Flashback: LG G5 tried to wow the crowd with its Magic Slot, but failed
A few years ago, we looked at the best LG phones and called the LG G5 “the most ambitious LG phone ever”. Let’s face it – the phone brought some features that made a significant impact on the market, and some that didn’t, not even on LG’s own lineup.
The G5 was the first phone with a proper dual camera, at least as 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 in the market
You could argue that the LG V10 featured a combination of wide and ultra-wide cameras the year before, and that. 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 aided by the laser autofocus system, something that LG pushed heavily at the time.
The ultra-wide was amazing – its 9mm lens is wider than most smartphone ultra-wide cameras you’ll find even today. The 8MP resolution (1/3.6” sensor) wasn’t much to cover 135° field of view (FoV), but this was certainly one of the standout cameras of 2016. Even today, some phones only go as wide as 105°, and it is noticeable.
Here is a comparison of FoV for main and ultra wide cameras.
As for the front-facing camera, it was a single 8MP unit on the top edge – LG didn’t repeat the crazy dual-camera design on the second screen from the V10 from a few months earlier.
The company also ditched its signature design quirk of putting the volume rocker on the back, something it had done since the G2. However, LG was still trying to shake up the world of smartphone design, which was falling into a dull routine.
The LG G5 was actually a modular phone. It didn’t have the crazy patchwork design of Google’s Project Ara, instead it took a more practical approach. The bottom was removable (which also pulled the battery out, making it easy to replace). This was the so-called Magic Slot.
The idea was that this bottom segment could be replaced with different modules. At launch, these included the LG Cam Plus, a camera grip with an additional 1,200mAh battery, and hardware camera controls (shutter button, camcorder button, a zoom dial, and a power button).
Another module enhanced the phone’s already good sound properties. 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 work as a standard USB DAC and AMP for PCs and other Android phones.
LG Hi-Fi Plus for LG G5 (and other phones too)
For more details, check out our LG G5 Friends article from back then. LG also experimented with 360° cameras and VR headsets, it was a fun period in smartphone history.
The Magic Slot design meant the G5 wasn’t waterproof 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 an extra battery. Or there could have been a battery module, something with a bit more juice than the Cam Plus accessory (this was never released though).
Modularity aside, the LG G5 represented a change of course for the company. The G5 ditched the large 5.5″ screen on the G3 and G4 and went with a smaller 5.3″ panel. The phone’s body was made from an aluminum alloy, although the so-called “microdizing” process left the exterior with a strange finish that didn’t feel like metal.
LG G5 flanked by Galaxy S7 and LG G4
A few months after unveiling its flagship at 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 to the Snapdragon 652, an old 28mm part. LG also trimmed a gig of RAM, leaving the SE with 3GB, plus 32GB of UFS 2.0 storage was swapped for an eMMC 5.1 drive of the same capacity.
The cameras were also changed, the 16MP main module got an even narrower lens (29mm vs. 26mm), the ultrawide got narrower too (at 12mm it was still pretty wide even by today’s standards, but still).
For what it’s worth, the G5 SE also featured the Magic Slot design, LG tried to build a modular ecosystem around it. Well, it didn’t try that hard, there was no Magic Slot on the V20 that launched later that year, and none on the LG G6 either. The company also gave up on launching new modules.
As innovative as the LG G5 was, its legacy is not bright. If you’ve followed the smartphone market over the past few years, you know about the company’s struggles. In the quarter after the launch of the G5, LG had to drop its shipment target from 16.5 to 15 million phones, and the underperforming G5 was blamed for it. Estimates for the flagship were initially 3-3.5 million units, which were revised down to 2.5 million.
LG was already on a downward trajectory, the LG G4 from the previous year also performed worse, so it did not live up to the ambitions of 12 million sales targets. LG also had losses in Q2 2015, with the blame falling on the G4.
The company spends years and millions of dollars trying to return to popularity, but despite bold and innovative designs, its sales continued to decline and losses continued to mount. It eventually exited the smartphone market in 2021.