This review will be evolving as I learn more about my LG G5


Although I was fairly happy with my LG G4, I decided to upgrade to the LG G5. I use T-Mobile (I highly recommend them), and they offered an extra battery and charger and a free LG 360-degree camera with my preorder. In addition, for $12 a month, which includes insurance and Lookout Pro, I get Jump, which enables me to get a new phone when half of the G5 is paid off. Hence T-Mobile eats half of the phone's price after a year. If I had bought my G4 in installments and joined Jump instead of paying for the phone outright, I would have saved half its cost.

LG G4 and G5

The G5 is shown at the right. I made no attempt to match the brightness levels, and the G4 sits higher than the G5 because it has a larger battery inserted.

The G5 is a smidgen longer than the G4, and the G4 awkward buttons on the rear of the phone have been replaced by a combination power switch/fingerprint reader on the G5. The volume control is now on the side of the G5. The G5 uses a nano SIM card, and it is rather tricky to install this and my 200 GB micro SD card in the combination holder, which is rather flimsy and does not positively lock the cards in place. The holder is on the right-side if the G5 and is opened using a paperclip or the supplied widget.

User interface

The LG user interface is a non-starter. I saw some posts that showed that you could restore the old interface and the app drawer, but it is not available on my G5. It may appear in a later release, but it will be too little, too late. The LG interface puts ALL of your apps on as many home screens as necessary. Whoever decided on this must not be a power phone user. I have several hundred apps installed, and chaos results. In addition LG's info screen only provides info about things I do not care about (music, sports,..). The HTC info screen, is much better. But I recommend quickly installing the Google Now launcher and using it. If you use the Google ecosystem, its data provides really useful information such as: stock prices, package tracking, traffic, where you parked your car, and news articles of interest.

I previously used the Go Launcher, which made it MUCH easier to organize my desktop because you can add everything to an open folder from within the folder in one fell swoop. With the Google Now launcher, you must drag each item from the app drawer to its folder one at a time. And to make matters worse, when you reopen the app drawer for the next item, it is opened at the top again, which means that you must scroll each time. However, the Go launcher bombards me with requests for ratings, pop-ups for new features, and is missing the useful Google information screen. I have tried many other highly advertised launchers, and they mostly are aimed at fancy desktops, which are distracting to me. Go with Google! If only Google would adopt the Go organization methods.

When you sign into Google on the G5 for the first time, and if your LG Backup info is on your SD card, the phone automatically gets most of the G4 apps from the PLAY store that were on your phone. But it does not get items from the Amazon store.  You will have to enable Unknown sources from Settings-> General -> Fingerprints and security in order to install Amazon apps.

It took me an afternoon to get everything installed, and to organize my desktop folders and widgets. My hand was sore too.

Initial impressions

As I was doing the phone setup, I became increasingly annoyed at how smudgy the G5 screen became—much more so than the G4. However, this problem disappeared when I removed the protective plastic overlay from the screen. It is stuck on quite tightly, and maybe I should have left it on as protection. There is also a tight-fitting plastic protector on the rear of the case. This caused Phone Arena reviewers to say that the aluminum case felt "like plastic."

Once my SIM was turned on, it appears that the G5 has one bar less phone data signal than with the G4. However, Speedtest revealed that (as on the G4) I get 40 Mbps down and about 12 Mbps up. I think (hope) the signal strength meter has been recalibrated.

Unlike the plastic G4, The metal G5 has sharp edges around the holes for the headphone and USB C ports. I had a panic moment when my headphone plug would not fit into the jack—it takes a really strong push. One big improvement on the G5 is the built-in mono speaker. It sounds a lot better than the G4, but still pales in comparison to the stereo sound on my old HTC M8. The G5 sound also comes out from the bottom, and not the back as in the G4. This bottom placement makes it a lot easier to listen to music on the phone using the speaker when the phone is in your pocket; simple place the phone so that the speaker is facing upwards. Alas, LG or T-Mobile does not seemed to have turned on the FM radio on the chip.

I am impressed with the fingerprint reader. I always have trouble using the one on my computer because my finger tips are old and worn. But the reader on the G5 works nicely for me, and even better, it activates LastPass when i need to fill in a password. If you are not using LastPass to remember your (hopefully good and distinct) passwords, get it! But the LG Smart Places feature that is supposed to prevent the need for authentication does not seem to be working for me yet.

By default, the always on screen is disabled. When enabled, it tells you the time, temperature, and the date. Since I use the phone as my watch, for me this is a handy feature. But it barely viewable outdoors because it is dim.

