The LG Arena is a touch screen smartphone which similar functionality to the Apple iPhone. It is 3G Internet enabled, has WiFi and multimedia capabilities.Where it falls down compared to the iPhone is applications, which are mostly non-existant. The original Arena interface was fairly slick and fast but if you buy the phone with a Telstra plan, you can take advantage of the funky TelstraOne interface instead.
We tested the TelstraOne unit but we have also looked at the regular interface in the past. Both are fairly quick and easy to use. The advantage of the TelstraOne version is that you are given access to exclusive Foxtel and Telstra services. However, if these don’t interest you, the original Arena will more than suffice.
We tested the multimedia functionality of the unit and were impressed with how well it worked. The phone comes with internal memory but also has a MicroSD slot to expand the storage quite significantly. Unfortunately, accessing the MicroSD slot requires you to take off the back cover. The LG Renoir does a better job of MicroSD integration with an external door to access the slot. However, the Arena is a much better phone overall.
The biggest issue we had with the Renoir was that it didn’t include a 3.5mm headphone jack. While that seems fairly unimportant at first, having to carry around a proprietary cable becomes annoying quickly. You can’t just hook it up to a friend’s sound system to play your music with bringing the cable with you. Thankfully, the LG has seen that people respond well to having a headphone jack and have included it. The headphones they also provide are inner ear phones which provide excellent sound – an advantage over the iPhone and its poor earbuds.
The back of the phone has a five Megapixel camera which is capable of taking video at a maximum of 720×480 but while the photos and video look reasonably good, they aren’t amazing. The flash works well but can be overpowering in darker situations. The lens doesn’t have a cover, like previous LG phones but we always found the lens to be annoying more than anything so that’s not a complaint.
The biggest issue we have with the phone is that many of the programs that run on it require other programs to run properly. For example, let’s say you are taking a photo. If you try to switch to the photo gallery, you will get a message saying that there is a software conflict. Until you shut down the camera you can’t look at the gallery. It’s little nagging things like this that get annoying over the life of a phone.
We can’t really fault the Arena when it comes to performance. Its speakers are able to attain a high volume and sound great. Unlike many phones, when you have an MP3 set as the ringtone, it doesn’t horribly distort it when the phone rings. The calls are clear and the touch screen interface is fairly responsive. It isn’t as slick as the iPhone, with the on-screen keypad being a little hit and miss at times but it works well overall.
The strengths of this phone lie in its multimedia capabilities. It can do all the same things as other phones like music, radio, images, voice recording and video but it can accept file formats like DiVX and has Dolby Mobile sound so it has exceptional playback quality. When the phone gets bogged down with data though, it does tend to get a little slower, especially when making playlists or searching through your files.
The Arena is capable of web browsing and has multiple Google applications like mapping and YouTube. However, the internet capabilities are a little clumsy to use and are not as intuitive as other phones. They work fine but are a little slower than we are used to and tend to slow down web browsing on the whole. If using the web is only a once and while thing for you, then it isn’t a big issue but this isn’t a phone for heavy web users.
The design of the unit is fairly uninspiring. It looks much the same as any other generic touch screen phone on the market and doesn’t scream “buy me now”. There is a power button on the top and volume and lock buttons on the side. The accessories/USB/recharging slot is hidden behind a nice little sliding door which we quite liked but on the whole the brushed metal look just didn’t do it for us. This is purely a matter of taste though, others may like it.
If you are looking to pick up a phone right now, the iPhone is the hot product to have. However, if multimedia is important to you, the Arena beats down Apples phone without contest. It isn’t quite as slick but it certainly is able to provide incredible sound and video options. The TelstraOne interface is simple to use but it doesn’t mask the few flaws in the unit we discovered. On the whole, this is a good phone but it isn’t great. Hopefully, if an Arena II is released, they will address its shortcomings because that would be a phone to look out for.