Monday, June 1

LG KM900 Arena

LG’s latest touchscreen handset that’s been making waves with their new S-Class User Interface since February of 2009 made its way to our labs before hitting the stores. Yours truly got a crack at the prototype and instead of waiting for a review, when it launches perhaps sometime in June (not confirmed yet), I thought I’d give you a quick preview of the handset. Please understand that this is only a prototype and while I did have a few issues with the handset, it’s very possible that the actual review piece may be perfect. With that in mind I’ll update the preview with a Review when I do get a proper handset so you’ll have to be a little patient guys. Until then here’s what I can tell you about the Arena and its features.

Form Factor
The design is quite typical for a touchscreen handset. Unlike the iPhone its front is designed to be a full touchscreen with the Call Take and end keys and a shortcut option all being touch sensitive. This is quite like the HTC HD’s functionality; the difference is that these keys light up.
The 3.0-inch touchscreen display sports a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels and 16 million colors. It’s a light handset at just 105g with a slim form so naturally it becomes very easy to carry around.

km900 lg km900 mobile

On one side is an LG proprietary USB slot that’s universal for the charger and USB and on the other side are a set of Zoom/volume keys and a camera key below them. A 3.5mm handsfree socket is located at the top beside the power key that can also be used to lock the display, like in the iPhone. What I thought the handset could have used is a hot swap slot for the memory card but with 8GB of internal space, that was hardly necessary. However, under the rear panel, a microSD card slot does exist, and you won’t have to remove the battery to remove it. The Arena also has a light sensor for the display that’s also like the iPhone's.

So it’s not an iPhone with a calm sophisticated look, it’s not an HTC HD with a large display, it’s not a funky Nokia 5800, nor a Pixon with its hefty camera, but the Arena, at least in the looks department, does have a unique blend of elegance, simplicity and a dash of femininity. Hopefully if it’s launched in another color I might see the latter part a little differently. But just so you know, it’s not a bad thing either way.

Features and Performance
I’m not going to go into detail about the actual performance of functionality of the handset’s features. Like I said, the model I received was a prototype tester, so any issues I faced I'm attributing to that factor.

The S-Class interface has a lot of good and bad points. The desktop is similar to the multiple desktops with widgets that the LG Cookie has. This version is a little more visually attractive and instead of two, you now have four separate desktops that cater to very specific needs. While I did like the smooth flow of the UI when flicking to switch desktops, I realized that I’d rather just have one with multiple widgets for various purposes, naturally the Samsung UI came to mind. Each desktop only offers a very specific set of features that you can use. You can customize the layout a bit but not too much. On the whole though, I found the desktops quite intuitive and colorful. Video will play in a small preview screen, but switch to landscape and it goes to full screen. The same goes for images. On the other hand music files can be played from the same Favorite’s (media) screen but you won’t be able to adjust any settings, which is rather odd.

The inside menu system is neatly categorized into four divisions – Communication, Multimedia, Utilities and Settings. Each category has more options than just the four per slot that you see initially. To access those you’ll have to flick to the side or simply use the accelerometer by changing the viewing orientation by shifting to landscape. The problem is the entire screen is then taken up completely with a bunch of colorful icons that have no headings so you’ll just have to wing it and go with the icon design.

The accelerometer is extremely smooth and thankfully not too eager to please. By that I mean it’s not going to switch orientation when the handset is tilted a bit. Of course I did wish that the entire interface would change orientation and not just particular screens so I wouldn’t have to keep switching from landscape to portrait and back again. I wasn’t too fond of the keypad layout. The alphanumeric keypad is large, but it took a lot of getting used to. Stubby fingers like mine kept hitting all the surrounding feature keys most of the time. The QWERTY keypad is large and was a lot easier to use. Once again, when it came to editing text, just like the iPhone, the Arena also has a small preview pop up to place the cursor. This was not as easy to use as the iPhone's and was not very receptive to placement.

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