LG Prada 3.0 £430
21st Feb 2012 | 16:23
Aka the PRADA Phone by LG 3.0 - a designer handset with NFC
Overview, design and feel
Almost like clockwork - albeit a rather slow clock - two years later and we have a third LG Prada handset, the PRADA Phone by LG 3.0.
We know, the name PRADA Phone by LG 3.0 doesn't really trip off the tongue, does it? We're going to call it the LG Prada 3.0 like, we suspect, most will do.
Obviously, the LG Prada 3.0 has a lot of emphasis on stylish hardware design. There's also a rather nifty interface skin that's been applied to Android 2.3, and the general specs aren't too shabby either.
At first glance, this is a handset that ticks a lot of boxes. Dig deep, and we find there is a little bit of style over substance creeping in. But we'll come to that.
The Prada Phone by LG 3.0 is a big, really neatly designed handset. With a 4.3-inch screen and seriously big top and bottom screen bezels, this is a sizable phone for your pocket. Most people will have trouble reaching across the screen for one-handed use.
The all-black front hides four application shortcut buttons that are briefly lit up when you press the area below the screen.
It's one of two usability annoyances that these buttons don't stay backlit for very long. You have to remember their order - Menu, Home, Back, Search, if you are to get what you want with a single screen tap. It might take you a little while to do this.
The other annoyance is that the very, very stylish on/off button on the top of the chassis is a bit of a fiddle to use. It's a small, round affair, on the far-right of the top edge.
It's not marked with an icon, and there's another identical button that launches the camera app and takes photos and videos.
That lack of marking isn't really what irritates us, though. It's that the buttons are both a bit small and sit flush to the chassis. You have to press rather hard to activate them, and they're not that easy to locate by touch.
The top edge is also the location of the USB connector and headset connector. The former has a sliding cover that we really do like. It protects the connector from dust and just looks very cool.
LG has played the minimalist game as far as the rest of the edges are concerned, with a couple of teensy volume buttons on the left-hand edge - again very small and flush to the chassis, and absolutely clean bottom and right edges.
This is significant, because the LG Prada 3.0 is super, super thin. At just 8.5mm thick, it looks every inch the starved catwalk model, except that in this case the slimness is good.
For a handset measuring 127.5 x 69 x 8.5mm, that thinness really stands out.
The other thing that stands out is the leather-like patterning to the backplate - Prada's Saffiano pattern, although it's clearly made from plastic here, and possibly isn't quite able to deliver the sleekness Prada was looking for.
Still, it's a design that's distinctive, and it helps with grip. We're not sure we need both LG and Prada logos on the back though, and the latter looks particularly OTT since it's also on the front above the screen.
There's quite a lot to like on the specs front, with a 1GHz dual core processor supported by 1GB of RAM, 8GB of user storage and a microSD card, 8 megapixel main camera and 1 megapixel front camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, DLNA, NFC, that tweaked user interface and a fair range of add-on applications to get your teeth into.
For a UK price of around £430 and costing around $650 in the US, we think a faster processor might have been preferred, and an HDMI output would not have gone amiss either. But all in all, it looks like there's a lot to sink your teeth into here.
The LG Prada 3.0 has a striking black and white interface that hits you between the eyes as soon as you switch the designer smartphone on.
Navigating through the seven home screens reveals some really good looking widgets that take full advantage of the black and white colour scheme.
Beneath any home screen, an array of four buttons afford access to the dialler, contacts, messaging and applications.
Hit the Applications shortcut and again black and white is the name of the game, with some sleek icon design thrown into the mix. Take a look at the Contacts icon, for example. We think it's super.
However, the LG Prada 3.0's black and white theme can only be taken so far.
Scroll down the applications list and you come to the Google Services. The shortcut icons here are in colour.
Switch to a screen with Android widgets on board and colour again rears its head.
Run apps, and again colour inevitably starts to seep in. What you get depends in part on how much control LG has been able to exercise in the skinning process.
The calendar app is black and white, but there's a green call icon on the dial pad, which we find quite acceptable.
