LG ARENA KM900 Review

7
Introduction and Design
Introduction:

We´ve finally got our hands on a retail version of the LG ARENA KM900! We threw a decent party, came up with a nice carnival do and let off firecrackers to celebrate its arrival. How come? Well, the prototype unit we tested did manage to go over big with us and we shared with you how pleased we were in our preview. We compared the rivalry among touch sensitive screen cell phones to the Afro Samurai story. In case you haven´t seen the series yet, the protagonist is a samurai guy, struggling for the No.1 headband that bestows a godly status to its holder and is, apparently, something everyone yearns after. In our touch screen phone case, Apple got it with their iPhone and all other manufacturers have been trying to snatch it from them ever since… What still keeps the Apple´s product at the top is its comfy, responsive and funny software.

Comparing the ARENA with the iPhone once again reminds us of our favorite cartoon movie. You see, one of the toughest opponents of our samurai guy is no other but a mechanic, robotized copy of him. Some people claim the LG ARENA is nothing but an iPhone clone… and it really is.

What´s in the pack?

  • LG ARENA
  • Headset
  • User CD
  • User manual
  • Charger

Design:

How come we believe the LG ARENA is just an Apple iPhone clone? Well, you need to just as much as take a look at it. The shiny metal framing the screen by no means falls short of bringing the Apple´s fad phone to mind. The similarity is further reinforced by the touch sensitive screen utilizing the capacitive technology that dominates over the whole front side. Unfortunately, the LG ARENA has a rather smaller 3-inch screen and we wish it was larger by at least half an inch, given its splendid WVGA resolution. Still, it´s useable, alas not that fine looking in direct sunlight despite the light intensity sensor located next to the video call camera in the top left corner.  Its light weight and compact size are direct results of its smaller display that gets in the way of its intended luxurious image. On the other hand, bringing along your phone feels great even if you are wearing light or tight clothes.




You can compare the LG ARENA KM900 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

There´re three touch sensitive keys just below the screen – send/end buttons and a third one, right in the middle, that turns the start-up screens into a cube. You can find more on this feature under the interface section of the review. The fact that you need to apply almost no pressure to these buttons is quite pleasant, since you won´t need to get used to touching them differently than the screen itself and accepting or rejecting calls feels the same.

We are really pleased with all other buttons that perfectly go with the overall design and the whole round-shape low-profile look about it. The volume rocker and the camera shutter are on its right hand side and using them is comfy, despite they do not have enough travel. The screen lock/unlock button is on the upper side of the phone, it´s rather small, but it knobs out and is easy to feel with your fingers. Next to it are the 3.5 mm jack and cover unlock mechanism, while the microSD card expansion slot is located under the back cover.  The charger port is on your left hand side and is protected with tiny, sliding flap that is really handy.


As a whole, the LG ARENA KM900 is quite likeable clone, but it lacks the “WOW” or in other words, it is hardly an eye-riveting device. Well, as some Sci-Fi movies proclaim, even clones can develop their own, unique personality. What we are about to focus on is what makes the phone stand out. It´s secret weapon against the other touch screen sensitive devices is called S-CLASS 3D interface.




LG ARENA KM900 Video Review:



LG ARENA KM900 360 Degrees View:


S-CLASS 3D interface:

Have you heard the saying “God is in the detail”? We are not sure what God the designers of S-CLASS 3D believe in, but they seem to have stayed true to the saying. The best aspect of this piece of software is there are numerous small features you may never encounter, because they are buried deep in different menus you might never come to use, but nonetheless they are there, waiting to give you joy if found. Well, first things first…

The first thing to grip your attention in the LG ARENA KM900 is, of course, the start-up screen. Or one of its many aspects is more like it. In reality, it is a cube with different functions placed on its sides. You can switch between its sides by sliding your finger onto the screen. You can easily see all this by tapping onto the middle button below the screen that we already told you about. The other function turns up when keeping the middle button pressed for a while. This calls up the multitasking menu on screen. Actually, LG must´ve come up with the 3D part of the name of their interface because of this cube. Let´s take a closer look at the functions that it features. You should bear in mind you can customize the content on the default side of the cube that pops up on the screen anytime you switch the phone on or navigate your way out of the main menu.


First, it´s the shortcut screen. Nothing to hit you like a load of bricks here. You can place up to nine function icons of your choosing, taking your pick from the menu options. To switch over to another function you just need to hold your finger onto the screen. There is nothing to surprise you on the next screen as well, it´s definitely not the first time we´ve seen widgets on LG´s touch sensitive phones. Similarly to the Renoir, you can call them up on the screen at once and scroll up and down between them. The fly in the ointment is there are only few, actually just eleven and option to download additional ones is missing.


