LG officially unveiled its 2016 flagship, the LG G5, at MWC 2016 earlier today, introducing a radical departure in design when compared to earlier members of the G series. There’s no denying that the all-metal modular design is strikingly different than its predecessor the LG G4, but are the differences only skin deep or is there more beneath the surface of the G5 than meets the eye? Find out in our quick look LG G5 vs LG G4 comparison.

Buy the LG G5
Buy the LG G4
LG-G5-vs-LG-G4-2

The LG G5 is the first all-metal G series device from LG. As such, it does not have a removable back cover, like the G4 and G3 before it, but it does retain a microSD card slot and removable battery. The familiar rear-key button setup is also gone, with a volume rocker now located on the left hand side of the phone and the power button integrated in the new finger scanner on the back, which is now flat compared to the G4’s curved rear.

Despite its more “premium” build material, the LG G5 is arguably not as “premium looking” as the G4, seeming to prioritize function over form instead. The all-metal build doesn’t add much to the weight of the G5 though, coming in at just four grams heavier than the G4. This lightness, combined with the feel of the metal finish, doesn’t make the G5 feel all that sturdy, like an HTC device, but it is a refreshing change to have such a lightweight metal phone.

As rumored, the LG G5 features a unique new modular design whereby the bottom section of the phone slides out to allow a variety of optional “modules” to be inserted, what LG has dubbed “Friends”, along with various peripherals that don’t slot in. A button on the lower left edge of the G5 unlocks the module mechanism and it can then be pulled out of the phone, with the battery attached.

LG-G5-13

Each LG G5 module incorporates this bottom section of the device whether the module is the same size, like the LG Hi-Fi Plus DAC by Bang & Olufsen, or larger and bulkier like the LG CAM Plus which adds additional camera controls and and extended battery to the G5. For more details on the LG G5 modules, check the link. The visual differences between the G4 and G5 are too extensive to list here, with basically no similarities between the two. Some changes seem curiously for the worse, however.

For example, the slight “lip” surrounding the display on the G4 is gone and the slight top-to-bottom curve of the screen (that kept it from making contact with a flat surface if faced screen down) is gone, replaced by a slight bend in the Gorilla Glass 4 at the top of the display, which potentially exposes the G5’s screen to more scratches than its predecessor.

LG-G5-vs-LG-G4-9

The LG G5 display is slightly smaller than the G4, at 5.3 inches compared to 5.5. It’s still a QHD LCD, but it has been completely redesigned to allow LG to isolate a certain section of the display to function as an Always-On Display (AOD). The AOD permanently places time, date and notification information on-screen, and like the LG V10, there’s also the option for a custom signature. LG claims the G5 does not suffer from any backlight “bleed” although we could see some evidence of it from the top edge of the screen, but because the G5 has an LCD display, screen “burn in” is not a concern like with AMOLED.

The redesign of the LCD has also allowed LG to equip the Always-On display with power consumption comparable to AMOLED (which only illuminates individual pixels), at just 0.8% per hour. LG’s Dr. Ram Chan Woo tells us that in his experience, the average consumption from the Always-On display is around to 5-10% per day, but we’re yet to confirm this figure for ourselves. You can also disable the Always-On display in the Battery Saver app or in the Display section of the settings if you feel the hit to the battery isn’t worth having the feature enabled.

LG-G5-vs-LG-G4-1

Covering the proximity sensor will shut the screen off entirely, saving power when the phone is in your pocket, and nudging it will make the Always-On display slightly brighter. Speaking of brightness, on paper the LG G5 almost doubles the G4’s maximum brightness of 455 nits, pumping out 900 nits at max brightness, although in our experience they looked very similar. The LG G5 had more stable viewing angles than the G4 though. In terms of pixel density, the G5 crams 554 pixels per inch (ppi) into its slightly smaller display compared to the G4’s 534 ppi.

The LG G5 specs naturally take things to the next level, including the quad-core Snapdragon 820 SoC with two high-performance cores clocked at 2.15 GHz and two low-power cores clocked at 1.59 GHz. The G5 has 4 GB of RAM and a 32 GB ROM with microSD expansion up to 2 TB (good luck finding a memory card with that capacity for a while) with Adreno 530 GPU.

