(Pocket-lint) - Out of the box, the Arena immediately feels like the premium handset it is designed to be, constructed from a mixture of brushed, gloss and anodised metals, with the large tempered glass display. With two versions available, we feel that overall the black has the edge - with the silver version, you soon notice that you have four different textures across the phone, where perhaps two would have sufficed. Still, that's a nanoscopic niggle: overall, the quality of the build is highly impressive.
The front is where most of the action is at, with that 3-inch 480 x 800, full touch screen. Across the bottom of the screen are the call answer, call reject and a central multitasking button.
Working around the body, you'll find a dedicated camera button and volume control on the right-hand side and a power/screen lock button on the top. The top also features a 3.5mm jack for your headphones and the button to remove the back cover. A slider on the left-hand side reveals the connector for charging and syncing. Flip the phone over and you'll find the 5-megapixel camera with LED flash in one corner. There is a forward-facing camera on the front for those of you who make video calls.
The phone measures 105.9 x 55.3 x 11.95mm, so comes in smaller than many rivals. LG haven't just rolled out another indentikit touchscreen phone, instead basing the device on their new S-Class user interface. This means that LG have been able to develop an interface that picks out the best features of competing operating systems. The result is good with two sides to the OS merging some of the best bits of HTC's TouchFLO system and Apple's iPhone OS.
The home page consists of four customisable pages designed in a cube, so you can swipe through them, very much like TouchFLO. The multitasking key will send these out into the 3D cube, but you don't need to do that and probably never will. The four home pages give you shortcuts, widgets, contacts and media. You can choose which is your start-up home page, so if you want to go straight to contacts, then you can.
In terms of customisation the shortcuts and widgets is as it sounds, letting you add icons from a list (not an exhaustive list mind you), so you can have access to email, Google Maps, while widgets give you radio control, a status bar showing you the number of text messages or emails you have waiting to read, as well as the ubiquitous weather widget and several more.
Contacts and multimedia work in much the same way, giving you a Rolodex-style icons to scroll through and pick what you want. These don't auto populate, however, so you have to elect "favourites" which will then be included in these pages, with full image support naturally.
You might question the value of the contacts page entirely, as a consistent row of icons at the bottom of the cube gives you your phone dialler, contacts, messages and access to the main menu.
The main menu is unmistakably iPhone in its appearance, although some little tweaks make it interesting. Divided into four lines (communication, multimedia, utilities, settings) you only get four icons per line on the screen, but you can scroll these lines horizontally too, so you might have your core functions on display, but still able to pull the line along with a finger to access something you use less often.
Everyday tasks like changing the settings, customising or controlling your music are a breeze, and LG have hit the mark here, with a consistent look and feel to things. Setting up email too was simply a case of supplying the email address and password and we had Gmail running in seconds.
Overall the phone is responsive, with a combination of vibration and audible reactions to touch so you feel as though things are working. It's among the best touch devices we've played with, but it isn't perfect. There are occasions when you'll be swiping and nothing happens, as though something in the back is too busy processing something else.
The same too applies to the accelerometer which will generally recognise which way round you are holding the phone and flip the screen accordingly. Sometimes it works a dream, but something isn't quite right here; it feels like the priorities in a back end aren't quite right, something that potentially could be fixed with a quick software update.
The browser is a reasonable effort, supporting tabbed browsing and pinch zooming which Apple users will be familiar with. You'll soon appreciate the value of bespoke mobile web pages (such as Pocket-lint's own mobile offering) as these pages are a breeze to navigate. Regular web browsing is less satisfying, relying on regular zooming to enable you to hit links or buttons. Text entry too, of course, takes place in a separate window, so it isn't a cohesive as some keyboard-based devices.
But now we hit what will be the killer point for many people - text entry. The Arena gives you the choice of a landscape QWERTY keyboard or a portrait 12-key multi-press or T9 offering. The QWERTY offering is reasonable, with large pop-up letters confirming what you've hit, although we found it too small to get anywhere near the two-thumbed typing you get on a buttoned QWERTY keyboard.
For some applications, then, we found that the T9 version was the fastest, and we found ourselves using this for text messages. It isn't as fast as a keypad, but it is pretty responsive, and if you are after a full-touch device, then text entry shouldn't be a problem, unless speed is vital.
When it comes to comparing tech specs, the Arena doesn't come up short either, with HSDPA, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on the communication front. The management of Wi-Fi wasn't the best however, with it regularly wanting us to confirm that we wanted connect to our (only) registered address. We also found, for example, that YouTube wouldn't work over Wi-Fi, so it is a little hit and miss.
You'll find AGPS packed in too, although you don't get direct control, so you never know if the GPS is on or off. You get a funky FM radio and an FM transmitter to broadcast your tunes elsewhere. On board you'll find 8GB of memory, which can be expanded by microSD/HC card (up to 32GB) under the back cover, so this is no slouch in the memory department.
To support the multimedia offering you get Dolby Mobile included which enhances the audio experience noticeably. The bundled bud-type headphones are reasonable and even come with a choice of three rubber tips for the best fit - commendable indeed - although they are lacking a little in the bass department. DivX is also supported with bundled DivX Mobile software to let you convert your own files on your PC. The onboard speakers don't sound too bad either and there is support for TV out, but you'll need to venture into the accessories to make that happen as on cables are supplied.
For those who want to dispose of their camera, the 5MP effort on the back provides reasonable results for static subjects (test image included with this review), but has the usual shutter lag that blights such devices, so capturing a moving subject is practically impossible.
The Arena also makes calls too and the screen locks once you start calling so you don't do anything with your ear during the call. We found that callers were loud and clear.
The battery lasted little over a day with regular use of data, so this is pretty much a charge every night device. Standby is cited as 300 hours, but talk time is less than 4 hours, which you'll quickly notice if you are a heavy phone user.
On paper the KM900 Arena is a very comprehensive offering, meeting pretty much all the tech specs you could want. The S-Class user interface is also pretty good, pulling together all of the features of the phone nicely.
However the real question is what support there is going forward, especially on the apps front. You get Google Maps, for example, but it is already out of date with no Latitude support. Attempting to update the software over the air doesn't work. So what happens when you want to install a Twitter client, or a Facebook application?
The Arena is certainly a good phone to use with multimedia being at the fore and should appeal to many. But with questionable third party support this is unlikely to be as versatile as, say, your BlackBerry, iPhone or Symbian devices.
Certainly a contender, but it won't suit everyone.