The next two screens are a whole lot more thrilling. Unlike the prototype, they don´t seem to lead to fast food diners, but they rather open up portals to other dimensions. We found ourselves in a Barbie doll world by mistake and honestly, Ken had some real troubles keeping up. Of course, we are joking. Now, seriously, the first one allows access to your favorite contacts. They appear in a rainbow-like pattern with their assigned pictures on the screen. Aside from looking pretty cool, the app lets you take your pick with ease, you just need to choose up to 30 from all contacts you have on the phone.


We marked the multimedia player for dessert. You can load up to 15 songs, video clips or pictures and have them at hand all the time. The above mentioned restriction makes us think most people would rather place their favorite video clips there than other content on quick access. Or you can simply come up with a list of songs that set you mind at ease and go for it anytime you like. The way software plays the songs really goes over with a bang with us. There´s album art popping on the screen when a song starts and you can see a CD spinning round. Skipping to the next track is as easy as sliding your finger on the screen. Unfortunately, the horizontal view is only available when watching video or browsing picture galleries. Ah, we almost forgot. You favorite multimedia content can not only be arranged in a grid-like pattern, but in a column as well, with all pictures and videos clearly separated from the music files.


Well, we´ve spoken enough about the LG´s cube and its sides. There is a row of icons at the bottom of the screen that allows you to quickly dial a number, access your contact list, message box and main menu. Nothing out of this world, really. They are large enough to click with your fingers. A drop down menu appears if you touch the upper part. It lets you activate the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, set an alarm clock, turn the music player on, take a look at missed calls and set up you ring style profile. It´s quite similar to the menu of the KF700, but only the most important options have found their way to the LG ARENA KM900. Unfortunately, the menu is only accessible through the home screen.

As a whole, we do like it much better than the Samsung´s TouchWiz interface. Those of you used to the iPhone´s one would certainly go on saying they´d rather have all icons in one place. Oops, the LG ARENA also offers something similar. You just need to enter the main menu.

It´s the main reason why the phone looks so much like the iPhone when you see it in a picture. The main difference is LG has sorted all icons by relevant category. You can change their places, but they can only switch places remaining in the same row they belong to. So, you always have communication-related icons in the top row (contacts, recent calls, messages, browser etc.), multimedia icons below them (player, camera, video camera), the organizer functions coming up next (calendar, notes, alarm list) and finally settings. Actually, the same division exists on previous manufacturer´s models as well, it´s just that everything is merged together now, so you have to scroll the rows sideways in case you need to find a less important function. All icons become visible if the screen is in landscape mode.


Let´s get back to the God and the details. S-CLASS 3D swarms with animations and various nice effects that can really make you scroll through menus just for the kick you get out of watching them. They all play smoothly and look great, but are often followed by a slight response delay that can be get slightly annoying, say, you calendar starting up in five or six seconds. The screen is very sensitive to touch, but scrolling could have been implemented better. There´s just no way you can speed it up so you can go over a list faster as it is on the iPhone. You rather need to keep sliding your finger until you find what you need. Anyway, we have only two remarks to pass here. First, the icons are rather small. You can live with that, but people with thicker fingers may find the icons the LG ARENA KM900 uncomfortable to use. Second, the accelerometer is either not really sensitive or just works slowly with the final result being you really need to give the phone a good shake to get it to rotate the view. Most applications work in landscape mode, which makes them pretty comfy to use with both your hands.

The good news is there are changes for the better not only in the main menu and the home screen. All interface elements have been properly implemented, have a finished look and are definitely better than anything we have seen coming from LG by now.



Contacts:

When it comes to the phonebook of the LG ARENA KM900, a huge leap ahead has been made that the change brought tears to our eyes. Wait, wait, perhaps it´s to do with hay-fever and blossoming trees. Anyway. What´s most important here is that adding contacts no longer feels like a Middle Ages torture. You can see more info fields on the screen, moving up and down between them is adequate, you just need to get used to minimizing the keyboard if you want to go ahead. We hit the go back icon several times ending up losing all information entered.


Searching in your contacts is performed by both parts of the name. Entering digits in the dial pad filters your contacts as well, say 6-3-6 leads to Neo and to the telephone numbers that contain these digits. The only thing we miss is an alphabet column to allow us to quickly navigate up or down through the contact list, the way it´s done on the iPhone or the Samsung Pixon.

