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LG Prada Phone review: LG Prada Phone

The LG Prada Phone is a svelte, stylish phone with decent specs and plenty to please dedicated followers of fashion.

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Katie Collins
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Katie Collins

Senior European Correspondent

Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.

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The third LG Prada Phone -- or to use its preposterously long name, the Prada Phone by LG 3.0 -- is the Italian fashion label's third collaboration with the Korean mobile maker. It's a hoity-toity device with decent specs, but is it worth a whopping £430?

orig-prada-phone-main.jpg
7.5

LG Prada Phone

The Good

Fashion styling and svelte figure; Smooth performance and intriguing Android skin; Searingly bright NOVA screen.

The Bad

Needs Ice Cream Sandwich update; underwhelming processor and screen resolution; Build quality lacks premium finish.

The Bottom Line

The LG Prada Phone is a forward-thinking fashion phone that's bound to appeal to the it crowd (but perhaps not the IT crowd), with its eye-catching design and unique Android skin. It's pricey given its specs and the build lacks luxury, but there's still a lot to like.

The price of the LG Prada Phone puts it in the same league as lots of high-end powerhouses, such as the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Apple's iPhone 4S, as well as newer phones such as the Sony Xperia S and  HTC's quad-core beast, the One X. So how does it measure up?

The LG Prada Phone is available from £21 per month on a two-year contract.

Should I buy the LG Prada Phone?

With a 1GHz dual-core chip, a beautiful 4.3-inch screen and an update to the latest Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, promised at some point soon, the LG Prada Phone is as respectable a choice as any other decent Android phone. But if you're interested in this mobile over others, it's likely you'll have been drawn to it by its fashion design and branding.

As phones and tech companies increasingly gain cult followings of their own, mobiles sporting fashion labels or car logos, which were once the status symbols of consumer tech products, seem to be less relevant. Not only have mobile makers seriously upped their game in terms of design, but the sophistication of the technology in models like the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2 is something many consumers are not willing to sacrifice for an inferior phone, even one with a unique design.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 camera
The textured back is eye-catching from a distance and scratchy enough to double as a nail file.

If you build a stylish fashion phone to competitively high specifications, however, as long as you don't whack a ridiculous price tag on it, it's still possible to create a product that's both credible and desirable. The Prada Phone compromises on neither style nor substance, but its branding does come at a cost.

Specs are similar to last year's top Android phones, but at £430 -- around the same price as the iPhone 4S -- it's a good £100 more than the similarly specced HTC Sensation. It's likely though that if you're used to shelling out extra for a designer label, this will be neither a surprise nor a problem.

Ultimately, if fashion is your passion and you're keen to stand out from the samey-samey Apple crowd, you can't go wrong with the Prada Phone. If labels are not your first love, you'll be better off investing in the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S2.

Design and build quality

Rectangular, black and minimalist, the Prada Phone runs the risk of looking just like every other phone out there, but a few clever touches of Italian glamour help it to stay just ahead of the pack.

With no awkward lumps or bumps, the phone is impeccably svelte at a skinny 8.5mm. A smoke and mirrors effect that LG calls Floating Mass Technology also airbrushes the phone into appearing even thinner than it really is. I dearly look forward to the day that LG starts making phones that actually can float, but until then, I shall have to decipher the exact meaning of the mysterious floating mass jargon myself.

I'd hazard a guess that it's referring to the fact that the back panel slopes inwards from the edges, and is altogether narrower than the front of the phone. When it's placed on a flat surface it creates the illusion that the slim, shiny-rimmed mobile is hovering above it.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 thickness
Not quite as skeletal as the Motorola Razr, but a credibly waif-like 8.5mm thickness.

A single sheet of glass covers the front of the phone which, in the right light, gives the impression that the screen fills the front of the phone. There is, in fact, a black bezel that runs around the screen, but presuming you haven't changed the wallpaper, it's hard to tell where the bezel ends and the screen begins. LG describes the rim of the phone as being made from a 'real metal material'. I suspect that somewhere under the black chrome finish lies some kind of plastic, as the phone feels relatively light.

The Prada label is emblazoned in silver across both the front and back of the phone. Underneath the rear label, near the bottom of the panel, is a small LG logo, imprinted -- one might almost say disguised -- in black.

The distinctive Prada Saffiano design that adorns the back of the phone may look delightful from a distance, particularly in the kind of smoky, dimly lit Parisian bars we imagine fashionistas frequent. But get up close, and you'll see that the worn-leather look is actually just an effect etched onto plastic. Peel off the back of the phone and you'll see the panel is not only made from plastic, but cheap, flimsy plastic. It wouldn't surprise me if this disappointing material is off-putting to fashion fans.

