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M is for music with Marshall's first smartphone, the London

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For those about to rock, we salute you! Put your hands together for the Marshall London, the first smartphone from the legendary audio manufacturer.

British company Marshall, founded in 1960, is famous for its amps stacked behind some of the world's greatest rockers -- and as such, the company's first smartphone has a hard-rockin' heritage to live up to. Today, the audio and sound company specializes in making speakers and headphones as well as amplifiers, and the London squarely emphasizes high-quality sound, rocking out with a number of features that promise to boost your listening experience.

Music is so important the London boasts a dedicated quick access button to launch your music player of choice, called the M Button. The M button and the scroll wheel that controls the volume are clad in old-school brass set into the black body, harking back to the black-and-brass style of classic Marshall amps.

The body is a textured, rubberised case somewhere between an amp case and a tyre. Where other manufacturers pride themselves on how seamless they can make their phones, Marshall deliberately insets the screen slightly so there's a tiny ridge around the display. Whether it protects the screen from drops and scratches as Marhsall claims it does remains to be seen, but it adds to the overall old-school analogue feel of the design.

I found the analogue styling an absolute blast and a refreshingly individual change from most phone designs, but if you prefer a sleek and slim futuristic phone this probably isn't for you. That said, despite its chunky rubberised body, the London is surprisingly light.

The brass buttons and wheels and the rubberised case give the London a satisfyingly hoary analogue feel. Rich Trenholm/CNET

The London is equipped with two front-facing speakers and two 3.5mm headphone jacks. You can share your music with a friend, and when the second headphone is plugged in the onscreen volume control allows you to adjust the volume for each listener separately. Alternatively, you can use the dual volume controls with the built-in DJ app to cue up your next track should you find yourself on the wheels of steel.

That DJ app incidentally is one of the only additions Marshall has made to the London's Android firmware, which is the relatively recent 5.0.2 Lollipop. That lack of bloatware should mean that you won't be waiting too long for future Android updates.

Software features include a global equalizer for customising your sound settings. There are plenty of EQ presets too. The phone plays FLAC and other lossless files among the many audio formats it can handle.

Aside from the audio goodies, the device itself isn't particularly high-end. It has a 4.7-inch display that's only 720p, technically high definition but not as detailed as many other new phones. Camera features include an 8-megapixel rear shooter and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. There's 16GB of internal storage to store you music files, which you can expand with a microSD card. Up until now, the upper limit has been 64GB, but a firmware update is bumping the amount of lossless audio you can store up to 128GB.

Managing the London is a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 2GB of RAM, powered by a removable 2,500mAh battery. While this isn't the latest monster processor or a particularly beefy battery, Marshall reckons the London is designed to make the most of what it has. So when you're just listening to music with the phone in your pocket, the main processor stays asleep and the discrete sound chip takes over, drawing less juice from the battery. In terms of battery life, Marshall claims 55 hours of listening to MP3s in your headphones or 30 hours on the speakers.

Currently, the phone is available in Sweden and comes with the company's Mode earbuds. The London sells online for SEK4,995, or roughly $585, £375 and AU$790 converted. You can buy it, fittingly, in London; it's on sale in the achingly hip Boxpark retail unit in the UK's hipster capital Shoreditch. Sadly there are currently no plans for the phone to hit the road on a US tour, as it doesn't currently support the different 4G bands used in the States.

Look out for our full review soon. Oh, and here's the encore: It says "Long live rock'nroll" on the battery. How rawk is that?!

For more hard-rockin' gadgets from technology trade show IFA, check out cnet.com/ifa. Thank you and goodnight!

Discuss Marshall London

Quick Specifications See All

  • Service Provider not specified
  • Diagonal Size 4.7 in
  • Weight 5.11 oz
  • Sensors Accelerometer, proximity sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor
  • Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
  • Additional Features Active noise-cancellation
    Dual microphones
    notification LED