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LG Arena: Fantastic hardware, slightly bonkers UI

LG has officially announced the LG Arena (not to be confused with the LG Arena in Birmingham), and accompanying it is a slightly frenetic promo video:

As with LG’s previous high-end phones, the hardware looks fantastic. There’s Dolby Mobile audio, video capable of 120fps, a five megapixel camera, and 8GB of RAM built-in. None of that is too much of a surprise: the LG Viewty that I had a look at in 2007 featured similar hardware which was way ahead of its time.

What remains to be seen is whether the new interface – dubbed “S-Class” (Mercedes, are you listening?) – makes the phone more usable than its predecessors. I found the Viewty frustrating, because I knew that the hardware was brilliant and then had to dive through twenty different menus and options to get to the feature I wanted. We’ll see if S-Class works better.

One area that I think may be an issue, though, is applications. As far as I can tell, The Arena runs Java apps on top of LG’s own OS – which means it’s unlikely to gain much mind-share from developers. And one thing that the success of the iPhone has taught us is that application support is a big selling point for smartphones. Witness the slew of announcements of new app stores from virtually everyone at MWC this week for evidence.

LG going with a more mainstream phone OS would fix this problem of course, so it’s no surprise that the GM730 – a Windows Mobile phone with S-Class – is apparently waiting in the wings. Interestingly, the company is talking up its commitment to Windows Mobile this week, despite having announced that it was  working on Android phones for launch in the second half of this year.

It will be interesting to see whether LG decides to pick one OS and run with it, or offer basically the same hardware running multiple OS’s, and see what the customers decide they want.

UPDATE: A quick confirmation that LG is still planning to produce phones based on Android appears here, for those who might think that the concentration on WinMo today means the Android plans have been ditched.

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