The Arena touch phone ushers in LG’s swanky new S-Class user interface. Should you be licking your fingers in anticipation?
Lead by the 8MP Renoir and its Lieutenant, the Viewty, LG’s touch phone posse have always been big on features but erratic when it comes to the touch UI. Its latest tickler, the KM900 Arena, is hoping to remedy this problem – by completely revamping its interface.
Gone is the tab system adopted by the Renoir et al, now replaced by LG’s swish new S-Class arrangement that showcases ‘3D cube transitions’, ‘sliding rows’ and ‘elastic lists’.
Apple of its eye
Graphically, its main menu also appears to pay, cough, homage to the iPhone’s menu icons – is that Apple’s crack legal team on the phone?
Along with the interface makeover, production values have also been upped. After the cheap plastic casing of the Renoir, the Arena’s metallic fascia oozes quality, and compared to the iPhone its chassis feels more compact in the hand.
The new S-Class interface kicks offs with four sliding homescreens, each assigned for customisation including nine feature shortcuts, widgets, picture ID contacts and favourite multimedia clobber like individual songs, pictures and videos. The last two panels introduce a front-facing carousel menu for snappy browsing.
A finger swipe will adequately access these homescreens or alternatively a dedicated button summons a spinning 3D cube that seems completely superfluous.
The iPhone-esque main menu itself consists of four elasticated sliding rows conveniently grouped under communication, multimedia, utilities and settings. Overall, the layout is intuitive and easy to scroll through.
It helps that the sharp, 3in 480x800 capacitive touchscreen is LG’s best yet and highly receptive to your taps and swipes. Similarly, the multi-touch pinching technique also works well when zooming in on photos or web pages.
That said, it’s still not iPhone smooth and smaller icons can occasionally be tricky to single out with the pinkie, which is more a handicap of the smaller display. This also goes for the fiddly onscreen virtual QWERTY that needs time to master if you’re a speedy typer.
We’re disappointed to see the Arena is only endowed with only a 5MP camera and not the 8MP of the Renoir. Still, it still comes with the requisite photo mods like face detection, image stabilisation and ISO 800 mode. In keeping with the new interface, a user-friendly SLR-type dial lets you handily flick through the settings.
The Schneider-Kreuznach lens is decent enough but suffers from a sluggish autofocus. Compared to the Sony Ericsson C902 it’s slow to get its eye in and the LED flash isn’t consistently effective in low lit areas.
On the upside, the Arena is exceptional at video recording, thanks to the built-in D1 camcorder. The WVGA-quality video capture at 30fps footage is very polished, and you can also shoot slo-mo (120fps) and fast dallies at inferior QVGA resolution.
As for web surfing, it’s certainly brisk over 7.2Mbps flavoured HSDPA and Wi-Fi. The browser also proved easy to use particularly with multi-touch, though we’d look into downloading Opera Mini when it becomes available for the KM900 Arena.
With the Dolby Mobile mode activated, the music player sounds surprisingly dynamic and detailed at low volume with plenty of bass.
Plug in your earphones of choice via the integrated 3.5mm jack and it sounds even slicker. With 8GB of internal memory and a microSD card slot for tunes storage, the Arena could easily become your portable music player, or at least a handy back-up.
There’s no doubt the KM900 Arena is great fun to use and is easily LG’s best touch phone yet. But with app and software download stores becoming an important part of the mobile landscape, it lacks the flexibility of rivals like the iPhone, G1 or Storm, and doesn’t have a good enough snapper to worry the top camphones.