The second collaboration between LG and fashion house Prada, the KF900 Prada Phone by LG delivers a distinctly refreshed and reworked take on the original touchscreen luxury-brand phone, whilst retaining much of the minimalist charm of the original.
Sharp design is obviously a key part of the package, and the KF900 Prada II doesn't veer too much from the upfront look of the first Prada phone.
That sleek black body with tasteful chrome trim that originally arrived a few months ahead of the iPhone has been repeated almost exactly on the new device.
What's definitely new, though, is the slide out full Qwerty keyboard that slips out from the side of the phone, all elegantly buttoned up with 39 keys well-spaced on the metallic slider. It adds some spread to the dimensions, and ups the weight of the handset, but it also adds to the functionality of the phone's messaging, note taking and browsing capabilities.
It's not only its fashionable form that's been enhanced though, function has been upgraded too. The Prada phone's touchscreen user interface has been refined, adding much of the usability seen on models like LG's Renoir and Cookie, plus pinch-to-zoom multi-touch control for browsing and image viewing.
Features have also had a facelift; this model has HSDPA high-speed 3G connectivity (up to 7.2Mbps) plus Wi-Fi support, and a 5-megapixel camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach certified lens and slow-motion video playback.
Its parade of multimedia functions include music and video players, support for high-speed streaming and downloading of content, plus video calling via a secondary front-facing camera.
The original minimalist Prada phone design reprised here is still very stylish, even if our post-iPhone familiarity with that much-imitated look has made it less immediately striking.
The large 3-inch screen is a WQVGA (240x400 pixels) resolution, 262K-colour capacitive multi-touch display, which takes up much of the front panel. An accelerometer automatically switches screen orientation in certain features, so you get appropriate sideways or portrait views of images, browser pages, video clips and so on.
At 104.5(h) x 54(w) x 16.75 mm the phone is noticeably thicker in the pocket than the original Prada, and the extra bulk of the keyboard helps chunk up the weight to a substantial 130g. It gives it a very different in-pocket feel from the skinny 12mm thin, 85g Prada 1.
A thin chrome strip beneath the display features Call, End and Clear keys, but besides a Prada logo and a video call camera above the screen, that's pretty much it for the front. Around the side are a lock button, a camera key, and volume/zoom controls. A further Multi-tasking button pulls up tabbed lists of live apps and favourite functions.
The slide out Qwerty keyboard is robust, and has a solid but smooth action. The rectangular keys are large and well spaced for comfortable tapping.
Sliding out the keyboard from standby automatically switches the screen sideways, bringing up a carousel display of touch icons for apps where the keyboard comes into its own, such as text messaging, memo, browser, to-do lists and emails. It's a practical set-up for heavy text typers.
Touch action control is, naturally, star of the show though. The user interface employs similar but not identical operation to the Renoir and Cookie.
The monochrome themes – black on white, white on black – pre-loaded on the phone are stark by contrast, and minimal chic can feel a bit dull after a while. Special Prada wallpapers – including model shots from its autumn/winter lookbook – add a splash of colour, and Prada ringtones and effects are included to extend the exclusive fashion house feel.
The touch interface, however, is generally capably implemented, with LG continuing to keep things mostly straightforward and easily manageable with simple finger-swipe action on the spacious screen, and haptic feedback confirming presses.
The home screen set-up has a novel three-way view you can swipe between with a sideways stroke of the finger, like turning a page. One is a clear uncluttered standby display, another offers a user-definable set of shortcut touch icons onscreen, while the third allows you to set up onscreen widgets by dragging and dropping apps from a selection in a pop-out widgets toolbar at the bottom of the display.
Like the Cookie, the handy widgets are limited to seven mini apps that can be activated and used with a couple of taps - world clock, calendar, clock, memo, music player, radio and image gallery. But there's a lot of scope for tailoring your shortcuts page.
Along with the Multi-tasking button and keyboard screen shortcuts, the Prada II provides plenty of ways to get to your favourites without entering the main menu system. Not that it's difficult to use, mind – navigation is very logical and intuitive.
At the bottom of the home screen are four virtual hotkeys for essentials that don't change when you switch between home pages – phone numberpad, contacts, messaging, and main menu.
Tapping the row of status info at the top of the display also pulls up more detailed information on network connection, memory, battery, etc., plus further quick-start options for the music player, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – which can be very useful when looking for quick connections.
Tapping into the main menu, it's familiar form from LG's recent touchscreen models. A column of four category icons appears on the right of the screen; a press of any of these changes the main screen grid of options to reflect that particular category – Communicate, Entertainment, Utilities or Settings.
It's a well-worked system that makes it quick and easy to locate the functions you're after with just a few presses. Once you choose a category, you can navigate the sub menu options with a scroll or press of options in a quite easy to follow way.
There's sufficient room on the display to scroll around or select options without worrying about mis-pressing or finger-straying errors. It's by no means as smooth and slick a user interface as the iPhone's benchmark-setting touch control system, but it does its job effectively enough.
One grumble we did have was with the frustrating text message touchscreen option - although this can be got around easily enough by using the Qwerty keyboard instead.