Nip onto the web, or into the Android Market, for example, and of course, full colour prevails.
Contacts and calling
It really doesn't matter what LG and Prada do by way of fancy hardware and software skinning, if the LG Prada 3.0 can't handle contacts and calling, then we aren't interested in it.
So, the good news is that when you've signed into your Gmail, all your contacts come tumbling into the handset. It's irritating that SIM contacts get a double entry, though.
You can add Facebook and Twitter contacts too - just pop to the Add Accounts area and enter login details for Twitter, Facebook, Exchange and, rather oddly, old MySpace.
Twitter and Facebook data are used by LG Social+ too, so you need to authorise the app to use your accounts when you sign up. Data matching was pretty smart, with the LG Prada 3.0 working out double entries across our Twitter and Gmail accounts, and linking them automatically.
Rather nicely, the smartphone shows your contact history with each person, and links into their Google profile.
The phone boasts smart dialling support. Just pop into the dialler and start tapping out a name or a number.
There's room for one match at a time, so you have to hit the down arrow by the first match to see more. That's irritating, and with 4.3 inches of screen play with, we'd hoped for a more sophisticated system.
Call quality was really good, and this is in no small part thanks to the presence of two microphones, the second of which has a noise cancelling function.
We were told by people we spoke to that we sounded loud and clear - which we'd have expected given the importance placed by both brands on this phone working actually as a phone.
You've got really easy access to the call log from the Contacts screen, and there's a link on the dialler that takes you straight into SMS, which we found really handy.
We also like a lot that you can send a quick pre-defined text message to any incoming caller with a press of a button and selection of the appropriate message
Social networking is integrated into the LG Prada 3.0, and LG Social+ takes advantage of that. Social+ is a widget that gives you quick access to your social networks.
You have to authorise it for each of your social media accounts. It takes up a whole home screen, and actually, oddly enough, against the black background it does look a bit messy.
On the other hand, it's really easy to use.
For Twitter it enables you to tweet, see your DMs and @ replies just by tapping a tab on the widget, and if you hit your own icon you can drop right into the website, so everything is very accessible.
For Facebook it enables you to update your status, see messages and friend requests, and again drop into the website.
You switch between social networks using a small, quite difficult to hit tab on the screen. We really like Social+ since it's easy to use and shows plenty of data, but not if you love jumping between platforms.
To save on bandwidth, you can change the interval at which Social+ refreshes data - an added bonus in our view.
Writing text for SMS and email ought to be very straightforward on the 4.3-inch screen, since it should cater for large keyboards in both portrait and landscape orientations.
And indeed you do get pretty large keyboards.
SMS messages are shown in an attractive black and white conversation view.
However, there are a few niggles. There's no press to hold for second functions such as '!' or'?' on the keyboard. Only for numbers. So there is a bit of skipping about into a secondary keyboard. And there's a dedicated smiley key, but only for the standard smiley face, not for the myriad variants.
Overall, messaging on the LG Prada 3.0 all pretty easy to get to grips with. We like that the full text of SMS messages is shown in the notification bar, so you don't even have to open the messaging app unless you want to reply.
With Wi-Fi and HSDPA (3G+) on board, browsing the internet wherever you happen to be isn't a problem with the LG Prada 3.0.
Indeed, the HSDPA is very impressive, supporting 21Mbps download speeds. We often see handsets supporting just 7.2Mbps. There's some future-proofing here, then.
The screen, too, bodes well for the internet. The 4.3-inch screen delivers 800 x 480 pixels, which is good, but not market leading. The iPhone 4S, don't forget, packs 960 x 640 pixels into a 3.5-inch screen, and as a result delivers great precision and image clarity.
Still, the full version of the TechRadar home page loaded in around 20 seconds over Wi-Fi, and when we switched to HSDPA it took 34 seconds to resolve.
There's nice smooth pinch to zoom, double-tap zoom, and text reflowing on the double-tap zoom gesture. You really do get a lot of screen space in which to browse and read text.
The browser can cope with multiple pages, and there's a nice carousel for sweeping between them.
