The fashion phone has always had a somewhat fractious history in the mobile world, with no handset ever really capturing the zeitgeist. From Samsung’s range of Armani devices through to the Motorola V3i Dolce & Gabbana, there has yet to be a mobile phone that really marries fashion brand values and leading technical specifications successfully.
The PRADA Phone by LG is the third generation of a longstanding tie-in between the Korean smartphone giant and the Italian fashion house. Following on from previous efforts in the form of the KE850 and KF900, the PRADA phone is seeking to offer smartphone credentials enclosed in a design that exudes high-fashion values. With a spec list that includes a 1.0GHz OMAP 4430 dual-core processor, 8 megapixel autofocus camera and a 4.3-inch NOVA LCD display it seems that, on first glance at least, the PRADA Phone really does mean business.
- Android 2.3
- Exclusive PRADA Monochrome UI
- 1.0GHz TI OMAP 4430 dual-core processor
- 1GB of DDR2 RAM
- 4.3-inch 800×480 WVGA capacitive NOVA Plus display
- 8GB internal memory
- Expandable 32GB microSD slot
- 8 MP autofocus camera with power LED flash
- 1080p video recording
- Accelerometer, ambient light and proximity sensors
- 1.3 MP front-facing camera
- Stereo FM radio
- 1540mAh lithium ion battery
- Full Bluetooth, USB, Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
- Social network integration
Hardware and Design
Featuring minimalist design elements and sharp corners, first impressions of the PRADA phone are certainly striking. With a form factor that is both stylish and understated, it is a handset that radiates a sense of sartorial elegance. The design appears to take certain cues from the Nokia Lumia 800, but the PRADA phone is executed in an altogether more restrained manner. Particularly noticeable is the slim dimensions of the handset, coming in at just over 8.5mm thick.
PRADA branding is, as expected, heavily utilised without being garish and the Saffiano-look plastic back panel does feel tactile (if a little on the cheap side). The dark-chrome metal surround that frames the handset gives a premium, high-end feel in the hand with the engineered buttons and USB port atop the device reflecting this quality. Overall, this is a phone that conveys luxury without being ostentatious.
Switching on the device reveals the extreme brightness of the 800 nit rated, 4.3-inch NOVA Plus display. This very high nit rating makes it one of the brightest handsets on the market and should make it easy to operate in direct sunlight, however, as we were testing the phone in the midst of a very British winter we had little chance to verify this. The resolution of the capacitive touchscreen is a slightly disappointing 800 x 480, which whilst not being awful, is less than we would hope for in a handset that is expected to be aimed at the top of the market.
The phone features a 1GB OMAP 4430 dual-core processor in the engine room, which is supported by 1GB of DDR2 RAM. Interestingly, the PRADA phone carries a technology dubbed dual-channel processing that, LG claim, allows real-time simultaneous processing from both cores and therefore a more fluid flow of data. We were dubious of the claim initially, however upon experiencing the smooth scrolling and browsing offered by the device, it seems that the dual processing does add a certain something to the user experience.
Onboard storage is a healthy 8GB, expandable up to 32GB via the microSD slot meaning you should have plenty of room for your ultra-fashionable music and movie downloads. Graphics are powered by the very capable PowerVR SGX540, which
having proved itself in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, really draws out the best from the WVGA display.
Software and Multimedia
Running Android 2.3, the PRADA phone offers all the usual features that the OS carries, including the full Google suite of applications and is thankfully free of too much bloatware (in keeping with the minimalist theme). The phone will upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich later in the year, but it would have been nice to see the latest OS running straight out of the box.
It is in the custom-built PRADA UI where this handset really impresses. With an ultra-sleek monochrome design which reflects the exterior, the interface is both incredibly stylish and surprisingly intuitive. Although initially coming as something of a culture shock to fans of Android, we could not help but be won over by the fluidity and minimalist nature of the menu screens. Similarly the bundled PRADA wallpapers, whilst limited in choice and sure to split opinion, offer a look that is totally unique to this handset.
The host of icons used in the device have been designed in-house at PRADA and again exude a sense of exclusivity in the phone, the exception to the rule being the bundled Google software, which retain their usual look. LG have this covered though, as simply holding a finger on the icon gives the option to change it to one of a number of PRADAdesigns, all of which continue the monochrome theme. There is little doubt that not everyone will take to the design of the UI here, but it is certainly refreshing to see Gingerbread painted in a brand new light such as this.
In the imaging department the PRADA phone offers an 8MP auto-focus camera with the now-familiar Android functionality in place and limited post-shot editing options are available along with all the usual sharing capabilities. Whilst performing totally adequately during our testing, the camera offers little more than what is expected of a cutting-edge smartphone, which is a little disappointing after being wowed by the inspiring design and UI. That said, HD video recording at 1080p is included along with a front-facing 1.3MP camera, so the handset is not lagging too far behind the competition.
Connectivity options with the PRADA phone are plentiful, with the high-end smartphone standards of DNLA, Bluetooth and NFC all included. Additionally, the relatively new MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) technology is available via the mini-USB port meaning sharing to HDMI is possible. Wireless speeds are suitably swift with HSDPA at an impressive 21 Mbps and HSUPA at 5.76 Mbps making browsing and downloading a lag-free experience.
Performance and Verdict
Despite our initial scepticism over the idea that a mobile phone manufacturer was once again teaming up with a player in the fashion world, we were won over by the PRADA Phone by LG. The design of the handset is quite frankly impeccable, offering a fresh approach on the standard smartphone form factor.
The device feels well-built and robust in the hand whilst remaining sleek and luxurious. Similarly, the custom-built UI for Gingerbread is a sight to behold and really does provide a unique user experience – we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this same design prowess will feature in the ICS upgrade.
The handset is not without its weaknesses however, with the camera capabilities being slightly underwhelming and screen resolution not quite hitting the standards of its nearest competitors. These are small gripes though and will probably not be a concern for the phone’s target market.
Overall, the PRADA Phone by LG is a handset the treads the fine line between fashion integrity and tech desirability with great success, achieving both style and substance. If you are looking for a handset that can hold its own in the smartphone arena whilst still looking like a million dollars, the PRADA Phone by LG could well be the outfit for you.