LG's G5 hit store shelves last week, bringing the company's latest efforts to stand out from the smartphone pack against mega-competitors such as Apple and Samsung. LG's tactic with this new phone is to offer top-of-the-line specs in a (slightly cheaper) phone than its premium competitors. The G5 also boasts an unusual and experimental look -- a modular design that lets you pull the whole bottom of the phone off to accommodate a new battery or other accessories.
Here's a rundown of the phone and a look at how it compares to Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge and Apple's iPhone 6S Plus.
The LG G5
Standout feature: The LG G5 has a removable battery, which makes it pretty unique among the flagship smartphones on offer right now. In fact, it's not just the battery that's removable, but actually the whole bottom of the phone -- sort of a first step to a truly modular smartphone that lets you swap out parts of the stock phone for other hardware features you may want. For example, LG has already announced a speaker attachment it made in partnership with audio company B&O Play. The promise of more accessories down the line makes it an intriguing option.
Pros: The LG G5 ticks the right boxes -- a big 5.3-inch display, strong software performance and a good camera. Along with the removable battery, LG has also offered an SD card slot to augment the 32 GB of storage that come standard with the device. It also has an (optional) always-on display that can keep you up-to-date without pulling too much power from your battery.
In terms of general performance, the device's Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor makes the whole phone pretty snappy. As a camera, the LG G5 also stands out from the pack by sporting two cameras -- one with a wide-angle lens that lets you take shots with much more breadth to them. It's a little gimmicky, but undeniably fun. Overall, it's a strong phone with a lot of promise to become something more interesting if LG's attempt at modularity takes off.
Cons: It's sort of a strange phone. There's really no other way to describe it. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but shoppers should know that LG is certainly taking its own design cues here. It's fingerprint sensor/power button is located on the back of the phone -- in fact, there are no buttons at all on the front of this device. All navigation is done through the software. It also feels quite boxy, perhaps due to the removable slot at the bottom, which makes it a tad less comfortable to hold than its curvier competitors. Still, its sturdy metal body also has a very light, almost plastic feel to it.
Battery life was a little lacking as well, not quite making it through a whole day of testing -- though having the extra battery to swap in is a plus. The display is also a little less vibrant than either Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge or the iPhone 6S Plus, but not significantly less clear. And if you're looking specifically at Android phones, it's worth noting that this is not waterproof, unlike Samsung's latest models.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Standout feature: In addition to being an all-around fantastic phone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is also completely dunkable. Like its smaller sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S7, it's water-resistant and can survive a pretty extensive soaking. It's probably not a great diving companion, but if you drop your phone in the water, you don't have to panic immediately.
Pros: The Galaxy S7 Edge is one of the best-reviewed phones to come out this year, and it's definitely for a reason. Samsung even added back the option for expandable storage, meaning you can put in your own SD card. (Though, it must be said, the integration with the phone's own 32 GB of storage isn't as close as in past models -- it can't be automatically set to merge with your phone's storage.) It's also a very good-looking phone, with a curvy design that fits well in hand or in pocket, and a sleek body that still manages to house a 5.5-inch display. In terms of performance, it can go toe-to-toe with any of the premium flagship phones on the market. And when it comes to battery life, it has more than enough juice to get through the day, plus a fast-charging option. In fact, in terms of overall quality, it's got a pretty strong claim to being the best Android phone out there right now.
Cons: It's hard to find fault with much in this phone, but its greatest weakness may be right in its name -- the edge. This model has a display that curves around the edges of the phone, which gives it an essentially bezel-free display. That's nice, but Samsung has also tried to use that edge to add some extra functionality, and it didn't quite work. Users can swipe in from the right side of the device to call up the edge menu, which you can customize to have app shortcuts, news feeds or favorite contacts. The extra navigation features can be time-savers when you've taken the time to customize it just right. The feature works best using the edict "less is more" -- the fewer menus you bookmark, the more effective they are as shortcuts.
The iPhone 6S Plus
Standout feature: It's actually a little difficult to come up with a standout feature for Apple's top-end phone, apart from the fact that it's just a really well-made device that runs Apple's iOS operating system. As a package, it's hard to beat.
Pros: Apple's known for its close integration of hardware and software, and the iPhone 6S Plus shows that off in style. With a 5.5-inch screen, this is the largest iPhone in Apple's lineup and is excellent for taking and viewing photos, browsing the Web, playing games and even doing a little video editing. In terms of performance, the iPhone 6S Plus is neck-and-neck with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge in benchmark tests -- essentially offering the same user experience overall. Apple phones in general also have the App Store to boast about, and the number of apps optimized for the iPhone 6S Plus's larger screen size is growing by the day. The iPhone 6S Plus also boasts an excellent battery life -- depending on how heavily you use your phone, you could easily go more than a day without having to charge it.
Cons: Obviously, if you want an Android device, then this is not the phone for you. The iPhone 6S Plus is also a little bulkier than phones with a similar screen size, which may be a setback for those who love things super-sleek. In terms of software, it's also worth noting that iOS doesn't allow for as much customization as Android, meaning you can't install applications such as launchers, third-party text-messaging programs or custom dialers. The iPhone 6S Plus also comes with a 16 GB model as its base, which may be fine for many folks but is often not enough room for power users -- particularly if you're taking a lot of pictures.
Price: Unlocked, at time of publication, this phone starts at $749.