According to Qualcomm’s marketing, the Snapdragon 820 provides 40% faster graphics and is 40% more power efficient than the 810, but we’ll have to bring you more details on comparative performance once we get final hardware and software. As you may recall, the LG G4 wisely took the safer option of the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 rather than the problematic Snapdragon 810 and came with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB and 64 GB models.

LG-G5-vs-LG-G4-7

Like many other recent flagships, the G5 shrinks the battery capacity from 3,000 mAh to 2,800 mAh, but the more efficient processor should make up for the slightly smaller capacity. The G5 makes the switch to USB Type-C and supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 standard, which can charge to 80% capacity in just 30-35 mins, but the G5’s metal housing denies it the wireless charging capabilities of the G4.

The LG G5 camera is where things get even more complicated. The LG G4 has a 16 MP camera with f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization and laser auto-focus. The LG G5 camera features a twin lens array like the LG V10 front-facing camera, but brings the concept to prime time. On the back of the G5 you’ll find two lenses, a primary 16 MP lens that shoots at a standard 75 degree angle and an additional 135-degree wide-angle 8 MP lens.

LG-G5-vs-LG-G4-6

The G5 camera also includes optical image stabilization but switches to Phase Detection Auto-Focus (PDAF). It doesn’t have manual video like the V10 but otherwise the camera setup is similar, just on the back and at larger resolutions. The G5 essentially has the same camera software as the G4 but stitches together images from the dual lenses, although it can take shots anywhere in the 75-135 degree range, changing the resolution due to cropping.

Post-processing is still there and LG just needs to let it go. The wide-angle adds a slight fisheye look to wide angle shots, producing photos that slightly resemble GoPro stills. Low light performance could be a little better on the G5, but it still seems marginally better than the G4 although it’s a little early to say for sure. HDR performance is quite good on the G5, bumping up shadows and lowering highlights just enough. The main difference of course is in terms of functionality rather than a massive leap in quality.

The LG G5 software is dramatically different to that found on the LG G4, despite both running Android Marshmallow. Due to the significance of the changes in the G5’s software, it may not completely filter down to the G4 even in a future update. This is because the LG G5’s interface does away with the familiar Android app drawer, something that seems to add credence to our exclusive report that Google is planning to remove the app drawer in Android N.

LG-G5-11

Besides the absence of an app drawer, the G5 gets a massive visual overhaul, introducing a black text on white ground theme with mint green toggles and accents, but this can be switched up with downloadable themes. The notifications shade resembles the new TouchWiz and the settings menu is tabbed but can easily be switched to a single list view.

LG has reduced the amount of pre-installed apps, perhaps to make the home screens not look too crowded straight out of the box, and app icons have been given the squircular treatment, leaning more towards rounded squares. Familiar LG software features like Q-Slide apps and Dual-Window are missing but QuickMemo+ remains.  The most significant of the new apps is the LG Friends Manager, the hub app that connects all the new LG G5 modules and peripherals with their respective apps.

LG argues that the removal of the app drawer is aimed at “eliminating the confusion caused by uninstall and remove action that exists in the dual structure by providing only one layer.” Believe this if you like, but LG says it has done extensive market research in Asia, Europe and North America, but that the decision was ultimately based on North American preferences rather than Asian, although those U.S. preferences may well be Google’s.

LG-G5-Screenshots-AA-(12-of-31)
LG-G5-Screenshots-AA-(15-of-31)

The revised G5 interface is refreshing, but far from Material Design. It will surely please some critics of the G4 interface but, as with all changes, it won’t please everyone. Theming will soothe some teething pains, but for the bigger hurts – mostly caused by the lack of an app drawer – you’ll only be able to treat them with an alternate launcher. LG has told us that making the app drawer an option is not going to happen either.

As you can surely see by now, the LG G5 and LG G4 are more different than they are alike, so much so that it almost feels a little disingenuous to call the G5 the G4’s successor. I even asked Dr. Woo why the G5 wasn’t rebranded as a new line and was told that modules have been part of the G series discussion for two or three years, so pretending the G5 wasn’t a G series device, despite all its changes, would itself be nothing more than deceptive marketing.