There's no problem with Flash support here, either, and we found watching streamed video in full screen mode was really rewarding. There's no stuttering, and sound quality - while not wonderful - is perfectly passable.
Sound quality improved immensely for us when we attached headphones - although we can't speak for those that come with the LG Prada 3.0 itself, since our review sample was supplied without any.
LG has added a Read It Later link in the web browser. You might think this works a bit like the popular app, saving web pages for you to read at your leisure when on or offline.
But no. Things you've marked for reading later are actually fetched from the web when you select them.
When we went into airplane mode and tried to read something later, we got the dreaded 'Web page not available' screen.
Of course, there's a YouTube app too, and we have the same positive comments about the wide screen and capable processor with YouTube as we do with the web browser. It's fast, and a pleasure to use.
The LG Prada 3.0 has an 8MP camera with flash, which bodes well, on paper.
We found photos were OK but not fantastic, although our daytime test shooting was on a rather dull afternoon with little ambient light, and you may get better on brighter days.
The 1MP front-facing camera can also be used to shoot photos of you and your friends if you so choose.
Camera settings are all nicely arranged on the LG Prada 3.0's screen, and are very easy to use, with a sidebar on the left-hand short edge calling up individual settings on screen. It's nie and easy to fiddle about with settings you might not understand.
What surprises us, though, is that the camera itself lacks many settings in terms of filters and fun. If you want these, you'll need to switch out of the camera into the image editor, which enables you to apply these.
We prefer to apply them while framing and shooting a photo.
OUTDOORS: The LG Prada 3.0's camera doesn't seem to deal all that well with light and shade, though admittedly we were running our tests on a very dull afternoon.
BLUR: The compression used led to a real problem with definition on this tree, which has come out a something of a disappointing blur.
MACRO: There's no macro mode, but the camera did decide we wanted to focus on the snowdrops in this photo, and we were quite close to them. The focussing is acceptable.
NIGHT:At night, not surprisingly, the camera struggles.
The ability to shoot video at 1080p at 30fps with the LG Prada 3.0 is quite a lure, but again we were disappointed with its ability to capture enough light to do a good job.
On the other hand, our test footage is of a rather dull day, which most cameraphones may struggle with, although we saw little reason to suggest it could do better with a vivid visage.
You'd expect a handset such as the LG Prada 3.0 to be great for media playback given the price and prestige attached.
It certainly supports plenty of formats, with audio file support running to MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, EC3 and DTS. It can play videos stored as MPEG4, H.264 and DivX files. We were able to watch a range of movie trailers, and in full screen mode they looked great.
Sound output for the higher quality videos was impressive. Our headphones delivered depth of sound and background noises we can fail to get from other handsets.
Strong audio plus the fact that this smartphone has a 4.3-inch screen means we'd be happier to watch video on the LG Prada 3.0 than on many other smartphones.
Oh, and when you run the video player it automatically offers a link to SmartShare - LG's DLNA app - just in case you want to stream it off to your PC or something. We tried this and it worked perfectly first time in both directions. If only all DLNA were this easy.
Music playback too, is a very positive experience.
With 8GB of internal storage, there's lots of space on the LG Prada 3.0 for tunes and video, and the microSD card slot under the backplate can add plenty more.
The music player has a nice black and white skin. It was singularly disinterested in finding our album art, but this didn't matter much to us, because yet again the sound quality was excellent. There was even an equaliser that actually made a difference to what we heard - which is a rarity on many handsets.
The music player has a sleep timer - a neat feature that means you can relax to your favourite tunes and not have to worry about reaching for your phone if your eyelids droop.
And, just as with the video player, there's a link to SmartShare in the music player, for DLNA action.
There is an FM radio on the LG Prada 3.0 that auto-scans and adds stations to its library, storing up to 48 stations. These are listed in bunches of six at the bottom of the screen.
A great feature is that you can move stations up and down this list so that your favourites are at the top and show first in those groups of six.
We'd have liked the ability to record from the radio, but sadly it's not here.
