LG ARENA Preview

Introduction and Design
Introduction and design:

Ever since Apple entered the mobile phone market, the rivalry among the touch screen phones has begun to look quite like the Afro Samurai story. For all of you out there who aren´t familiar with it, here it is in a nutshell. The protagonist is a samurai guy who struggles for a No.1 headband that grants its holder a godly status and is apparently something everyone yearns after. In our touch screen phone case, Apple got the headband with the iPhone and all other manufacturers have been trying to release their “killer” phones.. There are certain models putting up one hell of a fight thanks to enhanced cameras and better DivX/Xvid playback. The Apple´s gadget still comes on top due to its comfy interface, cheery and responsive software implementation. And if the OS itself stands for our samurai´s soul, phone´s display is his katana. iPhone hadn´t had a worthy opponent to vie with in video playback quality until the Samsung OMNIA HD came out.

Well, there´s another major contender about to get the floor and bring down the house, one who also craves for the No.1 headband, namely, the LG ARENA. Well, after getting it into our hands and playing around with it for a while, we can definitely say it´s got all it takes to go over big with the consumers. LG can hardly work miracles, but the ace up their sleeve is called S-CLASS 3D, their new interface. It´s a major step forward, given the previous phones of the company. But, that´s enough with the samurai´s soul, let´s take a closer look at its appearance, beginning with its “katana”.

It´s a 3.0-inch, touch sensitive, capacitive screen that features 16 mln colors. Thanks to its high resolution (480x800) it offers quite sharp image quality. Of course, we´d love it if the screen was 2 or 3 or, say, 37 inches wider. Oops, sorry, we´re talking about the new office monitors. Well, OK, we are pretty aware that greed constitutes a major sin, but we do like the OMNIA HD´s 3.7-inch screen better. Well, rewording that ancient Greeks´saying, “a small body/small screen”. There´s a lot to this that meets the eye, you can trust us. The LG ARENA is a compact and relatively light-weighted device, but it´s its weight that gets in the way of the phone´s intended luxurious image.

You can compare the LG ARENA 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 preview. Actually, only the green send button turns on, but the retail units will have all the three brightly lit up.

We are really pleased with all other buttons that perfectly go with the overall design and the whole round-form low-profile look about it. We still cannot comment on its ease of use, since we have only used a prototype this far. The camera shutter and volume rocker are both located on its right hand side, the power on/off button, 3.5 mm jack and cover unlock mechanism are on the top. The microSD expansion card slot is hidden underneath the battery cover. The charger plugs in under a snugly fitting, tiny, sliding flap on the left that is really handy.

All told, the ARENA is quite likeable, but it lacks the “WOW” factor. In other words, don´t expect that too many people will have their eyes fixed on it. Now, let´s get down to the thrilling part of the preview, namely the new interface.

LG ARENA Video Preview:

LG ARENA 360 Degrees View:

S-CLASS 3D interface:

Of course, we have to admit we hold deep reverence for the S-class, especially when it comes to Mercedes Benz cars. We all have a feeling that we the LG´s namesake interface won´t prove to be a disappointment either, but first things first.

The first thing you´ll notice is, of course, the start-up screen itself. Or rather, one of its many aspects. In reality it´s a cube with different functions on each side. You can switch between its different sides by sliding your finger onto the screen. You can easily see all this by tapping onto the middle button below the display, the one we have already told you about. The other function turns up when holding 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 the interface because of the cube. Let´s take a closer look at the functions that it features. You should bear in mind you can choose what´s the on-screen default side of the cube that pops up when you switch the phone on or anytime you navigate your way out of the main menu.

First, it´s the shortcut screen. Nothing that hits you right between the eyes here. You can place up to nine icons of any function you like, taking your pick from any of the menu options. To switch over to another function you should hold your finger onto the screen. There is nothing to come as a surprise on the next screen as well, it´s definitely not the first time we´ve seen widgets on the LG´s touch sensitive phones. Similarly to the Renoir, you can call them all up onto the screen at once, scroll up and down to see the different ones. The fly in the ointment here is there are only few, actually jus eleven together with the lack of an option to download additional ones.

The next two screens are a whole lot more thrilling. The first one leads you to the corner pub and the second to the Restaurant at the end of the universe that has recently been converted to Pizza Hut. We are just kidding, of course. The first one allows you to access your favorite contacts list that appears in a rainbow-like pattern with all attached pictures showed on the screen. Aside from looking pretty cool, it lets you take your pick with ease, you only need to choose up to 30 from all contacts you have on the phone.

The multimedia player comes next. You can load up to 15 songs, video clips or pictures on it, so they are at hand all the time. The above mentioned restriction makes us think most people would rather place their favorite video clips there other than other content to allow 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 the software plays the songs really goes over with a bang with us. There´s album art popping on the screen when the song starts and you can see a CD turning round, skipping to the next track is as easy as sliding your finger on the screen. Unfortunately, the horizontal view is available only when watching video or browsing picture galleries. Ah, we almost forgot. You favorite multimedia content can not only be arranged on a grid-like, but in a column as well with all pictures and videos clearly separated from the music files.

