the hooplah, the newly released ASUS Zenfone Zoom is definitely my smartphone pick. It’s only $399 new, and it has that much needed 4GB of RAM mentioned earlier, just like the LG G5 (and it also comes with an incredible camera, no fingerprint sensor, and no voice co-processor, but it is missing the removable battery). Much more reasonable pricing (likely), and much more reasonable hardware inside.

But damn, LG is making the smartphone world interesting. Let’s just hope it’s not all a one-off gimmick.

Carpe lucem!