The LG G5 was that rarest of things – a smartphone that tried to do something different. Its modular design, which let you add and remove components like better speakers and cameras, was brave. It was unique. And it was a failure.
The company’s next flagship phone – the LG G6 – is now out in the wild, and it’s a bit more… conventional. While excellent by all accounts, it’s clear that LG has retreated to the relative safety of super-sized screens and solid specs.
Which rather begs the question – is originality overrated? Is the future of phones going to consist of selling your old phones to buy a better version of the same thing? And is that necessarily a bad thing?
What was so different about the LG G5?
It’s fair to say that mobile phone manufacturers have fallen into predictable habits – especially when it comes to their flagship devices. Successive handsets sport the same old boasts – bigger screens, faster processors, better cameras and so on. Where there are new features, like the iPhone 6S pressure-sensitive touch screen or Galaxy S6 Edge, they tend to be (admittedly cool) gimmicks that enhance what’s already there rather than revolutionise.
That’s why the LG G5 stood out. You could add new features by removing the band at the bottom of the phone – sort of like removing a clip from a gun – and add new functionality on. It may not have been to everyone’s tastes, but it was something you couldn’t get from Samsung, Apple, Sony and HTC’s uberphones.
The problem is, as it turns out, not many people really wanted it. LG confirms that sales of the handset were poor, which means that the sale of the add-ons were even less. That might explain why there were only a few of those add-ons available – a snap-on speaker to improve audio, and a few camera attachments were really all that came of the idea.
It also didn’t help that LG insisted on calling those add-ons ‘Friends’ – a spot of marketing drivel so inanely twee that it makes our eyes roll hard enough to stare at our own brains.
LG’s since admitted it was a flop – and 2016 was a pretty painful year for the company as a result. Hence the return to safer ground with the sizably-screened G6.
What could have been
It’s a shame though. For all its mistakes, the G5 shone brightly as a rare example of imagination in a conservative industry – and that’s something indescribably valuable.
The fact is smartphone sales are slowing down. Most people – in the UK at least – now own a mobile phone, and they’re holding onto them for longer and longer before trading up.
There’s a sense that people are waiting for the Next Big Thing™ – a new must-have product that will land with the impact of an iPhone or even an early BlackBerry. If this year’s Mobile World Congress is anything to go by it won’t be this year – the phone that generated the most buzz was a revival of the Nokia 3310. That’s not exactly forward-thinking, is it?
So where can you go for innovation?
We may be waiting for a wow moment, but there have been attempts to do something different over the last few years – you just have to look beyond the big names. The Yotaphone 2, for example, offers a big quirk – it’s dual screen. As well as your standard display, there’s an E ink screen on the back, displaying book or website text, notifications and more.
And then there are curios like the BlackBerry passport, which is one of the oddest-looking phones of the last few years; the LG G Flex, which was curved like a banana; or the CAT S60, a phone designed to withstand the roughest treatment. Also it had a thermal camera because why not?
I have an LG G5 – what should I do with it?
Well first of all, you could keep it. Support for its – ugh – ‘Friends’ may have dried up but it’s still a good phone. Darn good in fact – a great screen and solid specs make it more than capable of going head to head with the Samsung Galaxy S7.
But if you do want to upgrade – to the new LG G6 or upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 perhaps – then you should consider selling it. History may mark it as a flop, but it’s still worth a healthy chunk o’ change – as much as £220 if it’s still in good nick.
Simply head over to our homepage and you search for the handset. You’ll get a list of different recyclers who’ll take it off your hands so you can compare them and find the best deal out there.