LG's Arena -- the phone, not the venue in Birmingham -- is LG's brand-new flagship 5-megapixel handset for 2009, undressed this week here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Our comic-readin', white shoe-wearin' bearded stud Rich Trenholm briefed you on what's hot about this phone, but trust us not to just leave it at that. We spent some time examining the Arena, its 3D interface and its features, up close and intimidatingly personal.

LG's made all that fancy 3D menu-animation jiggery-pokery look smooth, and free of low frame-rate clunkiness. The spinning menus actually look like they do in the promo videos LG was showing off, and mad as it sounds, that's not common.

The phone itself feels smart and the all-metal enclosure is sturdy, like a stallion bathed in concrete, then frozen. Then coated in more concrete. Menus are attractive, but sweet holy mother of all things silicon -- was there any need to have this many menus?

Clue: no, there wasn't.

It felt like there were different styles of menu all offering access to the same features -- perplexing, and a foreign journalist we found ourselves talking to at the stand felt the same. True, he was probably confused by our fancy English words, but his facial expressions were clear: too many menus, too little focus.

But that's not to say we didn't like it, but it'll just take a whole bunch of getting used to. It felt like it was trying too hard to be different and fancy, and had lost focus on being easy to use.

Bounce your way through all our hands-on shots over the next few pages if you want to see what we saw. The LG Arena will be on sale in the UK in March.

One of several menu screens. This one groups related apps (contacts, mail, chat, and photos, videos and camera) on their own lines for easy access.
Oh wait! Here many of those apps are again! This is more of a main menu, with just your essential apps on offer.
Your photo gallery. Nicely presented and both photos and videos are accessible from here.
Here's a totally different screen for selecting music to listen to -- sort of a rotating wheel of album art, which you cycle through by flicking your finger up and down. It wasn't very responsive, so we weren't that impressed.
Here's a screen for showing you what's currently playing.
This menu is one way to browse contacts: by face.
Ooh here's another way: by text! And look, there's a chap called Nate. What a well-named fellow.
Here's part of the 3D interface in action, switching between menus.
And again, only this time switching from contacts to a media gallery (not that you can really make out the gallery).
Since there's no physical keyboard, you're offered two virtual keyboard styles: portrait, which uses the traditional handset layout...
...or landscape, which offers you a full QWERTY keyboard. Typing was a pain, and after coming from our trusty iPhone was a bitter disappointment. Maybe it'll get easier with practice, but we're not sold.
Finally, a couple of physical attributes. This is the 5-megapixel camera seen around the back of the phone.
And up on top is a standard 3.5mm headphone socket.


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