LG Arena KM900 Review

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At first glance, the LG Arena looks like it could make a splash. With some impressive specs, as well as some unique features, it also beats the iPhone – the torch bearer for touchscreen phones – in several areas.

Touchy, touchy

The headline specs tick the right boxes: wireless data connections consist of HSDPA wireless broadband, as well as EDGE, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, along with assisted-GPS – about the most we’d expect.

Its built-in camera is a reasonable 5 megapixels, with another, smaller camera on the front for video calls (anyone?). In practice though, our test photos sported a ruinous amount of compression, leaving background textures looking mottled.

What’s the frequency?

In an unusual move, the Arena also has an FM transmitter built in. Fire up the application, pick a frequency and you can listen to your music on a car stereo. It’s pleasingly easy to use, and with 8GB of onboard memory, plus a micro-SD card slot under the back cover, there’s plenty of space for entertainment.

The Arena also has its own FM tuner – a nice touch for when your music gets old. Unfortunately, the main media player is best described as ‘functional’ and certainly isn’t a patch on Apple’s iPod interface on the iPhone – for all its flaws.

Sincere flattery

The web browser offers the same pinch controls as the iPhone for zooming, and menus which drop off the bottom of the screen can be moved by flicking with your thumb. Here, LG has attempted to re-create the iPhone’s simulation of momentum, in which a menu continues scrolling for a bit depending on how hard you flick.
Sadly, though, we were left with the impression that the Arena isn’t quite up to all this eye-candy: the odd bit of lag between pressing a button and something happening; or having to wait around for an application to swivel to landscape mode. Not fatal, but hardly inspiring.

Phone home

There are a few nice touches. The home screen can be flicked to the left or the right, rotating to reveal, variously, a page of widgets, your contacts, and a page of the pictures you’ve taken with the camera.

We also like how LG hasn’t attempted to shoe-horn a full keyboard into screens when being held portrait-style. Instead you get a numeric keypad, which offers T9 predictive text. In practice, it works surprisingly well, and we were up to speed within a few days. The full-width keyboard, however, lacks cleverness: it doesn’t attempt to guess at a word if you begin to mis-type, and accuracy is hard to come by.

Meaning business

The Arena also has built-in support for Google Mail and POP3 email accounts, as well as Microsoft Exchange. But it’s laborious and fiddly to use, thanks to the small keys: writing requires concentration, steady fingers and plenty of patience. Typing anything meaningful simply takes too long.

The closing of the doors

The Arena isn’t a truly awful choice, particularly considering you can get it for free with Orange on a contract costing just £30 a month. But compared with the competition, it’s simply not as usable, as desirable, or as fun. So while the Arena might have some nice touches, it’s looks to be playing to an empty house.

Our review sample of the Arena was, according to LG’s press department, “an engineering sample”. We’ll get a finished version in as soon as one’s available, and update if necessary.

Preview
Dave Stevenson

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