LG Prada Phone
30th Apr 2007 | 23:00
Because Chocolate is so last year...
LG very neatly made the leap from handset also-ran to style icon with the launch of its Chocolate series, which absolutely oozed minimalist cool and incorporated an interesting design quirk (those 'secret' touch-sensitive buttons).
The fact that most models in the series paid not much more than lip(stick) service to the gritty business of enhanced functionality and features mattered not a jot as buyers across the country, and indeed the world, queued up to buy into the Chocolatey goodness.
LG's latest bite of the fashionista cherry comes in this association with über-cool fashion house Prada, itself very happily ensconced as a byword for high class fashion among the masses (eat your heart out Burberry). There is, however, still the suspicion that this is a phone that concentrates more on its looks than its abilities.
Those looks though have clearly had a considerable amount of thought expended on them. The slick Chocolate-style black plastic is nicely offset with chrome trim, the whole coming across as elegant and sophisticated, without appearing flashy or in your face.
Prada was apparently involved from the start in developing the look, interface, icons and even the music (there's a weird sort of whooshy scream when you switch it on). There are some nice animated themes too, including fish and butterflies plus a stylish monochrome.
It comes with a rather swanky Saffiano black leather case, which doesn't quite cover the whole phone, although, perhaps crucially for some, the bit it doesn't cover leaves the Prada logo exposed. The stereo headphones, incidentally, also boast a discreet Prada logo, as does a dedicated Bluetooth headset which is available separately.
But next to its quietly understated sense of style, it's the Prada's touchscreen that is the star of the show (the only hard buttons on the front are call start and end, plus an action button).
Eschewing a fiddly stylus, which will only get lost, the Prada invites you to use your thumbs instead, though it has thoughtfully provided a nice lint-free cloth to clean it with. Fortunately the touchscreen doesn't require pinpoint accuracy from your digits - the controls are generally large and easily accessed, even for those with bigger thumbs, and there's little opportunity to hit the wrong button on any of the interfaces.
It's not always quite as sensitive as we'd like, and you can forget about any fast-paced pressing - try to hit a button too soon after the first and it's no dice. That said, the delay isn't long, only a fraction of a second - though it can be a nuisance when you're in a hurry.
On the left side there is a covered slot for charging and attaching the stereo headphones, volume up and down buttons and an 'OK' button that gives you quick access to silent, outdoor and vibrate modes, as well as offering navigation on some screens. On the right-hand side there's a lock button so you don't activate anything on screen by accident and a dedicated button for the music player and camera - a tap gets you into the music player, hold it down for longer and you're in camera mode.
The 2-megapixel camera features a lens by long-established optics firm Schneider Kreuznach, which at least in brand terms is a step up from the standard lenses found on most cameraphones. Practically, though, there's no obvious superiority between this and decent mid-range cameraphones from the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson.
Which doesn't mean they're bad, just unexceptional, and the 2x digital zoom certainly doesn't add to the excitement. There's a photolight, but it seemed to go out every time we took a picture, though this may have been an early sample glitch.
There are a few standard controls, including white balance, three resolution sizes up to 1600 x 1200, negative, grey and sepia effects, normal, fine and super fine quality settings, 4:3 and 16:9 settings, plus three, five and 10 second timer settings, and three different shutter tones to choose from.
So far, so average, but viewing your pictures is a joy thanks to the sharp, bright screen. Give it a tap and it will automatically switch to full-screen mode. Another tap allows you to sift through your pics as a slideshow.
Video is fine, although the onscreen adjustments for zoom (up to 2x) and brightness proved not to be as sensitive as they are in picture mode and we had to repeatedly tap the screen to make adjustments, causing a bit of camera shake, rather than just pressing and holding.
Holding the camera button down from the main menu gets you into MP3 player mode, though adding tracks can be fiddly since the phone doesn't come with a USB cable to connect to your PC. We got our tracks on via Bluetooth and found the playback decent enough and as with everything else about this phone, the player's interface is unquestionably stylish. It can get very loud on the headphones, which makes a change from our iPod's noise-limited playback.
If transferring MP3 tracks is too much hassle, there's a built-in FM radio which offers decent if not outstanding reception. You'll need to perform an autoscan for stations the first time you use it, but it found all the main national and our local north London stations easily enough. You can save up to 12 preset stations, though it won't name them for you.
There's additional memory available from a MicroSD card, though you'll need to remove the battery to get at it. It's also another easy way of transferring and story music to the device - simply load up a MicroSD using a card reader and pop it into the phone and you're away.
Style-wise, LG has scored again with the Prada. Its understated look oozes class without recourse to bling. The functionality has also had some thought put into it, offering simple operability without overcomplicated menus or unnecessary button presses.
It's not a high-powered smartphone, photographer's dream or a replacement for your iPod, but it does more than just cover the basics and has the wow factor in spades.