REVIEW: PRADA Phone by LG 3.0 (LG P940)

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Name: PRADA Phone by LG 3.0 (LG P940)

Type: Android Smartphone

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price: £429.99 from Play.com, SIM-free

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LG team up with fashion brand Prada in what may be the partnership’s most accomplished device yet. With a re-skinned Android UI and sleek hardware design it certainly looks the part, but is it a case of style of substance? Read on to find out!

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Design

With a big name fashion brand like Prada behind you, you really need to be pushing the boat out when it comes to design with a smartphone for it to be anything more than a cash-in on brand loyalty (if anyone has the money to afford to be loyal to Prada, that is). LG have done a reasonably good job in this department, though the name (PRADA Phone by LG 3.0) is rather clunky. We’ll be calling it, for simplicity’s sake, the LG Prada 3.0 for the rest of the review.

Measuring just 127.5 x 69 x 8.5mm, the LG Prada 3.0 is large enough to feature a generous 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen, but remains light in the hand and catwalk-model slim. It’ll fit easily into a pocket and, while those with littler hands might need to use both paws to move around the large screen, it’ll be comfortable over prolonged use, both in calls and when navigating the screen.

Almost entirely black, there’s a Prada logo sitting at the top of the phone and one on the back alongside an LG logo. Two volume buttons sit on the left hand edge of the device, while on the top edge sits the 3.5mm headphone socket, a neat chrome slider that hides away the charge/USB connection and two identical round chrome buttons for activating the camera app and switching off the phone. It’s a very tidy set-up, though we found the camera/power buttons a little confusing, and a little difficult to press.

On the rear backplate of the phone, Prada’s famous Saffiano  pattern is in full force, giving a textured grip to the device that’s very welcome. It’s a minimalist look overall, and one that well please both fashion fans and tech heads alike.

Under the hood, the LG Prada 3.0 packs in a 1GHz dual core processor backed by 1GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage space a microSD card slot, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, DLNA and NFC capabilities. On the rear you’ll find also an 8 megapixel camera and a 1 megapixel camera on the front. Sadly, it’s lacking a HDMI port, and though the 1540mAh battery sounds large, any media or GPS-intensive activities see it drain rather quickly. You’ll struggle to get an entire day’s use per charge from the LG Prada 3.0
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Interface and apps

Perhaps the most striking thing about the LG Prada 3.0 is the way its build of Android 2.3 has been re-skinned. Almost entirely black and white, many of the stock Android icons have been redrawn, as well as plenty of the widgets too.

At first glance it looks great; a slick, again-minimalist interface that has the phone really showing off its fashion chops. Sadly, it’s just a little too inconsistent. Once you scroll away from the landing homescreen (there are seven overall) you’ll soon encounter full-colour Google icons, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Even some of the LG re-skinned widgets that appear to be in black and white turn out to be just a front for their regular full colour versions when you dig into them a little deeper, like the main homescreen’s weather app. We can appreciate that LG probably struggled to get permission to alter some icons from their parent companies, but it leads to a patchwork feeling in what could have otherwise been a very strong unique selling point.

Regardless of the homescreen you’re on, you’ll always have four soft buttons on screen, giving access to the dialler, contacts, messaging and applications.

The stock four Android buttons (Home, Back, Menu and Search) sit on a little touch strip below the screen with vibrating feedback. Backlit, the buttons never glow long enough, meaning you’re going to have to memorise the placement of these buttons if you’re to avoid tapping the screen each time to fire up the backlight before hitting one.

As well as the regular raft of Google Android apps (including Gmail, Maps, Latitude and the official Android Market app) LG have squeezed quite a few other apps in from the off too, many of which are actually quite good.

Polaris Office lets you create Word, Excel and PowerPoint-compatible documents on the go from your mobile. An image editing app is fairly robust, letting you crop photos and images, add filters, borders and more. Richnote is also quite useful, letting you combine text, hand-drawn notes, pictures and audio files, and then email them to others.

There’s also a few apps that tweak the phone for use in different scenarios. Desk Home looks great, adding a large flip-over style clock that will make for a good overnight charging screen, while Car Home simplifies everything into large icons for safer use when on the road, giving direct access to navigation features, music controls and contacts, all voice controlled.

Of course, with this phone being Android, you can easily customise the layout of all the homescreens, moving about apps and dropping live widgets more or less where you please.

Internet

With such a generously large screen, the LG Prada 3.0 is well suited to web browsing. Featuring both Wi-Fi and HSDPA (3G+), it’s well kitted out for surfing the web either indoors or out, with HDSPA supporting  21Mbps download speeds over the standard 7.2Mbps. Get into an area which supports the speedy data rates and you’re flying here.

