Bagging a major label like Prada to lure customers away from their KRZRs and Siroccos is a smart move from LG. It’s not the first time a big-name designer has gotten in on the action; D&G spent some time blinging up the V3 and Cath Kidston had a crack at beatifying Nokia’s range a few months back.
But although fashion phones may be easy on the eye, keep in mind that beauty is usually only skin deep – boundary-pushing technology is often noticeably absent. Compromises of usability are regularly found: oddly placed buttons for design symmetry, ridiculous hinging mechanisms and unintuitive software are all commonplace in the race for beauty.
Of course, hi-res snapping and swift web-browsing are not what these phones are about – their real purpose is to look so good that they draw a collective round of 'oohs' every time it’s whisked from your (probably equally designer) pocket. And on this level, the Prada certainly suceeds; its slippery, black exterior screams catwalk chic while remaining a size zero – just 12mm thick and weighs only 85g.
Switch it on, and the massive screen lights up with brilliantly detailed menus that dance before your eyes – you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. The sparkly interface runs on Macromedia Flash and, despite all the neat animated touches, navigation remains straightforward thanks to shortcuts on the main screen.
The camera, too, is a pleasant surprise; it may only be a 2MP job, but the Schneider-Kreuznach lens and autofocus mean that it captures respectable-looking images compared to most 2MP snappers on the scene. The LG is also capable of banging out a decent tune thanks to MP3/WMA support, and gets big plus points for including audio controls on the headphones with an adaptor for 3.5mm jack leads.
Touching the void
The main headline, though, is the 3in touchscreen which acts as a full substitute for a standard keypad. Number dialling, texting, menu navigation – the lot, basically – is achieved via delicate strokes of the display, a good nine months before the iPhone will appear on the scene.
But it’s here that the Prada’s flawless complexion begins to reveal a couple of wrinkles. The manual specifically forbids you to operate the screen without clean, dry hands, a move that will surely force users into a frenzy of Howard Hughes-style hand-washing. Oh, and those who favour warm digits will be dismayed that use with gloves is off the menu too – unless fashionably fingerless of course.
Review continues after the break…
Each tap of the screen takes a fraction of a second longer to register than it would on a conventional keypad, meaning that blurry-thumbed SMSing is a no-no. In order to scroll through the T9 dictionary it’s actually much easier to adopt a two-handed technique, but even then the sausage-fingered among us may still struggle.
Let’s not mess around too much though; the Prada is a damn good-looking handset with some seriously flash features. In terms of what you can walk into a shop and take home today, the KE850 will sate the craving for style like nothing else out there.