Prada Phone by LG 3.0
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Review Why is black and white classier than colour? And should we want our phones, with their increasingly glorious screens, to mute their rainbow hues? It’s the arrival of LG’s third collaboration with Prada that’s raised these questions – a handset that favours an interface dressed mostly in black and white.
Glamour puss: Prada Phone by LG 3.0
This stylish UI makeover features scores of monochrome shortcut icons that are matched, unsurprisingly, with hardware that’s almost entirely black and white, apart from a gleaming Prada logo and three tiny chrome buttons on the top edge. The Prada logo on the front, by the way, is very subtle. It catches the light on part of the logo at a time, so it gleams like a diamond as you move the phone, instead of the whole word glowing uniformly. There’s classy.
Gingerbread for now, but will support upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich
The phone oozes elegance. It’s tall and catwalk-slim at just 8.5mm, with a pleasingly tactile back – its texture being Prada's signature Saffiono pattern – which combined with the screen and gloss-edged case all feels very high-end. At 4.3in the display is undoubtedly big and that plain black background is complemented by white outline images for apps. It looks great. Even the weather app has been remodelled in monochromer. There are colour wallpapers available, but they look suddenly rather garish in comparison.
Which leads to a problem when you download an app and feel its colour icon is just too gaudy. No matter, LG has a solution. Hold the shortcut icon and a paintbrush picture appears, revealing a palette of around 80 white line drawn icons you can replace the colour ones with. It’s simple but oddly satisfying. The phone’s build quality is extremely good. No surprise, perhaps, but it feels solid yet light for its size (138g), sturdy but understated.
One more style thing before we get to substance. The lock screen shows time, date and network on what looks like a black background. Change the wallpaper to colour, though, and you realise that this lock screen is a translucent one, so the new wallpaper is gently visible beneath. Ah, it’s the little things.
It’s easy to use, though not perfect. The four shortcuts beneath the screen are, as is common, capacitive lights. So the menu, home, back and search buttons disappear when you’re not using them. This adds to the phone’s glamorously demure appearance but it does mean that if you need to use them, you have to be quick, as they blink out of existence quickly and are then utterly invisible in even the brightest light. I suggest you memorise where they are.
The Prada-LG collaboration has gone beyond fashion phone to feature phone
The phone has brains as well as beauty. There’s a functional 8GB of storage on-board with microSD card expandability married to a respectable TI OMAP4430 1GHz dual-core processor  with 1GB RAM that clocks up a AnTuTu benchmark score of 5529, pretty much identical to the LG Optimus 2X . Likewise, there's an 8Mp camera, including an LED flash. True, the screen resolution isn’t a match for market leaders, but it’s rich and (when it’s allowed to be) colourful.
The camera is quick and responsive with plenty of shooting functions, including face tracking and continuous focus. There are only four scene modes (Auto, Portrait, Landscape and, er, Sunset) but the options are better laid out than on some cameraphones. As always with Android, there are easily accessible image resolution controls. The results are agreeable too, with captured images gleaming on the large glossy screen.
Calendar and coloured background option
Browsing was reasonably speedy though here the black and white screen furniture looked drab next to the page being surfed. Flash animation loaded fine and played back without problem. Video playback was unexceptional, with a slightly stuttery iPlayer stream quickly settled down and looked great, even sounding bearable through the phone’s speaker. Better, obviously, through the headphones.
Call quality was above average, thanks to a second microphone that acted as a noise-canceller, so your caller can always hear you. There were no problems with dropped calls or iffy signal strength. Battery life was also a cut above, lasting well over a day, before it needed a top-up.
Prada's Saffiano pattern on the back gives a distinctive appearance to the handset
LG’s first Prada collaboration was a handsome, innovative phone which as an early touchscreen with non-smart software was a nightmare when it came to texting, for instance. This third phone is sumptuously designed and makes the most of Android Gingerbread’s capabilities, discreetly customised in looks. This isn’t a cheap phone, so maybe you’d have expected Ice Cream Sandwich software. But that’s not what this phone is about.
Still, LG has said that it will update the handset to ICS in the next couple of months. It takes time working all those black and white icons into Android, you know.
Slim and subtle, the Prada phone by LG 3.0 is elegantly designed and quietly efficient. The black and white styling onscreen and off works tremendously, though you can dial up the colour if you want to. It’s fast and effective, with a decent camera and good-looking display. It’s certainly aimed beyond the fashionista know-alls but it won’t be for everyone – the Prada logo attracts a price premium. ®
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