All the usual touch gestures are onboard the browser here, including pinch and/or double tap to zoom. Text reflow is good too, squeezing lines of text to be read in a more natural way rather than having to scroll around, making the browser a comfortable read. Scrolling around in general though is a pleasure, with a smooth, stutter-free feel.

Flash support is just as smooth, even when running content on multiple pages. Our one bug bear with the browser was the Read It Later button, which is slightly misleading. Rather than saving stuff for offline reading, it’s just a glorified bookmark tool, requiring a web connection to access your saved stories.
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Calling and Messaging

The LG Prada 3.0 handles contacts and calling very well. Sign into your Google account and all of your contacts and details fall into the address book too. You’ll get double entries if you’re using an old SIM card, but the app does manage to filter and intelligently add details when you sync Twitter and Facebook contacts too.

Smart dialling is built into the phone, meaning you can tap a contact’s name in rather than their number to get hold of their digits. Considering the size of the screen, it’s a pity only one contact can be brought onscreen by the smart dialler at once, which makes the tool a little redundant if you have a large contacts book. You have to access a drop down menu to see other close matches, by which point you may as well have browsed the entire contacts book.

Call quality on the LG Prada 3.0 is particularly good. Two microphones (one for voice and one for noise cancellation) ensure that the audio you send is clear and loud, while the speaker delivers an equally clear quality for you to receive. In a nice touch you can send a series of pre-written “Excuse” messages with just a few presses, should you need to screen and avoid a call, telling your caller that you are, for instance, “in a meeting”.

Social networking is integrated reasonably heavily into the phone. One of the pre-set homescreens for instance houses the Social+ widget, which pulls in feeds from Facebook, Twitter and (rather anachronistically) Myspace too. It automatically updates with new messages from pals, and you can even set the increment at which it refreshes to save on mobile data charges. Facebook updates can be sent, messages replied to and friend requests answered, while with Twitter you can tweet, @ reply, and send DMs. The button to switch between networks is a little fiddly, but other than that it’s all good.

SMS and Email messaging, for the most part was good. The keyboard, particularly when used in landscape, is large and easy to tap at. The black and white interface keeps things simple, and the conversation flow is easy to read. Annoyingly though, there’s no tap-and-hold function for accessing symbols; you’ll have to tap through to another keyboard screen to get to ?,!, and @ signs, among others.
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Media Playback

Media playback, both video and audio, is handled incredibly well by the LG Prada 3.0. All manner of formats we threw at the device worked perfectly, including MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+,DTS, and EC3 audio and DivX, MPEG4 and H.264 video files. Videos look great on the screen despite the relatively low resolution (800×480) and, at this comfortable size, makes the phone a capable PMP replacement. Even the speakers, which won’t trouble dedicated audio devices of course, performed as well as the best smartphone offerings.

The interfaces with which to browse your media files look great too. They cut artwork in favour of the previously-detailed black and white look, but in the wider context of the rest of the phone’s UI, it makes sense.

DLNA sharing through LG’s SmartShare app was simple to use too, allowing us to share to and from networked media devices and our phone, which went some way towards making up for the lack of a HDMI port.
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Still Camera and Video

The 8MP rear camera has a flash, and is accessed through a nice interface that plenty of options and settings in a thing left-hand edge bar on screen. What it does lack however is filters and borders, which rather bizarrely can only be applied with the afore-mentioned image editing tool.

Image quality is decent, without being mind blowing. You’ll get a fairly accurate colour reproduction from your stills, and the autofocus was accurate consistently. Images took a noticeable hit when in low light situations though, and often came out softer than we’d have liked.

Video shooting , captured at qualities up to 1080p, was reasonably sharp, and managed not to jump and stutter too much with movement. It did suffer however in low lighting situations, meaning this handset wont fully replace a dedicated camcorder or camera.

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Verdict:

It may be aimed more at fashionistas than hardcore tech fans, but LG’s latest Prada phone ticks many of the boxes that even the most demanding of gadget fans chase. It’s built well, looks great and is comfortably slim in the pocket. Its UI, though inconsistent, is unique and stylish. Its processor allows for swift application usage and media playback, and though its imaging systems leave little to be desired, its call quality is top notch. Though we’d still be a little wary of recommending the handset to a tech whizz, near-everyone else will be pleasantly surprised by its quality.review-line.JPG

4/5

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Gerald Lynch