LG-G5-vs-LG-G4-5

The LG G5 isn’t just a standard annual upgrade over last year’s model, it’s a complete revision not only of the G series itself but also of how we think and use a smartphone. Modules are a risky but exciting prospect and won’t appeal to everyone, but assuming the LG G5 price isn’t spiked by an optional feature that few G5 users will probably even make use of, the G5 certainly seems to deliver on the promises LG makes for it, at least in the short time we’ve spent with it.

Whether the overall styling, button placement, metal build and general feel of the device is an improvement or a step backwards is a matter of personal taste. The specs increase is pretty significant and the new camera setup is compelling even it it might take some getting used to. LG desperately needed a UI overhaul but it’s hard to say if this is the one we wanted. The G5 has plenty of quirky newness about it, from the dual cameras to Always-On display and modular design, but for some it will undoubtedly be seen less as the start of a new frontier and more as the end of an era.

What do you think of the radically new LG G5? Does it break too much with tradition?

Buy the LG G5
Buy the LG G4

Don’t miss: rolling coverage of all the most important announcements at MWC 2016.

  • Daniel B.

    From the first fullres samples i’ve seen on phonearena it seems that the 16mp camera wasn’t really upgraded. That would make me sad since, it’s a good camera but the 5X/6P is better and i suppose the S7 will be better as well. I hope i’m wrong!

    • trapchan

      at least on paper, you’re not wrong. S7 camera get a lot of improvements like f/1.7 aperture, larger pixel and lightning fast auto focus.

    • Andy Roid

      They added a whole second camera dude. How is that not getting upgraded?

      • trapchan

        adding another camera module doesn’t mean the quality / performance of the other one improved. Hence, not upgraded.

      • Daniel B.

        The second camera is nice and all, but the other devices could have an even better camera because of newer sensors. I should wait for reviews, though. :)

  • Andrew Snyder

    No app drawer: screwed up
    Non Material Design(far from vanilla): terrible
    Lg and Friends feature HUGE YES
    New cameras: yes
    Design: sexy af
    Overall: buy a 6P

    • John

      You can always download an app drawer, EMUI user do that every time.

      The rest is true.

    • Sebastian

      Software is smallest of problems… You can always root and install CyanogenMod

  • mrjayviper

    I’m guessing these friends will not be the G6 friends thus limiting their appeal to me

  • AS118

    The innovation is great, but the back is ugly, so I don’t know if people will buy it. The G4 looks so much better. Also, if it doesn’t have an app drawer, that’s also going to lose sales. I disliked how Lenovo did that on their tablets. If I wanted ios, I’d get ios.

  • Dusan

    Oh boy, if app drawer completely disappears with next Android, I am going back to Windows. I want my UI clean and only one window, not filled with icons everywhere.

    • Max

      1000 icons equals simplicity!!! Wait, what?

  • trapchan

    No app drawer? install 3rd party launcher with one. Problem solved. People used to said this as the power of Android customization. The back is ugly though … G2 is still the most beautiful G series ever. IMO, LG should stop chasing Samsung for a while, make a simple, yet a beautiful device with minimal bezel, and play in price tag game. They seems trying to hard to innovate at something, but doesn’t seem to have enough resource to do so. M=In short, make a G2 with 2016 specs + fingerprint, price it a lot lower than S7 (half if possible), strip all unnecessary things to keep the production cost, and stop pretending to have the most advanced technology / innovation phone.

    • AS118

      I agree with you, but adding a removable back to the G2 and possibly the top to bottom curve of the G4 would make it even more versatile imho. My perfect phone would be a mix of the G2 and the G4 with the front-facing speakers of the HTC One. Even if they had to reduce screen size for that.

  • John

    Every time the same old story:

    2014: Lg G3 is BEAUTIFULL and G2 is ugly, software on G2 is SO bloated!
    2015: Lg G4 is BEAUTIFULL and G3 is ugly, software on G2 is SO bloated!
    2016: Lg G5 is BEAUTIFULL and G4 is ugly, software on G2 is SO bloated!
    2017: Lg G6 is BEAUTIFULL and G5 is ugly, software on G2 is SO bloated!

    Every time the same old story

    • AS118

      That’s not true, I like the G2 and G4. The G5? Not so much. The G3? It’s okay, but it started the unnecessary 1440p and huge screen phase of the G series, so I didn’t like it as much.

