Living with the LG Arena

Thanks to the nice people over at LG, I’ve had the opportunity to play around with one of their devices for the past month – the LG Arena KM900. Let’s get the next bit out of the way straight off the bat…

Disclaimer: LG solicited my feedback on their products and provided me with a free phone for evaluation for one month.

Right, that piece is done 😉


Bearing in mind that before the iPhone, my previous mobile phone was a pretty old Sony Ericsson T6xx, this was quite a change from the mobile phones I’d handled in the past. Of course, the flipside of that is that I’ve now been using an iPhone 3G and 3GS for more than a year, so the Arena had to cope with many of my prejudices formed on the basis of familiarity of how a touchscreen phone “should” (or, at least, could) work. I wanted to give it a fair chance, though, so I chose to ditch my BlackBerry Pearl 8100 for the period I had the Arena – frankly, not a hard choice, as I’m no fan of the BlackBerry UI, which I’m convinced was designed by someone who hates other people.

The out-of-the-box impression was certainly pretty good. It’s a sleek, shiny, device which feels well-made with a brushed metal and glass front. It’s got a great feature set, too – 5.0MP camera which also records video, Dolby Mobile audio, front and rear-facing cameras, wifi, bluetooth, Java, an FM transmitter, multiformat video playback including DIVX, 3G video calling… the list really goes on. It also has quite an interesting 3D user interface where the screen rotates around a virtual cube as you swipe left and right through the menus. So it scores highly on both the prettiness/style and the features. It’s lighter and smaller than the iPhone, too.

I’ll be honest… I had a mixed experience with with LG Arena. I think it could be a great consumer phone, if you take a step back and forget that the iPhone exists. The camera is great (and has a flash), and the video quality and playback were more than acceptable – very good, actually. I confess I didn’t try the music player much – I guess such things are becoming pretty commoditised and it seemed to be fairly standard. This was the first phone I’ve had with a front-facing camera for video calls, which was a nice feature – but I don’t know anyone who has a video call-capable phone or who uses that, so it was somewhat redundant. The range of stuff available on this handset is great, though. Email and web browsing, check and check… although the browser interface was a little finickity at times.

I had a few issues, the first being, sadly, the screen. Touchscreens are becoming de rigeur and this one looks good… until you try to view it in strong daylight, when the fact that it is highly reflective becomes a huge problem. Plus, it collects fingerprints like crazy. I also found that it wasn’t as responsive as other screens I’ve used, and some aspects of the UI were frustrating (swiping through menu options left-to-right, as well as through lists up and down, for instance). It looks stylish, but it’s not the best experience I’ve had. It does offer a level of haptic feedback, which I switched off straight away – by default, when you touch the screen it buzzes to simulate the experience of having been touched, but in practical terms I found this somewhat annoying.

The next drawback is fairly minor, as it’s mostly a business issue. I wasn’t able to use this on an office network, as the wireless didn’t support either 802.1x certificates or LEAP – disappointing, but not a core feature in a consumer model, I’ll accept. However, there was another problem with the way in which the wireless and networking support worked… it has a fairly complex set of profiles which (I think) are supposed to help to decide which type of network to use at which time, and I found that it kept prompting me to use wifi or GPRS rather than just defaulting to the faster option, which did drive me nuts from time-to-time.

The final complaint I have relates to probably the biggest emerging area in the mobile market… Applications. In theory, this is a Java / J2ME capable device. So, I merrily installed a series of applications, none of which were really suited to the touchscreen, and all of which looked very plain. An SDK is available, but I found it was poorly documented. There’s no centralised way of getting hold of apps, either. LG have a couple of downloadable “widgets” on their website, but having downloaded them to a PC I couldn’t find a way of installing them. All-in-all I felt it was a device that is highly capable, but crying out for an easier way to extend functionality.

Thank you, LG, for giving me the opportunity to take a look. I think it’s a nice handset, got a great combination of hardware features, a nice looking UI – but, in my opinion (and I’ll readily admit I’m an uber-fan of one of the competitors here), it’s let down by the “small touches” and by the software.

4 thoughts on “Living with the LG Arena”

  1. Having owned this phone for a month now, I can sum it up in one sentence.
    Possible THE WORST flagship model released by anyone recently. Its a joke that this phone can be regarded by LG as their best!! Here are the issues:

    * Crashes randomly when multiple functions are being used(e.g. when viewing long lists of SMSs and a phone call comes in when playing music)
    * Accelerometer doesnt work properly, once rotated, the screen will stay in the same orientation even when the phone doesnt… have to tap it or keep trying until the screen comes back
    * FM Transmitter doesnt transmit any BASS at all… sounds like you are in a lift listening to the music that plays in there
    * Music player is a joke. The randomiser is not so random, plays the same tracks over and over if you start from the same track (barely random if even)
    * Cant forward tracks by dragging the scrollbar, have to hold the forward button which goes at 5 seconds intervals (imagine a long 2 hour set). Funnily enough you CAN forward videos by using the scroll bar!!!
    * Camera takes a good 3-5 seconds to take a photo, by which time the phone has moved and it comes out blurry
    * Movies are in 3gp format (WHY when older Viewty took it in AVI)
    * Cannot sort music into Compilation albums (Sort into albums and it still sub sorts by artists)
    * Does not read ID3 Tags and has its own way of classifying MP3s
    * Once a large amount of things have been added on the phone, its a nightmare to find the correct file / mp3
    * Same thing for contacts as there is a search bar but by the time it responds and the keypad comes up you could have just scrolled to the contact using the dodgy scroll bar which disappears as soon as you let it go, so its a race to get to it and use it!!
    * Screen cannot be looked at in sunlight at all.. have to turn brightness to maximum and even then struggle with fingerprints.
    * Specific to my phone: I went overseas and used the World clock. Added a few cities and all of a sudden it crashed. When I went back in, ALL the cities were named the same!! The timezones and map locations were correct but I had no idea which city was what any more! Had to factory reset which made me lose everything on the phone.
    * PC suite is another joke. Transfer is extremely slow onto the phone, better to user Windows and USB mass storage.
    * Dead pixel already on the screen
    * Youtube cant be used over WiFi

    I have had enough of typing this list… phone is going back asap.

    Would not wish this phone on anyone. Might even go back to my old Viewty.

  2. I have to agree with Nik, as everything he describes happens to my fone. Its shocking how bad it is. I tried to flash it with the latest software to solve the Bass issue with the FM transmitter and no joy. You have to click on several items to get to basic functions which is tyresome. The shortcuts are useless, and repeated on several screens, It would be nice if you could create shortcuts to points yourself instead of picking from a default list. The music player is terrible. You cant ready the track names properly nor scale it so you can. The widget is another pointless gimmic and any useful items such as the threaded inbox, you have to choose it each time you go to your inbox. What a waste of time. Seriously LG where you pushed for time and ran out of money releasing this one, I gonna look at HTC as my I Phone alternative.

  3. […] It’s true that I’ve been given access to products for review purposes on occasion, and sometimes I’ve been able to keep hold of the products (or been given a full software license after the review period has ended). I’ve always been careful to point out where I’ve been offered a product for review, most recently for example, with the LG Arena mobile phone. […]

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