When two worlds collide, you get a marriage between the fashion and tech brands. LG’s third and latest collaboration with Prada is one such example. Dubbed as Prada Phone by LG 3.0, the Android smartphone might be targeted at the fashion crowd, but unlike some of their past attempts, this does have some impressive hardware accompanying it. We've covered it in brief during last month's launch event, but today we share our full experience after using the phone for sometime.
With a fairly large 4.3-inch screen greeting us once we got it out of its packaging, we were half-expecting a hard time with the Prada phone (a hunch from using the previous generation Prada models). Fortunately, the device fits quite well in our hands. It doesn’t feel overly heavy, thanks to mostly plastic build. The plastic material extends to the rear, with a grooved plastic battery casing that gives us a good grip on the Prada phone.
Unfortunately, the same material that gives its featherlight weight is a double-edged sword. Given its Prada branding, we are quite surprised at the 'cheap' feel from its plastic body. Putting the feel of the device aside, the Prada phone comes with a clean cut chassis, with the volume buttons blending well with the black and silver borders. While the volume buttons are a little too flushed for our liking, its power button is prominently raised for easy access. Its sliding cover for the micro USB port is definitely a nice touch, keeping up the sophistication expected from a Prada branded phone.
What is surprising is the location of its camera button on the top of the device. On hindsight, relocating the button away from the sides keeps the profile clean. This new placement isn’t exactly an improvement, considering how we fumbled with the shutter button in the midst of taking a picture. In the end, we preferred to go with the virtual shutter button on the camera interface.
Four capacitive touch buttons are situated right below the 4.3-inch display, and these buttons are an elusive bunch. In less than 5 seconds, the buttons will disappear from sight, and try as we may, we can’t seem to find a setting to prolong the buttons’ light timeout. With no indication of exactly where and what the buttons are, we have to make an effort to commit the buttons’ location to memory. Even then, it’s not as easy as we thought.
Google’s Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread is the flavor chosen by LG for the Prada Phone, with a few tweaks tossed in. The most obvious change is a customized user interface that’s purely black and white. Preloaded apps are given the wire frame treatment, taking on a simple approach with its white outlines on a black background. Though downloaded apps are displayed with its original colors, LG has added a few template icons that you can swap in for these apps.
We also noticed an app manager that showed up when we long-pressed the Home button. Furthermore, the various shortcuts to the settings within the notifications menu such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and even NFC also have a long-press option, which directs you to the full settings for that particular function. With seven pages to house apps and widgets, and four customizable shortcuts that are consistent within the seven pages, we have to admit that LG made quite a bit of improvements on the vanilla Android UI.
LG went for a Texas Instrument dual-core 1GHz processor to power the Prada phone, and we think that is a wise decision. The loading times and transition between apps are fast and smooth, with no visible lags when we transitionedacross the seven home pages. This is further supported by benchmark numbers, with Quadrant returning a relatively high score of 2731.
Judging from what we see out of the camera tests, the Prada phone’s 8-megapixel camera comes with some impressive results. Noise levels are minimal across the test images, though colors aren’t exactly the most vibrant. The real surprise comes from the sharp details, differentiating the finer areas within the test image. In short, it’s a thumbs up for the imaging quality of the Prada phone.
The same can be said for its video playback, which was pretty bright thanks to LG’s Nova IPS display. Thankfully, we spotted no frame losses on the video playback, which was also exceedingly smooth and clear. As for its audio quality, you should rely on the bundled earphones instead of the built-in speaker.
Its battery mileage was also put to the test, with a 480 x 800 pixels video looping endlessly on the device under the following conditions:
The intensive battery test didn't let the Prada phone off easily, with a below average timing of 218 minutes for its 1540mAh battery. It didn’t fare too badly on the portability index thanks to its slim profile, though it’s far from being the most portable device out there. On a daily basis, we did manage to squeeze nearly a day’s worth of usage out of the Prada phone, though this was possible with minimal data services being engaged.
In summary, the Prada Phone by LG 3.0 is definitely a head-turner with its slim profile. Its customized, no-frills user interface got us very interested, to the point that we were constantly editing new apps with the template wire frame icons. Speed-wise, there’s no complaint from us with its dual-core 1GHz processor which performed splendidly and effortlessly in running apps smoothly.
What we were not too comfortable with was the pricing. At S$1,088 without a telco plan, the Prada phone is perhaps one of the pricier smartphones in the market. In today’s context, we see similar devices such as the HTC Sensation XE launched at S$868. Even Apple’s latest iPhone 4S, while starting from S$948, offers a lot more in terms of storage capacity at 16GB, versus the Prada phone’s 8GB internal storage. While we would like to consider the Prada phone as a premium device, the use of plastic materials and slightly below average battery mileage are two of the biggest barriers for a buyer to overlook.