LG Prada 3.0 review

We were excited about the latest Prada phone from LG, mainly thanks to it offering a weird monochrome icon set combined with a big screen, slim case and rather interesting design. It runs Android 2.3.7 with that crazy LG skin over the top, which does at least make it stand out. Much like a naked man “stands out” in a post office queue.

The LG Prada 3.0 offers a 4.3″ display powered by a 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP4430 processor, with 1GB of system RAM. There’s 4GB of onboard storage space in this particular model, plus we had just over 2GB available for app storage – all in a very thin chassis that just 8.5mm thick.

This model has been supplied for review by Expansys, which is selling the LG Prada 3.0 for £429 at time of writing.

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It’s big and it’s thin, basically. Less wide than the Motorola RAZR so a little easier to fit in your hand, and quite similar in feel and proportion to the ever popular Galaxy S II – but with capacitive buttons beneath the display.

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We still don’t get LG’s approach to backlit buttons. As soon as you stop touching the screen for more than a couple of seconds the button backlight goes out, so you lose sight of the icons. The buttons only light up again if you touch the screen or the buttons themselves in the hope of hitting the right spot.

It makes no sense to us at all. It’s only LG phones that confuse us in this way. It’s enough to put us off.

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What we do like are the metallic edges and sliding door for the USB connector along the top edge of the phone. There’s also a camera button on the Prada’s top-left, which is an odd place to put it, but it works well when holding the phone in landscape mode.

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Sadly, that “leather” back is actually hard and rather rough plastic, which is a bit of a shame.

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Overall, though, the Prada 3.0 feels solid, the screen is bright and responsive to touches, plus it does indeed have quite a stylish and individual feel to it.

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And the OS looks mad. There’s no option to deactivate LG’s skinning that we could find, so crazy B&W icons it is. Although…

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…LG has either not bothered or been told not to alter the colours of the Google app icons, so those ones display in colour. Which sort of ruins the entire concept of the skin, doesn’t it?

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Also, it’s a bit jarring switching from B&W Home pages to full colour apps, it take the eyes a while to adjust from the high contrast darker images to the softer colour screens they bring up.

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A selection of widgets there. Again, it would be nice if LG converted the contacts icons to B&W as well, surely?

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You can also edit the fonts if you want it to look even more silly. It could easily be the maddest phone anyone’s ever seen by the time you’re done playing with it.

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One thing we really do like is LG’s Social+ widget. It’s the same as found on last year’s Optimus 3D and other LG handsets, offering a very nice and slick way to aggregate your Twitter and Facebook accounts in a scrolling window.

You can switch accounts from the icon to the top-right of the widget, plus status updates open in the LG’s own bespoke page, rather than kicking you out to a mobile web site. It’s a lovely little widget.

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LG’s browser tweaks are also very useful. The lower bar lets you easily manage multiple windows, plus there’s offline saving of articles built in for saving stuff for later examination. It’s blisteringly fast at scrolling and text resizing, making text look great on the big screen.

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The Prada 3.0 also comes with the standard Android text selection tool, complete with start and end tabs for copying chunks of text from one blog to another.

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The camera’s very good. Headline tech specs say it’s an 8megapixel model, with images emerging at 2448×3264 resolution.

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Handles trees very well, plus the colour reproduction is nice. Not too bright, not too grey, does a good job at managing contrast when you’ve got light and dark areas in the same shot.

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Very good at close-up shots, too.

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And a panorama mode. This drops the resolution to 2424×456 and stitches images together well. It also has a nice targeting system that directs you to where you need to point to line up the next shot, which takes the guesswork out of creating wide images.

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The Prada won’t let us take screen captures of the camera app’s menus, so there’s a rubbish photo of them. It’s a simple layout, with your usual options and just a handful of scene modes.

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That’s the digital zoom in effect. It’s usable as long as you don’t plan on viewing the zoomed images at full resolution. Isn’t that right, Mr Horsey?

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Great camera, basically. Fast and about the equal of any other high-end phone sensor out there today, we’d say. Quick to focus and use, and we have no complaints about the results.

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And there’s some nice image editing power on here, too, in the standalone picture editor. This is where you apply filters to shots, with options for motion blur and more.

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Fancy hipster-ish filters.

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Adaptable motion blur.

