There aren’t any surprises to what software the G5 is packing: Android 6.0 with a custom skin. And like with the vast majority of custom skins, I’m disappointed in the lack of polish that LG has displayed, leading to a poor user experience.
The worst thing about LG’s software offering is duplicate apps. There is simply no reason that an Android OEM needs to clog up the phone with apps that Google already provides. Two gallery apps. Two email apps. Two music apps. Two app stores! This undoubtedly creates a confusing out of box experience to people who aren’t as familiar with how Android works.
Granted it’s not as bad as some smartphones (looking at you, Samsung), but I hate seeing those “choose which app to open” pop-ups before I install a single application. It’s terrible, especially combined with the bloatware that both LG and carriers bundle, and it’s something that could easily be addressed. In fact, LG’s software developers could take a break or focus on something other than creating apps with identical functionality to what Google includes.
Then there’s the little things that LG hasn’t done well. The notification panel is clogged with two unnecessary shortcuts by default, killing valuable space for actual notifications. The keyboard does not have auto-correct enabled by default, which is a criminal error. The pop-up notification windows that appear when you receive a text message are annoying, and although they provide quick interactivity, what Google has in store in Android N is a much cleverer, better integrated solution.
Design-wise LG’s skin is hit or miss. I don’t mind the black, white and teal color scheme, even if it doesn’t fit in particularly well with Google’s design principles and apps that follow them closely. However, there are just some design elements – scroll bars, tabs, interface cues – that either look bad, or are poorly designed and hide features. Did you know you can click on the ‘always on’ panel in the settings screen? The only cue is a small, light grey three-dot icon to the left of a gigantic toggle. I suspect most people won’t even realize there are additional settings hidden in there.
Not everything about LG’s skin is bad. By default, the G5 uses a homescreen layout that doesn’t include an app drawer, which I’m personally not a fan of as I like to have somewhere to hide bloat apps and view everything I’ve installed in an alphabetical list. But with the G5 you can pop into their app store and download an alternate launcher that includes the app drawer, retaining most other design cues. LG’s theming functionality is also decent if a bit clunky.
The G5 supports “OK Google” voice search from any screen, even when the screen is off, which is a nice touch. It’s not functionality that I would use all the time, but it can be handy to get basic information read out by your smartphone without having to touch it. Activating always-on voice functionality can impact battery life, so it’s best to leave it disabled unless you really want it.
Of the features LG has included, I liked seeing things like an automatic ringtone composer called ‘Ringtone ID’ that creates customized tones for every contact in your list. The ability to change the navigation buttons is a feature seen in previous phones and it’s still welcome here. Smart Settings is a basic yet functional way to change settings when you leave or enter your home. And the Smart Cleaning utility could come in handy if you’re running out of internal storage.
Some people will be glad to see that LG has retained the IR blaster on the G5, which means this handset can double as a remote for all your home entertainment devices. LG’s QuickRemote app for this very functionality is easy to use and it works well. There’s an FM Radio too for those who like their traditional radio stations.