Many of you will remember this time last week, we were invited to the exclusive launch of the LG Arena KM900 blogger event (here and here!). It was a great chance to be able to see live for the first time how the latest LG S-Class user interface worked on the new LG Arena – a full touchscreen mobile phone which LG has pitched to be “the place to play”. As we begin to see the LG Arena arrive at highstreet retail shops, we take a look at some of the features of the Arena and how it compares to benchmark touchscreen mobiles like the iPhone. As always, this review is purely our thoughts and opinion on what it was like after testing the mobile unit we were given, if you’re an Arena user too, we’d love to hear what your views are about the new LG flagship.
While you may have seen elsewhere on the internet an Arena with a dark metallic casing as opposed to the silver one we reviewed, there is virtually no difference with regards to their hardware. We were told that the titanium black version Arena will be available through T-Mobile exclusively. From just looking at our photo gallery you will instantly be able to see that the Arena looks and feels distinctly solid to hold and to use. As you can see, only the top surface surrounding the screen is metallic while the back cover which slides open easily to reveal its 3.7V lithium ion battery is made of plastic.
Along the sides of the LG Arena, there are virtually no slots or opening ports except for one on its top right which has a sliding door closing it tight, all this is consistent with LG’s intention to keep the Arena as elegant as possible. All data transfer, battery recharge is done through this one and only mini USB port. There is one shortcoming to this though, if you’re a user who often takes out the memory card (micro SD) for swapping or for transferring purposes, the compromise is that the micro SD slot is hidden behind the back cover. For those that won’t even be using a memory card (8GB of internal memory is alot for most users), this is only a very minor issue.
At the top is the on/off switch as well as 3.5mm headphone jack, while on its left are volume and camera controls. Generally speaking, we liked the size and feel of the LG Arena, held in the palm it was just right for the thumb to reach across and control its menus without needing to put any strain. The only downside, what we expected the Arena to be abit thinner (12mm). Unfortunately, the iPhone is still the benchmark for all touchscreen mobile phones these days and for a new phone like the LG Arena, we expected it to be at least thinner than the iPhone. The overall general appearance of the LG Arena was not bad at all, LG is hoping for the Arena to appeal to the 16 – 24 age group, while we agree there is no conflict of design to this age group, we think it may be difficult for ladies out there to find the Arena attractive, afterall its metalic design does give it a very masculine, businessmen like feel.
Features / Functionality
LG Arena KM900 Specifications
HSDPA 7.2 GPRS, WEDGE
|Dimension: L*W*D (mm)||
|Standby Time, Max (hrs)Standby Time, Max (hrs)||
Up to 300 hr
|Talk Time (hrs)||
Up to 3.84 hr
|- External LCD (Pixel)||
3” WVGA (480X800) TFT/Touch
Teleco Q7/Full Browser
2GB NAND Flash/1GB SDRAM + 8GB
MicroSD up to 32 GB (not included)
Touch Vibration Reactor
|3.5 Audio Jack||
One of the major new features which have just arrived LG and the Arena as well as future phones like the GD900 is the cube user interface also known as S-Class. So has the S-Class UI lived up to the expectation that’s been built up til this point? We think, yes.
The KM900 was surprisingly responsive to touch, unlike the Renoir which came with a stylus, this time the Arena has been built and designed for touch control using our fingertips. Along with its clear and crisp WVGA screen, the Arena I must say is the perfect device to kick start the S-Class UI. We felt the S-Class UI was speedy, even though it packed a number of 3D graphical transitions and effects, it didn’t seem to have the odd sluggishness that would sometimes be apparent on the iPhone OS. The S-Class was fun to play around with, zoom, reel-like scrolling, row sliding, much better elastic list and menus and of course the cube.
Some may ask, what actually is the cube? The cube in simpliest terms is just like a quick launch toolbar. It is only a small part of the new S-Class user interface, and not “the interface” as some might think, but it is indeed very creative. With four faces, each face represents a menu such as multimedia, widgets, contacts and shortcuts. When you are on the screen with the cube, you can spin it left or right, when you come to the face or wall you like, you just need to tap it once to get there. For example, if I’d like to go to my multimedia, I’ll spin the cube until it gets to the blue wall, then tap once. And before you start wondering, yes, it is possible to not use the cube to navigate around the different features of the Arena if you’re not a fan of the cube. All you need to do is slide the walls as you would do on the iPhone, on the Arena, there are only four walls so it doesn’t take up much time to get to the feature you want.