Well, that´s enough on the LG´s cube and its sides. Let´s talk about the icon row at the bottom of the screen. They allow you to quickly dial a number, access your contact list, reach your messages box and the main menu. Let´s first get down to the latter, since it´s even more interesting than the S-CLASS 3D start-up screen. We are almost entirely convinced that right after taking a look at it for a first time you´d go like “Unbelievable, it´s looks just like the one on iPhone!”, the main difference being that LG has sorted the icons by category. You can change their places on the ARENA as well, 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 has existed on previous manufacturer´s models as well, it´s just that everything is merged together now, so in case you need to find a less important function or option, you need to scroll down the rows. All icons are visible at the same time if the screen has been switched to landscape mode.

What we are really pleased with is that everything about the LG´s S-CLASS 3D interface has been made with an immaculate attention to every last detail, no matter how insignificant it may seem. There is a number of small eye candies like animated transitions and shiny effects that look really nice and play smoothly (unlike the ones on PRADA II). Moreover, most menus can be visualized in a landscape mode, which comes pretty handy at times, say, the main menu comes to mind. Congrats, LG, well done. We don´t mean to be nagging about things here, but we would´ve liked larger icons (aside from the 40-inch screen we already told you about). Yet, all icons respond as they are meant to, so their size won´t kill you.

Phone contacts, Organizer, Messages and Internet:

Don´t think that everything is coming up roses with the LG ARENA though. Once you navigate your way away from the screens we told you about, you are about to face a menu that resembles one of those found on the first Motorola phone to ever hit the market. (Demonic laughter). Stay calm and don´t go anywhere. Actually what you see is the old face of the company we know all too well, only clear of annoying bugs and jazzed up a bit.

Say, being able to see a quite more contact info fields on-screen makes adding contacts no longer feel like a 15 century torture, plus you can navigate between them far more easily. Filtering contacts works much better and allows you to search in both parts of the name, not only one and you can actually do it by typing numbers rather than letters, say, entering 6-3-6 leads to Neo, meaning you can perform searches with the dialing keypad as well.

You shall read more about the calendar in the coming review, but we can say it looks really good and can be viewed in a number of ways. But we just have to tell you about the calculator and the alarms, since we are captivated by the awesome interface. You can set a number of different alarm times and aside from being a real eye-candy, the quick alarm option (take a look at the picture) allows you to set an alarm for something that´s about to happen within the next hour. We just hope this helps our editor take his medicine by the quarter of an hour just like the doctor ordered. Calculator works in two different modes, the first one features all typical basic functions; the second one is geared to people who have made it through third grade math. Since all of us, unfortunately, don´t seem to belong to the second group we are more pleased with all these small things like the properly designed go-back button that perfectly go with the overall look of the calculator.

The messages menu has been through some major changes. Getting in takes you right into incoming messages, grouped by date. Well, it seems LG has finally come to their senses and got what customers want. You can easily reply to a previously received message and there´s a separate button that gets you to writing right away. The phone delivers MS Exchange support as well to help you sync emails, contacts, calendar entries and tasks with your company server on the fly. All these goodies would´ve been wasted if the keypad was below par. Fortunately it´s up to the task even if all buttons are a bit small, especially if you´re intent on using your both hands to type.

Well, all you mobile internet fans, rejoice! The built-in browser is really good, despite it needs some finishing touches if it´s to pose a threat to the Apple´s mobile Safari browser. 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 get closer to the market leader. Let´s hope the retail version it´s properly optimized so you won´t need to wait until what you´ve zoomed in on gets larger. Let´s get a move on and talk about the multimedia functions, since it´s expected to be one of the strengths of the LG Arena.

Camera and Multimedia:

The LG ARENA 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 and is far easier to use and looks like the interface of a real digital camera. All settings are visualized as a wheel and the phone features rich options like face recognition, geographical location tagging, a multitude of different photo effects and white balance. Of course, you can easily capture videos as well. We won´t pass any judgment on the capture quality, but you can take a look at the test shots to get a rough idea. Just bear in mind that picture quality of the retail units may turn out to be quite different.

The maximum video capture resolution is 720x480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Nothing coming out of left field here, since 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 case videos are captured at a QVGA resolution.

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 pictures and videos and the can be easily sorted by date, file type or name or depending on whether you´d like to take a look at pictures only, or rather videos, or your favorites, the ones saved onto the memory card etc. We got carried away by starting the gallery in a landscape mode, it turns into something quite similar to the iPhone´s Cover Flow with the 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.

What an all the rage phone would be like without extensive codec support? The answer is, well, take it back to 2007. Congratulations, you´ve just got a winning answer that might come handy on “Who wants to be a millionaire”. LG ARENA features DivX/Xvid support, but unfortunately we were unable to play an HD video file which makes the phone look below par alongside of the monster that the OMNIA HD is. Well, fingers crossed for an S-CLASS 3D phone that features HD.

The music player feels a bit weird and we can´t really say whether or not we really dig it. 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 your sight. However, you can stop or switch over between songs with the controls located below. In landscape mode the players takes up about a third of the screen and somehow doesn´t go with the rest of the interface at all. Browsing the albums is something we do dig though, they visualize as a list with its rows grouped by artists, with their art turning up as separate CDs. We do like such small, beautiful things. Well, keep in mind that the ARENA has got an FM transmitter, aside from the standard built-in radio, so you can listen to your favorite on-the-phone music, say, in your car.


In one word – HUGE! The S-CLASS 3D interface is a huge improvement over the LG´s previous attempts and quite a thorn in their competitor´s sides. It´s the main reason that makes us believe that the ARENA will handle the growing competition on the touch screen phone market. We can´t wait to get our hands on a retail unit and come up with a final review. We are indeed really pleased with the LG´s product as of now.

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