LG just keeps on churning out the mobiles. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I looked at the keyboarded Prada II and not long before that was the mid-priced 8-megapixel KC780. Now comes the Arena, a phone that was only announced in February and is due in store in April.
The Arena is yet another of those full-frontal touch-screened handsets which seem to be everywhere at the moment. The unique selling point this time around is LG’s 3D user interface, though the phone also has a big plus for some people in its ability to play DivX and Xvid video. In addition, there’s 8GB of built-in memory and an SDHC-compatible microSD card slot for adding more. It is a bit of a faff that this card slot is under the battery cover, but at least you can bump up the internal memory considerably if you wish.
The Arena is a good size for the hand at 105.9mm tall, 55.3mm wide and 11.95mm thick. It weighs 105g thanks to its titanium body parts. This actually doesn’t do the phone any favours – bizarrely, the lightness made it feel a bit like a cheaper handset than it really is.
Side-mounted buttons are almost non-existent with only a single camera button and a volume rocker on the right side, together with a weeny top-mounted on/off switch. The mains power connector is protected by a sliding cover, which I rather like as it guards against dust and grime when you’re not charging the phone. Better still, there is a 3.5mm headset connector on the top edge.
The mercury grey titanium backplate and sides are attention grabbing, the silver outer frame and black inner frame on the front less so. The tempered glass covering on the screen adds to the phone’s durability but, as ever, it grabs greasy fingermarks.
In look and feel terms, the Arena resembles many other phones with full-face touchscreens. The big main screen measures 3in across diagonally and carries 480 x 800 pixels. Beneath it are touch-responsive Call and End/back buttons and a button that calls up the 3D user interface.
That 3D user interface LG is so bullish about isn’t as exciting as it sounds. When you press the aforementioned centre button, a cube pops up in the middle of the screen. You finger-scroll through four of its faces which represent four home screens. There is a shortcuts screen for your nine most used apps, a multimedia screen for your photos and music, a contacts screen and a customisable widgets screen.
Tap one of these and it animates up into a full screen. You can flick through the four screens with a finger sweep when they are full screen, too, and I can’t really see why you’d ever want to bother with the cube at all.
What I do like are the vertical carousels for scrolling through photos and multimedia, and the photo contacts screen. Also on a vertical carousel, when you pick a contact their photo blows up fairly large and you can call, text or edit contact info by pressing a large on-screen touch button.
When it comes to text entry, you have the choice of a full QWERTY keypad in landscape mode and a standard mobile phone layout in portrait mode. Key presses are registered well enough, though individual keys are a little small and I found I had to slow down a bit on the QWERTY keypad to achieve better accuracy.
The phone is 3G with HSDPA to 7.2Mbps. There is a front camera for two-way video-calling. Web browsing on the large screen was satisfactory with full screen page renders, finger panning and pinch zooming. There was a bit of waiting around for zooming, but in general, performance in this regard was OK.
There is an accelerometer, and this is used well in some apps. For example, in the photo gallery, when you hold the phone in portrait view, picture thumbnails look ordinary enough. Turn the Arena 90 degrees into landscape view and pictures appear in a horizontal carousel. Finger scroll left and right to view one day’s shots, up and down to move to another day’s.
The phone has TV-out capability and you can plug the lead right into the handset. The cable isn’t supplied with the phone, and nor is the cradle I was sent. This holds the phone horizontally and has both power-in and TV-out connectors.
Music playback benefits from Dolby Mobile and the equaliser has many presets, though sadly no scope for user-defined ones. Maximum volume was too loud for my poor little ears through headphones. Generally, sound quality was good but the bass output isn’t what it could be. There is an FM transmitter so you can send tunes to an FM radio.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both present and hopping onto networks was no problem. GPS is also built-in and its features include geotagging of photos.
The 5-megapixel camera did well outdoors, less well inside though its LED flash is a help here. The coloured dish is a bit grainy despite being shot under normal household lights. Outside, the chair shows a reasonable level of detail and colour uniformity. The daffodil shows off the camera’s macro mode with good colour reproduction and fine detail capture.
I like much of the UI design and the ease with which you can get around this handset. Apps have a consistent look involving the menu, options, and back icons being in the same place every time at the head of the screen. There are some novel design features such as the scroller in the FM transmitter, which looks like a frequency dial, and the animated wheel used for changing the camera’s settings.
App shortcut icons on the main menu are well thought out and look good. Tap the status area on any of the home screens and you get a screen that lets you toggle wireless connections, set alarms, flick to the music player, grab voicemail and switch profiles. Overall, LG manages to marry individual looks with intuitive operation, not an easy thing to get right.
Additional software not already mentioned includes links to Google Maps, G-mail, YouTube and Blogger, LG’s M-Toy tool with three games designed to take advantage of the accelerometer, Movie Maker – which lets you add sounds to footage shot with the phone – alarms, a calendar, memo pad, stopwatch, voice recorder, calculator, world clock and unit converter.
LG says the Arena is good for 3.8 hours of talk, 300 hours on standby. I had my review sample for an unusually short time and was not able to do a full battery rundown. However, I did get two days of use out of it between charges. If you use the FM transmitter, Wi-Fi and 3G a lot you may find daily charging is needed.
The Arena is a great little mobile. Brimming with features and with a well-designed user interface. Just don’t expect too much from that claim of ‘3D’.
Score in detail
|Available Colours||Silver, black, pink|
|Screen Size (inches) (Inch)||3in|
|Talk Time (Minute)||230m|
|Standby Time (Hour)||300hr|
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||8GB|
|Camera (Megapixel)||5 Megapixel|
|Front Facing Camera (Megapixel)||Yes Megapixel|
|3.5mm Headphone Jack||Yes|
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