I must add that when taking long and very important phone calls, the textured back started to feel a little scratchy against my palms. I'm aware that style and comfort are not traditionally amicable bedfellows in the fashion world, but something more luxurious and with a higher thread-count wouldn't have gone amiss here, particularly given the price of the handset.

Overall, the phone feels solid, although the front is significantly stronger than the back. Press on the plastic shell and you'll experience some gentle flex and quiet creaking, making it painfully apparent how thin the backplate really is.

Inside the chassis is a SIM slot. Mercifully, given the paltry 8GB internal storage, there's a microSD card slot, meaning you can boost the Prada Phone's memory by 32GB. Both can be accessed without having to remove the battery, which while not hugely important, is a considerate design touch.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 back
Underneath the panel is a microSD card slot, allowing you to expand the Prada's memory by up to 32GB.

To enhance the minimalist appearance of the phone, physical buttons and ports have been kept to a minimum. Four standard Android touch buttons are arranged at the bottom of the screen, but they niftily fade away whenever they're not in use. With the exception of two discreet volume buttons on the side, all are arranged in a neat row across the top.

From left to right, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack, a shortcut key, a micro USB port with a nifty sliding cover and a lock/unlock switch. The buttons and slider are all identical chrome studs, which is a classy touch, although the unlock key was on the diddy side and required too much fumbling and fiddling for my liking.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 headphones
Stylish Prada-branded buds come bundled with the phone.

The earphones that are bundled with the Prada Phone are significantly more stylish than the plastic tat we're used to. They also have the Prada logo etched into the sides. Unsurprisingly, the sound quality isn't up to much, but team them with some Prada sunnies while lounging by the pool at your Lake Como estate, and your look will be complete.

Screen

The Prada Phone boasts a glimmering NOVA display, which at 4.3 inches is the same size as the Samsung Galaxy S2 screen. This sizes is the perfect compromise if you want a screen big enough for browsing and watching videos on the go, but not so big that holding it will give you cramp in your perfectly manicured hand.

NOVA screens, LG claims, are more than twice as bright as the already retina-melting Super AMOLED displays favoured by Samsung. LG claims they also offer purer whites, deeper blacks and consume 50 per cent less power than traditional LCD screens.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 logo
The low-calorie Nova screen is gloriously bright and measures an ideal 4.3 inches.

At 480x800 pixels, the screen resolution is a tad dated and disappointing, although it's not enough of a problem to affect general usability. At 217 pixels per inch (ppi), it lags the 300+ppi screens found on the iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus. Videos looked crisp though, and only the very smallest text caused problems when browsing. For a phone that prides itself on its monochrome interface, it must be said that colours appear vibrant and vivid.

Turn the brightness up to full, however, and it becomes apparent that black levels aren't as deep as they could be. The illusion that the display fills the whole front of the phone is ruined by the contrast between the black of the bezel and the brighter black of the screen.

That said, the brightness technology LG uses does mean the phone emits the kind of dazzling glow you'd want on your side if you were lost in an underground cave system full of light-sensitive carnivorous monsters.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread

The Prada Phone will not, unfortunately, arrive packing the latest version of Android, but with a special designer edition of 2.3 Gingerbread stowed away onboard, there's enough that's different about this blower's software to intrigue me for now.

An Ice Cream Sandwich update has been promised for the first quarter of 2012, but with April swiftly approaching, time is starting to run out. Design teams from two different companies have had to collaborate over the customisation we see on the Prada Phone -- that's one design team more than usual -- and given how long it takes for most companies to push out updates, I imagine we might have a while to wait yet.

They say that fashion is cyclical, but we thought we'd waved goodbye for good to greyscale interfaces. According to Prada, black is back. The LG Prada Android skin has been subject to a splattering from the monochrome paint gun and, surprisingly, there's quite a lot to like.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 menu
The noirish monochrome colour scheme means there's no risk of clashing with your frock.

The Prada Phone comes with seven standard Android home screens, which you can pack full of your favourite apps and widgets. Of course, the Prada Phone will have access to Google Play (formerly Android Market), and the hundreds of thousands of apps it offers.

Arranged along the bottom of the home screens are four standard shortcut keys giving you access to the most vital of phone functions. There's a pull-down menu at the top of the phone that gives you access to notifications and connectivity settings.

All the menus, as well as the pre-installed widgets and apps, have been transformed into black and white to match the colour scheme. If you want to plant a shortcut to an app you've downloaded onto one of the home screens, you have the option of choosing a new white logo from a surprisingly comprehensive range that has been specially designed to blend in with the overall milieu.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 homescreen
Ice cream sandwiches are more fattening than gingerbread, so it's no surprise that LG opted for the latter OS on this fashion phone.

I'd also add that while you do grow accustomed to the positioning and look of the logos, not being able to recognise apps, such as Facebook or YouTube, by their distinctive colours does mean navigation requires more concentration than usual. Confused brow-furrowing may ensue.

