LG Prada 3.0

LG and Prada have just unveiled their latest smartphone offering, the Prada Phone by LG 3.0. It's a device that combines high-end smartphone components from LG with a unique Prada-designed chassis and a distinctive, almost-monochrome UI. (Shame the name's so awkward though.)

We got our first look at the phone at today's joint event in London's Mayfair district, so join us after the jump to find out what we thought.

YouTube link for mobile viewing

Let's get this out of the way before we begin -- it's easy to see a device like the Prada Phone by LG 3.0 as a niche product with limited appeal. And we imagine that, if you pick up one of these in early 2012, you'll probably pay a little more for the Prada name alone. That's just the way these things work. But let's set that aside for the moment. The Prada 3.0 is nevertheless a striking piece of hardware. At 8.5mm thick, it's one of the thinnest 4.3-inch smartphones available, and its curved edges and flat top and bottom give it a sleek appearance similar to Nokia's Lumia 800. It's a nice piece of kit, and arguably the best-looking LG phone yet.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

With the exception of the volume rocker on the left edge (and of course the capacitive keys under the screen), all of your buttons are located on the top edge of the device. You've got two small, circular buttons for power and camera control, and a neat sliding door to access the micro-USB port. It's all very sleek and minimalist, and even the 8-megapixel rear camera is tucked away in a corner so as not to intrude too much into the Prada-patented textured back.

The Prada Phone's screen is an 800-nit LG NOVA Display at 800x480 (WVGA), even brighter (an extra 100 nits) than the Optimus Black earlier in the year, and it's still as impressive as ever -- bright and vivid with near pitch blacks. Internally, you'll find a familiar mix of high-end smartphone internals from LG. The same 1GHz OMAP 4430 chip that powers the Optimus 3D, now backed up by a full gigabyte of RAM. Same 8GB internal SD card and external microSD slot allowing up to a further 32GB of storage. Other notables include a front-facing camera and NFC support.

The software is probably the most unique thing about LG's Prada Phone. As you'll see from our photos, it's a contrast-heavy affair, with striking black, white and dark grey areas. Elsewhere, visual cues are taken from LG's Optimus UI, albeit with a black-and-white twist. While we'll admit it certainly sets the device apart from other smartphones, we were left wondering whether going back to using a mostly monochrome display is going to seem a little weird. At best, it's going to take some getting used to. At worst, it'll be a reason to buy another phone instead. It should also come as no surprise to see the Prada Phone running Gingerbread (2.3.7, to be precise) as opposed to the newer Ice Cream Sandwich variant of Android, although given its billing as a premium device, we'd expect a pretty swift update to Android 4.0 in the months after release.

We can't fault the device's performance, however, and the 1GHz dual-core OMAP seemed to benefit from the full gigabyte of RAM -- our first impressions were that it was much faster than the Optimus 3D, which ships with a similar chip in partnership with 512MB. The UI was notably smoother than other LG phones we've used, although how much of that is down to the comparatively simple UI is unclear.

So we're cautiously optimistic about the Prada Phone 3.0 by LG. The hardware is decent, high-end stuff, and if high-contrast UIs are your thing, then you may want to take a look when it lands in Europe and Asia in early 2012.