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You can also combine images and erase parts of them, building up your own little montages. A very nice app, plus all of the above works with the 1megapixel images captured with the secondary front-facing chat camera.

Video goes all the way up to 1080p. We couldn’t find any autofocus options on the Prada, even when reducing resolution to 720p, so results sadly lack focusing. Seems mad not to include that on the phone, especially one so high-spec. Click on the YouTube link to watch this at full 720p resolution.

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Still can’t find an autofocus option for the video camera. It must be here somewhere, surely? Tapping the screen does nothing.

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LG’s broken rank from the other Android makers and included a custom video player app, which, for once, does away with Google’s standard grey option. It worked well with our random selection of AVI and other files, plus there’s also a screen lock option so you can watch stuff without having to be so careful about accidentally touching the thing and exiting to the Home screen during an exciting bit.

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The music player’s a bit bland, though. Perhaps it would’ve looked more thrilling if we’d bothered putting on an album that had artwork in the folder? Still, it works, like all Android music player apps.

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Lock screen player controls are a bonus, plus there’s another collection of music controls within the drop-down notifications menu.

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There are also a few gesture-based control options (left) in here, plus quick dialing support for pulling numbers out of your contacts list when you start dialing a few digits.

JOKE:
The dialer has all of the numbers, from zero all the way up to nine. This is our recurring joke, so you’d better get used to it.

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The messaging section looks very nice in cool B&W, plus there are shortcuts on the keyboard to bring up numbers through a long-press rather than having to switch screens. The comma really needs to be there, though. Dump that stupid smiley face for a comma next time, please.

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The long-press Home screen editing menu (left) along with the app drawer editing screen. Very handy to be able to delete apps from the main listing.

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LG’s put its Smart World app store on here. We didn’t bother registering and doubt very much if anyone ever will.

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Memory and stuff. Over 2GB spare space for apps is a welcome luxury, plus there’s 4GB of additional storage space in this version of the Prada for media. There’s an SD card slot if you need more than that.

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A gallery widget (left) and the standard Android gallery.

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LG’s own Richnote app, which is a multimedia notebook kind of thing, like the many apps already available. And a stylish Calendar widget.

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That’s about all the screenshots we have to show you.

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So then. The LG Prada 3.0 is another solid Android phone. The screen’s big, responsive and bright, the body slim enough that it doesn’t feel too huge in the hand, plus the backlit touch buttons are sensitive (when the light’s on and you can actually find them).

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There’s no glitching or noticeable slowdown at all when the phone’s in action, with the dual-core processor keeping Android 2.3, web sites and apps running as smoothly as you’d think.

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We don’t like it quite as much as we’d hoped, mainly because the B&W effect is rather harsh on the eyes and it’s confusing on the poor old brain crashing between B&W and colour apps. But there’s no denying it’s a powerful and unique phone, with no glaring flaws. If you want a phone that’s self-consciously different, this will do you.

SOFTWARE: 8/10
As much as we wanted to admire the stylish B&W interface, it’s rather hard on the brain switching between high contrast black and white screens and colour apps. It does look nice, but in practice it’s quite annoying. Still, LG’s added some good new social and web browser functionality, that makes it a user-friendly experience.

HARDWARE: 8/10
Great screen, solid chassis, with an excellent camera. We simply cannot understand why LG makes the backlit button turn off after a few seconds, though. It makes using it a constant guessing game. The rough plastic “leather effect” back cover is also a bit of a disappointment, but the rest of the phone, its buttons and little sliding doors, is engineered beautifully.

PERFORMANCE: 9/10
It’s fast and smooth, with the dual-core TI processor throwing Android 2.3 around very well. Menus are responsive, it unlocks quickly, and the camera app’s super-fast in operation too. Even LG’s big widgets don’t slow the Home screens down, which is good to see. You might actually not need to delete them all for once.

OVERALL: 8/10
It’s a good package and we like some of LG’s user interface tweaks, particularly its stylish widgets, but it feels very, very strange moving from B&W Home screens to colour apps. Get Android 4.0 on here and lose the novelty theme and we’d like it more, although it would lose some of its quirky charm in the process.

Thanks again to Expansys for the borrow of the phone. The shop will do you an LG Prada 3.0 for £429 at time of writing if you like your phones a little bit peculiar.

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