Yes, it's true - your favourite hacks at Mobile Choice are the first in the UK to get a review model of LG's fancy new touch-screen media-phone, the Arena. We'll be putting up some video footage of the snazzy new 3D touch interface, but for now, check out our thoughts on the latest contender for touch-screen titan.
Look and feel
The Arena isn't slim at just under 12mm thick, but is surprisingly petite with a length that barely surpasses palm size. It feels really light in the hand. The front is tempered glass and totally scratch-resistant, and rounded corners give it that ergonomic feel. There's not much heft to it perhaps due to a lightweight titanium casing, which makes this high-spec phone feel less high-end than it is.
A 3.5mm audio jack sits handily at the top of the phone, and a tiny sliding panel hides its mini-USB connection port, a nice aesthetic touch.
One of the phone's main selling points is LG's new 3D interface, which features menu icons in 3D layout which you scroll through by swiping your finger. The homescreen is actually four arranged in a cube, and you can pick your ‘main' homescreen from Shortcuts, Multimedia (which features two scrollable lists of your image and music files), Text/Email/Call notifications, and Favourite Contacts. Along the bottom of every homescreen is a toolbar with icons to four common menus - phone call, contacts, messaging and app widgets - so that wherever you are, it's going to be pretty easy to get to wherever you want to be.
Under the hood
The Arena has some serious credentials as a media phone, with a high-resolution WVGA screen, AMD chip for fast, smooth user experience, and Dolby Mobile technology which gives music and movies surround sound.
Expectedly, the Arena has excellent audio quality through headphones and its on-board speakers are quite good, though not excellent with bass and the maximum volume is still a tad too low for use in a room that isn't totally quiet. Its music player can be accessed in two ways - via one of the homescreens and the widget screen. The interface is intuitive with bright, clear icons, and its only glitch is that the icons toolbar at the bottom of the screen isn't actually functional when you've selected a song.
The phone automatically rotates between portrait and landscape orientation on most screens. We were honestly wowed by how it rendered films - we played a couple minutes of The Dark Knight, which came out crisp and clear and the surround sound really impressed here.
Its five-megapixel camera has flash, auto-focus and a dedicated snapping button, and takes good pictures in bright light; we'll get back to you on its prowess at those low-light snaps, and its awesome-sounding ability to record video at 120fps, fast enough for slow-motion playback.
Ease of use
The Arena is really a very intuitive phone and the learning curve was literally measured in seconds. Customising the phone with your favourite icons and widgets is a snap, as is setting up POP3 email and getting online. (You can set up a Microsoft Exchange account too, but we haven't tried this out yet).
Texting on the touch-screen numeric keypad isn't ideal though, as seasoned T9 typists will be way ahead of how fast the touch-screen registers the touch, and writing emails even less so. Still, this is positiioned a media phone, and email users will be looking elsewhere.
LG is starting to be known for producing finger-friendly, well-calibrated touch-screens, and the Arena is one of its best. There were no lags in response time, no accidental missteps as the icons are a good size and distance apart, and the swipe gestures work perfectly. Its proprietary UI is well thought out and really nice to use. A friendly phone that we're looking forward to getting more in-depth with.
More to come: internet experience (the Arena is HSDPA and Wi-Fi enabled) and location-based services (it's also go A-GPS and Google Mobile Service).