File transfer

On Android 6, using an SD card is problematical. My 200 GB card is mounted under /storage/3563-3338. Apps such as App Manager III do not recognize the card. Alter loading all my apps, I have about 14 GB free on my internal memory, so moving apps is not critical. My strategy is to preload my card with about 64 GB of music files, and lots of books by inserting the card into my mac, because it is faster there. But once the card is installed in the G5, it can be accessed via the supplied USB-C to USB-B cable using the Mac App Android File Transfer

Android File Transfer

Revised...
Do NOT install the LG Bridge application. It stopped my Mac from recognizing my phone, and is a royal pain to uninstall. I still have about 6 LG Air Drives scattered in Finder. Well, on Windows it seems to work well, and has the BIG advantage that you can write to the directories on the micro SD card (e.g., Music, Documents). This obviates the need to remove the card from the fiddley holder.

A more convenient method is to do the connection wirelessly. I use the free app Software Data Cable on the G5.

SoftwareDataCable

It starts an FTP server on your Android Phone, and serves up the files to an FTP client on your PC or Mac. I use the Mac app Transmit, which connects via FTP, and can even mount the phone storage as a disk on the Mac.

Once connected, your phone files are visible:

Note however that many directories on the phone are write protected. For example, I can move a picture from my Mac to /Volumes/192.168.1.179/Device Storage (LGE LG-H830)/Pictures, but not to /Volumes/192.168.1.179/External SD Card 1 (LGE LG-H830)/Pictures. You get this error:

Can't move picture

Apps in Android 6 can make their own directory on your SD card and store data there, so you should go to storage-hungry apps such as the Camera app. For example, in the Camera app, hit the cog, and slide the row that appears leftwards. The left-most symbol switches to an SD shape when it is storing to the SD card.

The Camera

I liked the camera on the G4, and the one on the G5 seems even better. Image stabilization seems to be improved, and I really like the new 8-megapixel wide angle camera that is in addition to the normal 16-megapixel one. Here is an image taken in "normal" view:

It is upside down! I rotated the image 180 degrees and uploaded it, and the picture is still upside down if I import it into Drupal (the framework that runs these Web pages). None of my other pictures do this (e.g., the shot of the two phones above). I am wondering if the right-side up tag in the image is correct? They display properly on my Mac.

Above is the same file. I opened it in Adobe Lightroom, changed its name in the EXIF data, and saved it. Now the picture is upright! This leads me to believe that there is incorrect information in the EXIF data for the picture. This is a severe bug!.

flipping the camera

Well, it turns out that there is a right-side-up on the camera, even though all the icons flip to be upright, no matter how you hold the phone. If you take the picture with the volume-up key (which acts like a shutter release) facing up, the picture is correctly recorded, and stays upright. The LG G4 did not do this. It is a bug.

I feel that the JPEG images are oversharpened, since when you blow up an image, the edges look unnatural. Of course, you can shoot in RAW on the G5 and avoid this issue. But nonetheless, so long as you like wide-angle views of the world, the G5 makes a suitable replacement for a "real" camera.

Battery life

Today, I took the fully-charged phone with me for the day at 9 AM. I listened to some music through the speaker for an hour and installed some apps. At 6:30 PM, the battery is down to 22%. For sure I will need to use the spare battery, or invest in the camera module. Not too impressive.

I used to use Juice Defender to improve battery life, but it crashed when starting on the LG5. However, their beta version starts just fine, and seems to dramatically increase battery life. After 24 hours just "sitting there", handling e-mails, text messages, updates, and always connected to my Bluetooth phone, I still have 52% of my battery left.  

Cases

Except for book-style cases, none of the available cases allow the modular drawer to be opened without removing the case. I bought a really nice Spigen case, but it is really hard to put on and take off, so when my extra battery arrives, the case goes. I kept my uncased G4 in my pocket for a year with no damage at all, so I think a case is really not needed unless you are very clumsy.

 

Comments

Hi Jim, Thank you for sharing this information. Can you comment on the build quality of the phone. Especially the new style of battery cover? Thanks! WJ
jarome's picture

Despite numerous reviews complaining about the build quality, I find it just fine. The ability to swap out batteries far outweighs any slight imperfection in the seam. I have the camera add-on installed right now, and the extra battery life is really nice. So far as I can tell, the extra battery charges the main battery rather than being used directly. But I got a gold phone, and the attachments are silver, so I should have bought a silver phone.
jarome's picture

Supposedly LG will update the G5 to the latest Android version (7) in November.

LG G6 is coming with better features in this year.
jarome's picture

With no interchangeable battery, and the old Snapdragon processor, the G6 is a loser. The new 835 chip is 30% more efficient, so I will switch to Samsung. I am also ticked that the audio module was never released in the USA.

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Review of LG G5 phone