Problem is, the onscreen alphanumeric keys are squeezed into the left portion of the display, with too close control options running down the right next to the 3, 6, 9 buttons – making it too susceptible to annoying finger-slip errors and mode changes mid-typing. Other than that, though, we found it quite a satisfactory touch interface.
What's more, LG has implemented a pinch-to-zoom iPhone-style multi-touch option for looking at images in the phone's gallery, and for zooming in and out of webpages on the device's full internet browser. Using thumb and forefinger to zoom in or out by bringing together or pulling apart on a pic or webpage, this works almost effortlessly and adds a pleasing touch element to the fairly straight control system.
The camera itself is a decently performing 5-megapixel shooter. It doesn't have the full firepower of the Renoir's 8-megapixel top-of-the-range shooter, but it can produce finely detailed, high quality images with good colour reproduction.
It automatically flips into side-ways camera-alike mode when the camera's fired up. The touch user interface is easy to get to grips with, thanks to a combination of icons and pop up lists of options within the settings options.
The autofocus system works smartly and efficiently, though the 2-step button can lag a fraction between pressing and snapping when taking quick shots so be careful of movement before the image is captured to avoid blur.
There are a typical selection of settings to cope with different conditions, plus a macro mode for close ups that does the job well. An LED flash is included rather than a more effective xenon type, and so low-light images aren't as impressive as shooting in normal daylight conditions. Illumination is limited to a few feet and shots in dark situations can look grainy and noisy, and colour rendition isn't particularly good.
Shots can be tweaked after shooting, with a wide selection of effects, drawing, text and colouring options that can be applied by a bit of judicious finger action.
The Prada phone has a decent set of video capture features too. As well as shooting in 640x480 pixels (VGA) and 720x480 pixels resolution at 30 frames per second for reasonably good mobile phone quality, it can also record in slow-motion mode at a higher frame rate for slowed down playback. Further tools allow manipulation of clips and basic in-phone editing.
It's video playback for downloaded, streamed or sideloaded content is up to scratch too. It supports DivX video playback, with conversion software supplied for PCs, and the large display offers a good platform for playing back moving images.
Online and other activity
With Wi-Fi and HSDPA powering the browser on this handset, plus the multi-touch zoom control, you can enjoy a reasonable browsing experience. Pages generally load up promptly, and it's easy to scroll around and navigate pages. Onscreen icons also provide an intuitive layer of navigation many mobiles ignore. It's not iPhone-slick, though - more like a decent mid-tier phone effort.
The music player has a typically low-key LG user interface based on selecting from lists of familiar track categories, and a no-hassle touch control panel when tracks are playing, with a draggable timeline on tunes. The music player can be used in the background in standby or using other functions, too, with one of the widgets enabling control of the functions.
With 60MB of internal storage, music fans will need the 1GB MicroSD memory card that LG includes in the luxury Prada phone package. There's also a better than average set of earphones provided, which sound very serviceable, offering a decent amount of bottom end and higher frequency detail.
Generous range of features
Although there's no standard 3.5mm headphone socket on the bodywork, the two-piece Prada-labelled earphones have a standard 3.5mm headphone adapter built in, so you can add you very own higher quality (or expensively-branded) headphones. Bluetooth headphones are also supported.
An FM radio adds to the music-playing abilities of this handset, doing an effective job with a no-fuss user interface. Other entertainment is provided by a couple of staple LG motion-controlled games (rolling dice and wheel of fortune), plus a touch operated golf game. Further Java games can be downloaded.
Although it will appeal to the style-first buyer, it still maintains a run-down of practical common-but-useful features and tools. Email attachments and copied over PDF, Word, text, Powerpoint and Excel files can be read by an integrated document viewer, while organiser software includes a calendar, calculator, memos and to do lists, world clock, convertor, calculator, alarm, stopwatch and voice recording functions.
Even with a luxury Prada phone, ordinary phone calling is still a key function. Easy access to and easy use of the numberpad and contacts make it a breeze to use for voice calling, and sound quality is first rate. Network connectivity is reliable, and the Wi-Fi set-up works easily.
How much users will get from a full battery tank will depend on how much they use the high-powered features. LG reckons on an optimum rundown time of up to 3 hours of talktime or 400 hours of standby, which is an acceptable estimate for this sort of device. In our tests, on average we got over two days out of the phone in standby with our typical usage - a reasonable performance.
Sleek yet functional
While the face of the Prada phone has changed little from the sleekly stylish original, there have been distinct changes to form as well as function. The slide-out Qwerty keyboard is finely implemented, but inevitably it adds more bulk to the phone – something that fashion conscious buyers will appreciate less than high-rolling business types.
The functionality and touchscreen user interface have been vastly improved over the original, making it a far higher specified, more accomplished device than other style-brand specials. Whether that added bulk is justified enough by those features is a question would-be buyers will have to decide themselves, and some may choose to look elsewhere for slimmer phones, or mobiles that have alternative attractions inside as well as out.
Network availability: Orange, others TBC
Ease of use: 4/5
Call quality: 4.5/5