First impressions of LG’s new G5 smartphone - innovative, if a bit pricey

Module add-ons turn the phone into an enhanced camera or audio system, though setting the camera up takes a bit of working out. Pictures are clear and sharp, with warm colours. But HK$5,698 without add-ons is pricey

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2016, 6:07pm

Korean mobile phone manufacturer LG likes to surprise, often with playful and unconventional handset designs that target the younger segment of the market - phones like the LG Aka, which features a pair of blinking eyes when in standby mode.

Its latest G5 model, announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, is another pleasant surprise: it comes with different modules that can turn the phone into either a point-and-shoot camera or a mini hi-fi system. The company should be congratulated for thinking out of the box, especially at a time when most smartphones look and function the same way.

So, how do these modules work? I’m given the “CAM Plus” to test. It took me a while to figure out what goes where. Basically the bottom of the phone can be pulled out, and with it the 2,800mAh battery. You then yank the battery (don’t be afraid to use force) out of the phone’s bottom cap before inserting that into the camera module. Then push the module (plus battery) into the phone.

The G5 comes with a 16-megapixel camera that takes clear, sharp images with warm colours. It features an impressive 135-degree wide-angle mode as well as the now standard slow-mo, time-lapse and quick snap settings.

The other module, “Hi-Fi Plus”, which we didn’t get to test, features an audio player jointly developed with B&O.

The G5’s screen (149.4mm x 73.9mm) is clear and it now has an always-on display that shows basic information such as time and different notifications without using up too much power. The phone runs on a Snapdragon 820 processor and supports microSD up to 2TB. It comes in four colours: silver, titan (black), gold and pink.

Weighing 159 grams, the phone feels light in the hand but that, somehow, makes the handset feel plastic, even though it has a full-metal casing. The G5 is scheduled to be released in April, but the exact date is yet to be announced.

The biggest surprise of all is that the phone alone costs HK$5,698. Prices for the camera and hi-fi modules - and 360 virtual-reality camera and goggles - are yet to be announced. Whether the potential buyers LG is targeting are willing to pay that much for a phone remains to be seen.