Organizer:

As a whole, the organizer of th LG ARENA KM900 is among the most beautiful we have ever seen, but fails to offer more functionality than the competition and its applications are simplified. Let´s start up with the alarm clock. You can set up several different alarms, each of them with its own melody and recurrence pattern. The most appealing thing here is the way you do the setting itself – through a digital or analog clock with its background indicating whether the time you´ve entered is AM or PM. Two rollers appear in digital clock mode that can be turned separately. Well, this is far from being the fastest way to set up specific times, but still it´s quite spectacular. You will see something suchlike when setting the correct date, but you´d have to use three different rollers there. The quick alarm option allows you to set up an alarm clock reminder about something that´ll happen within the next hour.




Calendar (named organizer) can be viewed in a variety of modes – whole month, week, timetable (showing you the events on a specific date and their time allocation), just a list or all scheduled events. You can add a detailed schedule, tasks or mark specific days as bank holidays. We do feel like marking the whole coming week as one and make it off to Hawaii, but we need to go on and finish telling you about the organizer functions of the LG ARENA KM900 before we scoot away. 


The list also includes a bunch of other functions like memos, stopwatch, voice recordings (pretty good quality indeed), calculator (with a sophisticated mode available), world clock and set of tools – FM transmitter and unit converter. As you probably rightfully have come to suspect, they all look awesome, especially adding a city into the world clock list. We have been dreaming of such a beautifully depicted globe and a personal jet to travel around it.




Messages:

The messages menu has been through some major changes. Getting in takes you right to incoming messages, grouped by date. A button at the top sends you into your outbox, your sent messages folder or drafts and… Oh, My! You can read all messages sent to or by a specific contact in threaded mode. It seems LG has finally paid attention to what customers demand. You can directly reply to an incoming message from your inbox and there´s a separate button to get down to typing away a response. You also have a nice icon that lets you attach a file in a snap. It´s located at the bottom to you right and it does come in really handy.


Setting up your email account is easy, especially if you happen to use any of the mainstream email providers like Gmail, Yahoo etc., since the settings are preloaded onto the phone. Unfortunately this doesn´t hold true when it comes to personal email servers like ours, but let´s not forget that such specific cases are hard to handle and save a few specialized business devices like BlackBerry, not many phones have such a function. The good news is the LG ARENA KM900 supports Microsoft Exchange server sync of emails, contacts and calendar.

All these cool things would´ve been wasted if the keypad was below par. Fortunately it´s up to the task even if all buttons are a bit smaller than we hoped they would be, especially if you´re intent on using both your hands to type.



Connectivity:

So, let´s start up with the things we dislike. Despite the LG ARENA KM900 is quad-band GSM and therefore usable all over the world, its 3G functionality is only suitable for Europe and Asia. If you happen to be on another  continent, you better search for a hotspot and use Wi-Fi to attain to higher bandwidth.

The built-in browser is really good, although it needs some finishing touches if it´s to pose a threat to the Apple´s mobile Safari. Multi-touch is used to zoom in on things, pretty much the same way as on the iPhone and even if less smooth, it´s far better than the implementation on PRADA II. Actually, it´s exactly speed and fast response that the browser needs in order to catch up with the market leader. The other issue we encountered was that text formatting failed to properly adjust itself to the zoom level and we often ended up with hyperlinks lapping over the page content. Apparently we would have to wait a bit longer for the LG ARENA KM900 to edge the iPhone out of its number one position on the web surfing phone top list. Let´s now take a look at how the ARENA handles multimedia and find the answer to the question “Is the Apple´s marvelous device still the best for music and video buffs?”




Camera:

The LG ARENA KM900 features 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash which is rather mid-range as per today´s mainstream standards. What goes over big with us is the camera interface, it´s a whole lot better than the previous versions, is far easier to use and features interface of a real digital camera. All settings are visualized as a wheel and the phone offers rich options like face detection, geographical tagging, white balance and multitude of different photo effects.



We can really go on and on telling more about the picture quality, but you better see the snapshots we´ve uploaded here. If they happen to be to your liking, that´s the cell phone for you. The excessive image sharpness along with the lack of enough details failed to please us. Yet, colors look pleasant and pictures taken outdoors are good enough to show off some thrilling moment of your life. And that´s the whole point to taking pictures with a cell phone, isn´t it?



The maximum video capture resolution is 720x480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Nothing coming out of left field here insofar as this resolution has been dominant on all LG phones since the Secret came out. You can also choose slow or fast motion video shooting, but either way videos are captured at a QVGA resolution. We dig the video quality and we´d rather be found capturing videos than pictures.