Battery life and connectivity
LG has equipped the Prada 3.0 with a 1540mAh battery, which seems generously sized, and we'd hoped it would perform well.
But the large screen and 1GHz dual-core processor are high maintenance, and we found we needed to charge the battery mid-way through the day if we played an hour or so of music and did a bit of GPS-based activity during the morning.
You could probably eke a day out of it, but the LG Prada 3.0 is likely to demand a mid-afternoon battery charge if you like to listen to music on your commute, keep your social networks updated and keep Wi-Fi running constantly. This is all middle of the road stuff, but we felt we had to err on the side of caution more than we'd have liked.
Connectivity options are plentiful, with Wi-Fi supporting b, g, and n connections, Bluetooth 3.0 and A-GPS at the core.
We've already mentioned DLNA, and it is really, really easy to use.
An added bonus comes in the shape of Near Field Communications (NFC), which you ought to be able to use more and more as the year grows older.
A notable absence is HDMI. With 1080p video recording, a mini HDMI connector would have been a great addition.
Maps and apps
Google Maps is on the LG Prada 3.0, doing everything you'd expect it to. And on the bigger screen it looks stunning.
With traffic and satellite layers on hand to provide added information and 3D mapping in many locations, it is, as ever, a very useful tool to have.
LG has liberally peppered the Prada 3.0 with pre-loaded apps that add value to the Android 2.3 standards, and there's quite a lot of novelty on offer.
We rather like Desk Home, which really takes advantage of the black and white skin to give you an old-fashioned flip-over clock that'll look good on the nightstand or on the desk as you work.
There's an alternative home screen for use in car too, called Car Home, that offers large, customisable icons as a safety feature when you're driving. You can set up three screens of shortcuts here, so there's plenty of scope for customising this.
We quite like the image editor, which enables you to apply a range of filters and frames to images, as well as catering for resizing, cropping, rotating and even combining two images together.
And for work tasks, the popular Polaris Office is here, enabling you to create Word, Excel and PowerPoint-compatible documents.
There's also Richnote, a text and drawing-based note taker app that could prove really useful, and that includes features such as the ability to share notes by email and have picture and audio files attached to them.
Ever aware of the great HTC weather app, LG has included its own variant on the LG Prada 3.0, which can provide a current weather update and forecast. It feeds data into a black home screen widget, although the app itself is full colour.
Of course, along with these ready-installed apps, more are available to download from the well-stocked Android Market.
Hands on gallery
The LG Prada 3.0 isn't a bad phone at all. Nicely designed on the outside with an attractive black and white skin, it's a good third entrant to the Prada range of mobile phones.
It doesn't quite live up to expectations, though, and while we'd have liked this phone to be right at the leading edge it is, in many respects, rather behind that position.
The build is lovely. The thin design and stippled backplate are highlights. Still, the small buttons on the top might be tricky for some users.
Near Field Communications isn't a great deal of use at the moment, but we expect big things of it so it's nice to see it here.
There are lots of useful extra apps installed for you already, and with 8GB of built-in storage, there's plenty of scope to add your own.
The price is pretty palatable too for a phone that comes with such a fashion house attached, and as before will likely entice a great number of users to the handset on that price/allure alone.
We'd have liked a higher screen resolution. 480 x 800 is respectable, but the 4.3-inch display can handle more pixels.
The black and white skin over Android 2.3 Gingerbread looks great, and there are some superb app icon designs. But it gets diluted quickly as you work through the pre-installed apps, and any you install yourself will of course be as colourful as the developer intended.
The handset feels a bit light in the hand, even for the price, and there's a slight amount of triumph of style over substance here.
Overall, the LG Prada 3.0 is a good handset, but not a great one. Its specs feel a slight beat out of date, so that the fashion brand is a bit behind the times.
But then, if you want the designer name, you might not care too much about that, and you might be prepared to pay the price being asked for.
We do like the large screen and the super-thin design, and the black and white skin is great while it lasts - but inevitably it doesn't last long enough.
Fashionistas might end up loving it, but those who want the best features on offer today ought to look elsewhere.