  • Zoide

    What about the huge black bezels surrounding the screen?
    The best G-series phone of all was the G2.

    • Steve Reed

      Agreed. I still desperately wait to upgrade my g2 every year. And every new generation seem to be inferior. When I lost my g2 last year, I just went ahead on ebay and bought…. brand new g2 for 200. My hopes are for Xperia Z6 now. Do not let me down Sony

  • Orlando Cosbert

    smh….it’s all over now for the G series….what the hell were they thinking ??? ” Oh wait ….Let’s make it look like a Giga Pet device but for adults….”

  • Andy Roid

    “The G5 has 4 GB of RAM and a 32 GB ROM”
    So it’s 32GB of Read Only Memory? You won’t be able to write to it, install apps or save any photos or music?

    No,it’s not ROM, Android Authority. It’s storage. Get it right, this is a HuffPo level basic tech error. Shameful.

    • Andrew Snyder

      LOL yes then the are gonna say it has a HDD XD

  • moovacha

    Wow what is LG thinking. The G4 is probably my favourite Android phone to date. I also liked the G2. I just like their design language. Way to throw all of that out with the bathwater LG. The G5 is one ugly phone.

  • Piotr

    Another difference is that LG G5 one sim, where LG G4 is dual sim phone. Am I correct?

  • Mark Hoppe

    I will be keeping my G4 which I consider near perfection in design. Losing the rear mounted volume toggle kills the beautiful symmetry of the G3-G4 lineage. The curved glass of the G4 is brilliant. Why did they abandon what they so deftly created for just another boring iClone design?

    • AS118

      I agree. I recently bought a G4, and it feels very advanced and ahead of its time in some ways. That top to bottom curve is brilliant, along with the faux-metal back that looks and feels like metal, but has the durability, flexibility, and removability of plastic.

  • MickyFoley

    Just a quick comment: So if you have a G4, there are no real arguments for the G5. Guess, I’ll wait for the Nexus 7 Phone or how Google will name it, because of the similar name to their tablet. We’ll see. Also – besides of vanilla Android – the G4 kicks the 6P hard into… well… Guess I should shut up and be proud of my G4 for now.

  • AS118

    The G5 feels like a prototype, and to me, it looks kind of ugly. That said, it seems like a good first step towards making a great modular product, and next year’s G6 may be an amazing and revolutionary phone.

    It would help if they switched to an amoled screen and increased the battery life, and made the camera and fingerprint area less gobsmackingly ugly.

    That dark curve at the top of the front screen’s not very attractive either. I took a few looks at the G5, and then decided to get the G4 almost entirely based on looks. The low, clearance prices for the G4 now just sealed the deal. I needed a new phone with Band 12 support on T-mobile anyways, and the G3 doesn’t have it.

  • Wesley George

    Im a recent owner of the LG G4…a jumpy from the LG G2 and am really really pleased with the quality. I got it on sale on amazon with 1 yr warranty for 299.00 ….thts a great deal. The camera is amazing

  • Niko

    I’ve had the LG G5 for a little less than a month now and what can I say F-ing disaster. I am sitting hear transferring songs and other docs from my old G2 and OMG what a superior product compared to the G5. It just feels and looks so much better. The screens appear to be the same size yet the G2 overall is a smaller and lighter phone. Yes the specs on the G5 are a lot better than the G2 but the functionality falls extremely short. The G2 was so simple to use and extremely user friendly. Everything was RIGHT about it. My favorite was the stock ASOP Browser and task bar buttons on bottom includes a Task Manager which allows you to kill all running apps with the touch of one button. What was LG thinking by not including one with the G5? Why take the Task Manger away? And then force us to use crappy Chrome? Perhaps the G4 is up there too but I can honestly say the LG G2 was the greatest G-series phone ever. Does anyone want to buy a G5? I am seriously considering selling it and just keeping my G2.

  • LD

    This made my decision much easier. I have the LG3 and I am ready to upgrade finally. My phone is not working. Says no sim card found. They have already tired to replace it with 3 or 4. Looks like the LG4 it is!! Thank you

  • A man

    To all you G4 lovers, have fun with the bootloop issue. If you don’t have good hardware, you dont have a good phone. The G5 kills the G4