LG ARENA KM900 sample video at 720x480 pixel resolution.
* Note that due to codecs support, you may not be able to play the file.

You can quickly navigate to the Gallery, which, thank God, has been through some major changes when compared to its implementation on the Renoir. It unifies all picture and video content and they can be easily sorted by date, file type, name or depending on what you´d like to take a look at - pictures only, videos, your favorites, the ones saved onto the memory card etc. We got carried away when we first started the gallery in a landscape mode. It turned out to be something quite similar to the iPhone´s Cover Flow with images pouring out downwards. You better take a look at our video review to relish the effects in all their beauty. Aside from all this, zooming in is implemented through image spanning thanks to the multi-touch technology.



Multimedia:

The video player is simple, but easy to use and there is an option that allows you to enlarge or shrink the image. This is quite useful given low-resolution videos do not automatically play in full-screen. According to LG, the ARENA is capable of playing DivX, Xvid and MPEG4 (H.264 and H.263) clips. Unfortunately, your DivX and Xvid video files must be coded in resolution of 352x288 pixels, 30 frames per second and bitrate of 1 Mbps, which pretty much renders DivX and Xvid video support virtually pointless, because you just won't be able to download movies from the Internet and see them on your phone, at least not right away. Since you, like it or lump it, would need to convert videos, you might as well go for MPEG4, its maximum resolution of 720x480 pixels fits the screen perfectly. Either way, you will notice small artefacts, but image quality is good enough for a cell phone.



The music player is a bit of an odd bird, but you´ll eventually get used to it in a time. It´s not anything trail-blazing, but it´s not a copy of the one that comes with the iPhone either. This is something good indeed, since we are fed up with facing Apple clones indeed. In portrait mode, the player appears right in between the song list and scrolling down leads to the album cover and effects dropping out of sight. However, you can stop or switch between songs with the controls located below. In landscape mode the player takes up about a third of the screen and doesn´t go with the rest of the interface at all. Browsing albums is something we do dig though, they visualize as a list with its rows grouped by artists and their art turning up as separate CDs. We do like such small, beautiful things.





Playback sound quality is good, although the built-in speaker really lacks loudness. The loudness of the sound through a headset is OK plus the available 3.5 mm. jack saves you from the dismal fate of having to use the otherwise dainty looking but really uncomfortable earplugs that come in the pack.

Aside from the pretty standard radio app, the LG ARENA KM900 also features an FM transmitter, so you should be able to listen to your favorite music while in your car for an instance. The phone´s also got GPS, although the manufacturer has not deemed it necessary to provide preloaded navigation software, so you will have to make do with Google Maps.



Performance and Conclusion:

In-call quality is really good both ways. The only problem weencountered was slightly sharp voices when at full blast. The batterycapacity should meet the needs of average consumers with its ability toprovide 3.83 hours talk time and 300 hours of operation in standby mode.

You must be wondering if the LG ARENA KM900 is worth it and why it has such ahigh rating if it´s just another clone. In a nutshell, “Yes”, it iswell worth it. But we need to explain away what we mean.  

It is evident that the manufacturer has done well with their new interface. LG seems to have taken similar course and adopted strategy quite reminiscent of what Nokia did with their first touch sensitive screen cell phone – the 5800 XpressMusic. Many people wondered as to why the Finnish company didn´t attack the market offering a high-tech top of the range device, but rather opted for a mainstream cell phone. It was nothing but a market test. And this is exactly what LG seems to be doing with the ARENA – just feeling the market with their new software. Well, it looks like we aren’t the only ones to like it, since the phone has been selling great ever since its official release. Several phones utilizing the S-CLASS 3D interface have already been announced as well, among them a smart phone that we are eagerly anticipating. Let´s hope it proves to be a multimedia monster to snatch the number one headband from the iPhone. The LG ARENA definitely makes for a good cell phone with touch sensitive screen, modern interface, although it disappoints with its multimedia capabilities, especially given the fact that makes manufactured in 2008 can play videos the ARENA can´t.



Pros

  • S-CLASS 3D interface rocks
  • High sound quality during talks
  • Good internet browser capabilities (it´s not Safari, but still…)
  • Far from looking luxurious, the phone looks great

Cons

  • Plays DivX и Xvid, but just at 320 pixel resolution
  • Snapshot quality is not so good
  • Keypad is good, but rather small and typing in with both hands feels uncomfortable

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

7.4
24 Reviews

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