What is good about LG’s UIs is that its very well organised, because there are only four walls, all the widgets must be only on one wall while shortcuts all on another, there isn’t nine different walls of mixed widgets in which I haven’t got a clue about what is where abouts. Of course it is argueable that this is too a downside, as this gives less user freedom to where they want things to be put. Having said this, on the Arena, all the apps and features you want to be displayed on the shortcuts and widgets wall are customisable.
Having spoken about the new cube feature on the latest S-Class UI and also some of the much improved effects, we thought it was also useful to point out that the contacts menu features contact’s thumbnail picture when browsing, this by the way has been a feature that iPhone users can only get by using jailbroken apps from Cydia. The Arena’s contacts phonebook was simple and fast to use, afterall what’s a good mobile without an easy to use contacts?
With touchscreen smartphones now getting more multifunctional, it seems basic applications such as internet browser, RSS reader, email, Google Search, e-Blogger, Gmail and Google Maps are standard these days, and with HSDPA 7.2Mbps / WiFi, it was clear that the Arena could easily handle these applications without a glitch. However, as some users may have seen on other LG mobiles, LG’s built in browser isn’t anything like the Safari which you would find on the iPhone and iPod Touch. The Arena’s browser appears much more basic and with the Arena’s slim screen, it proved to be difficult to use and concentrate on for long periods of time. Despite this for those who just need the browser now and then we would not hesitate recommending the Arena.
Taking pictures and creating your own videos is just as fun as it was with the Renoir. While it is true that the Arena only sports a five megapixel camera as opposed to eight on the Renoir, no other camera features and functionalities have been compromised. You can capture photos with resolutions as high as 2,664 x 2,016, face tracking still proves to be a popular function among LG phones, indeed this works 99% of the time through our testing. The Arena’s camera also features stabiliser, ISO800 also allows you to make the most out of its camera even in low light, dim environments. What’s also a great feature to have is backlight compensation, we will all have done it at some point, take pictures at incredibly bright light or objects, with this function, it will automatically adjust the camera’s exposure. For those of you who enjoy abit of homemade video recording every now and then, the Arena can help you achieve more than just that. Using the D1 camcorder (720 x 480 res, 30 FPS), you can get videos made and shown on TV as if it was DVD quality, without any noticeable distortions. Fast moving objects can also be recorded using 120FPS video recording. A useful feature we found with the video recording was that it allowed you to specific if you wanted a video duration to be just perfect for sending through MMS. We thought the only let down of the whole camera / video recording function of the Arena was the auto focus / shoot button which felt stiff to press on once auto focus had been achieved, this wasn’t the case with its previous phone, the Renoir.
Other features we haven’t touched upon yet includes multimedia functions such as watching videos. After the Renoir, the Arena is the second device in which LG and Dolby have worked together to stress the importance of providing high quality videos and movies through Dolby Mobile.
Equipped with Dolby Mobile, DivX video playback compatibility, and as we mentioned before 8GB of internal memory there is no doubt that the Arena is certainly capable of providing quality surround sound experience for movies and music on the go. With regards to music play, the Arena supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, RA, and WMA. Music player functions include, equalizer, search, playlist and songs can be sorted according to favourites, artists, albums and genres. The Arena’s music player works in both portrait and landscape mode, of course, it may not be as glamorous as the iPhone’s iPod music player but we didn’t feel there were any particular functions lacking compared to the iPod. LG claims that if you put the Arena into flight mode, it can give up to 30 hours of music play which is great if you’re a frequent traveller and enjoy your own music rather than in-flight entertainment.
To conclude, here’s a summary of what we thought were the good and bad of the latest LG Arena KM900.
- Elegant slick design
- Clear, catchy high resolution WVGA
- New S-Class UI is incredibly easy to learn and use
- Range of connectivity including A-GPS as well
- Dolby Mobile equipped – helps the Arena stand out for both watching movies and music play
- A truly multimedia phone
- Multi-functional camera that suits both basic and advanced users, even sports movie editing
- LG is not looking to make S-Class an open source platform, therefore unlikely to see more apps in place the future
- Not equipped with the best browser for those who enjoy surfing the internet on the go
Any questions or features you want to know more about, leave us a comment below. Meanwhile, feel free to flick through our LG Arena KM900 gallery below or click here to check out the entire gallery directly.