The Prada interface only runs skin-deep, and using the phone for any length of time will reveal splashes of colour from Android that are lurking in the hypodermis of the software. The other disappointment is that the app logo transformation tool only works on the home screens, not on the menus, which rather ruins the black and white effect.

I quite liked the originality of the interface, but it won't by any means be to everyone's taste. If you're even entertaining the thought that you might grow bored of the monochrome theme, it's likely that at some point you will. Fortunately, Prada has provided you with snazzy printed wallpaper options to shake things up.

The first, in yellow and green, is dizzying to look at and is likely to sear through your eyeballs into your head in a most unpleasant way if you ever check your phone at unsociable hours. The second, a blue and tan affair, is less garish, but it's disappointing that there isn't more on offer in terms of design customisation options, considering that the LG Prada is a fashion phone.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 logo
Observe how lovely your favourite site looks in the Prada Phone's browser.

A standard Android music player and browser are on offer and the phone also comes equipped with Polaris Office for reading and editing documents on the move. I found the touch keyboard on the phone to be adequate, but on the jittery, over-sensitive side, so you'd probably be better off downloading some alternatives and having a tinker to discover which suits you best.

An antenna built into the earphones allows you to listen to an FM radio, and the phone also comes equipped with near field communication technology for wireless tag reading and sharing.

Social functionality isn't exactly at the heart of the Prada Phone's software. The inbuilt LG Social widget appears on the second home screen and is sufficient for casual networking, but didn't always update. It was also nightmarish trying to tag friends in posts as it seemed to have no capability for recalling your followers as you type. Posting photos was unnecessarily awkward, and frequently it took several attempts to make a successful go of what should be a straightforward task.

Performance

In the emaciated belly of this slim little blower hides a 1GHz dual-core chip and 1GB of RAM. It struts through all the games, browsing and other tasks you can throw it with confidence and sass.

In the face of many other top Android phones, however, which boast slightly more power for fewer pennies, not to forget the quad-core monsters that were unveiled at Mobile World Congress this year, the Prada Phone pales in comparison. Before long, these specs will look extremely dated.

LG Prada Phone 3.0 Quadrant
The phone performed remarkably well when we put it through its paces using the Quadrant benchmark test.

When I ran the Quadrant benchmark test on the Prada Phone, it scored surprisingly well, beating both the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Galaxy Nexus. Home screen transitions are creamily smooth, scrolling is nippy, and apps opened speedily. All in all, I experienced very little lag when navigating around the phone, although if you started downloading masses of apps and widgets, and it's likely that you'd start to see it slow down a little.

Battery life on smart phones is always frustrating, but I'm pleased to report that the Prada Phone has as long a life as the best of them -- which could perhaps be due to its slightly less powerful processor and supposedly battery-saving screen tech.  The phone quite happily managed a couple of long conversations, extensive social networking, constant texting, casual browsing and a few short Angry Birds sessions.

Camera

On the back of the Prada Phone is perched an 8-megapixel snapper with an LED flash. It's positioned awkwardly, very close to the top left corner of the phone, which makes it very easy for your finger to slip in front of the lens when using it for landscape shots.

The camera has face tracking and scene modes, as well as a reasonable range of settings you can tinker with including exposure and white balance. If you like to get creative but aren't comfortable with camera controls, there's also a photo editing app that comes pre-installed on the phone that allows you to add various effects or borders to your snaps.

The camera was adequate, and exactly what you'd expect for a phone of this standard. It definitely wouldn't replace your dSLR, or even your favourite compact, but it would serve as a reliable and competent back-up option when you're on the move. 

LG Prada Phone photo test 1
Detail and sharpness were decent, making the Prada Phone's camera a viable alternative to your primary snapper in an emergency (click image to enlarge).

In the photos we took, colours seemed generally vivid, bright and true to life. Sharpness and exposure was good in places, but too inconsistent, with the camera struggling in bright conditions.

LG Prada Phone photo test 2
The camera struggled on this drab day to properly expose the shot, although colours remained bright (click image to enlarge).

The Prada phone also shoots 1080p resolution video and sports a forward-facing camera, which is perfect for video calling, pouty self-portrait shots, or re-touching your makeup in the back of the taxi limo.

Conclusion

The LG Prada Phone is an eye-catching device that will turn heads and attract looks of envy. Decent specs, solid performance and an intriguing Android skin mean that this phone should not be overlooked as just another fashion phone. The quality of materials used to put this supposedly premium handset together, however, are not as luxurious as they should have been.

Whether you'll get as much enjoyment out of using it as you would other phones that are available for around the same price is questionable. That said, the Prada Phone has been specifically designed to appeal to followers of fashion. Once the Ice Cream Sandwich update is released, I'm convinced that those who do choose to fork out will be entirely satisfied with its performance.