Elegantly built with a Prada-styled interface that offers a sophisticated alternative to the usual cartoonish Android icons – though this doesn't apply to Google icons or downloaded apps
The Android OS is generally intuitive and easy to customise, though some of the settings menus are quite convoluted. Manually synching your contacts is a little clunky, but setting up social network and email accounts is straightforward
A beefy spec list includes an eight-megapixel camera, 1080p video recording, NFC support and a 4.3-inch touch-screen with LG's NOVA display tech
Though the WVGA screen resolution is standard, the display offers bright colours and great definition. The video camera is excellent, in odd contrast to the mediocre stills snapper. The touch-screen is LG's best yet – fast, responsive and accurate
Sub par, at a mere 11 hours on moderate use with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and GPS at various times of the day
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/15/2011 10:30:17 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Excellent style and design, LG?s best ever touch-screen, great HD video camera, responsive touch-screen keyboard
Mediocre stills camera, abysmal battery life
Blame the improvement of mobile tech, but it's not easy to make an Android phone feel special these days. So good on LG for bringing Prada in as style consultant to create what's possibly the best looking Android phone out there. Officially monikered "The Prada Phone by LG 3.0", it's not the first collaboration between the two companies and contrary to other designer mashups like the Samsung Emporio Armani or BlackBerry Porsche, it's neither fluoroscently logoed nor prohibitively expensive.
In fact, when contrasted to some of the innovations that have emerged from LG's labs in the last year – the quickly superceded 'slimmest ever ' Optimus Black and the brave multi-dimensional feint that was the Optimus 3D – this third Prada phone is quite possibly the best handset LG has made in a long while.
At 8.5mm, the Prada Phone is one of the thinnest smartphones around, but Prada's surprisingly subdued styling also makes this the classiest and most unique-looking Android. The more fashionable geeks will recognise Prada's signature Saffiano hatching on the sturdy plastic back cover, and unlike lightweight Samsung powerhouses like the Galaxy S II, LG's designer baby feels as quality as it looks.
The 4.3-inch screen stretches nearly to the sides of the chassis, with an inch-thick bezel along its base housing four touch-sensitive areas: Multitasking, Home, Back and All-programs. Here's where you can tell its Android Gingerbread pedigree - phones running on the new Ice Cream Sandwich OS would only have three touch areas. LG says an upgrade to ICS will occur ‘in the near future'.
Along the top are circular steel buttons for Power, Camera and a slider that shifts to reveal the microUSB port – handy to keep dust out, and far easier to open than the flaps that require prising.
Naturally, there's a Prada logo on the back, but it's well within the bounds of tastefulness, and the logo on the display is downright discreet, its five letters rendered in a light reflective font. Speaking of tasteful, a perfectly reasonable SIM-free price of £429 puts this in proper smartphone category, rather than designer vanity project.
Prada also designed the top-level interface, giving a sophisticated sheen to the phone's seven home screens. The default background is plain black, adorned by retro-looking, did-it-without-lifiting-my-stylus-off-the-page icons and widgets in a fluoro white. It's the kind of considered minimalism that's missing from most Android phones, but unfortunately, Google hasn't allowed the same treatment of its own apps, so icons for Google services are not only the same, cartoonish colours, they're actually separated out into their own section in the App menu.
Delving in, a dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM keep the Prada 3 humming, while the eight-megapixel rear camera is bolstered by a 1.3-megapixel front facer for video calling and narcissistic photography. 8GB of storage can be beefed up by a microSD slot supporting up to 32GB.
LG has used its own NOVA display panel in the WVGA touch-screen, which though of standard resolution compared to its super-smartphone peers, offered excellent clarity and colour. From most angles you'll get a good display, though if you're watching movies, you'll want to prop the phone up a bit.
Connections wise, you're looking at HSDPA , Wi-Fi and DLNA support, which allows wireless file transfer and streaming to compatible devices. An NFC chip allows wireless communication with a nearby device, such as another NFC phone for info sharing, or NFC tags, which can trigger the launch of profiles or apps on the device. The phone doesn't come with any, but these useful fob-like tags are likely to become a widespread smartphone accessory this year.
The virtual keyboard is easily the best LG has ever produced – fast, responsive and generally accurate. Even without auto-correct we could almost type the word we meant, and with auto-correct, typos were rare. Unfortunately you can't save non-dictionary words as you type them. Instead, you have to manually enter them into the User Dictionary.
As with any Android phone, you'll get the most out of the Prada Phone by doing some legwork at the start and adding your email and social network accounts. A Gmail account is required to activate the phone and use the Android Market, while the preloaded LG app will sync your Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. It's not nearly as neat or deeply integrated an affair as HTC's excellent Friend Stream, but it does allow you to sync contacts with your existing phonebook.
Contacts with the same email address or full name on various accounts are automatically merged, but merging other contacts – say if you've got a friend by first name only, or they've used different addresses for Facebook and Gmail – is an unintuitive process, made all the more convoluted by the fact that the default option for contacts is to display every single one from each account you sync. Sidestep the mess by choosing only to show those with phone numbers.
It's the flip side of the customisation possible with Android, which is better exemplified in the home screens where you can add any combo of favourite apps and widgets. There's a cool new tweak where you can now add more than one app or widget at once – great when you're populating the phone at the very start.
The usual lineup of preloaded widgets includes Prada-styled calendars, news/weather and an LG social widget that will show feeds from your networks, but only one a time. Widgets are the real beauty of Android – these live updating boxes allow you to put anything from the latest headlines to a scrolling gallery of your camera on the home screen.
Surprisingly, the camera isn't just average, it's mediocre – always a disappointment when a company goes to the trouble of producing an eight-megapixel lens. Clarity is decent, but colour reproduction is sometimes a bit too green or yellow.
There's no touch-focus option and the camera will work off the brightest light it senses so that all dim areas come out even blacker. The flash overexposes and in dark areas, actually blinded us for a few seconds.
The camera fares best in bright sunlight
Clarity is good but overall, pictures came out a bit dark
Overexposing flash, ooh la la
Conversely, the 1080p video camera is excellent, with good definition and for some reason, better colours. It's able to capture smooth video even with fast panning and in the exact same fluoro-lit room, we managed to look less jaundiced.
You can share videos via SmartShare, LG's DLNA app. DLNA devices include HDTVs and Windows 7 PCs, and once you confirm on a device it can accept wireless transfers, the Prada Phone will always be able to send files to that phone.
One of LG's strengths has always been its ahead-of-the-curve media player, and here you have support for H.264 and MPEG4 as well as DivX video, a common format for high definition web video. Our ownloads played nicely on the display, and sideloading is a simple matter of drag and drop. There's a speaker located at the back of the phone, so you won't want to watch videos with the phone flat on a desk, but with speakers connected via the 3.5mm audio jack, this is a mighty little hub.
Unfortunately, the phone is let down by its 1,540mAH battery – standard sized, but offering a paltry 11-hour life when used with Wi-Fi, HSDPA, GPS and push notifications. Most smartphones - even with increasingly bright screen panels - offer at least 14 hours, enough to take you through a workday and home again.
All this adds up to a very capable smartphone with some cool future-friendly features like NFC, 1080p video and good wireless connectivity. It's a pity about the subpar stills camera and battery life, because this is otherwise an excellent contender to an iPhone or Samsung Android. Though it won't be competing on sheer horsepower as the quad-core brigade begins to launch, the Prada Phone by LG 3.0 outstrips its pedestrian Android peers on design - which could just be LG's ticket back into game.