By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: LG this morning held a media conference in Darlinghurst, East Sydney, to launch its new flagship mobile phone handset, the LG Arena. This new model looks identical to an iPhone, and many of visual features appear to be direct copies of the iconic Apple handset.

According to LG general manager, mobile communications, Nathan Dunn, the inspiration for this model was borne out of research into the consumer market; with users saying they wanted a phone that was ‘intuitive’, ‘fun’ and ‘fast’. On first inspection, the true inspiration appears only to be a trip to the local Apple store. There are, however, a number of feature improvements from the iPhone.

Run off LG’s own operating system, the Arena phone features a 3D user interface built around an onscreen cube. Sides of the cube include music and photos, contacts and a widget screen. The camera is five megapixels and supports video shooting up to 120 frames per second. According to the supplier, this is the first mobile handset to feature Dolby Mobile Surround Sound, and the headphone jack is a non-proprietary 3.5 millimetres.

Internet capabilities are provided through built-in WiFi, and the phone supports Google Mobile Services and is promoted as a YouTube-friendly device. To this end, the 3-inch screen can be placed sideways to watch video content in widescreen, with the accelerometer automatically detecting the phone’s position (though this can take a few seconds, which is a lifetime for the Gen Y kids).

On e of the big advantages of this model over the iPhone are its memory capabilities. It has 8 gigabytes built in, which is somewhat standard, but can be expanded to 40 gigabytes through an SD card. The advertised battery life, for music playback only, is an encouraging 30 hours.

One noticeable absence from the Arena is Applications functionality. Now the buzz of the mobile phone industry, especially with iPhone and Blackberry users, the ability to download and plug in a variety of timewasters is conspicuous only by its absence. It is understood, however, that the operating system of the phone could support apps, but that there are just none currently planned or available.

The LG Arena is currently available through Vodafone for $0 upfront on either $69 or $79 24-month contracts, or it can be purchased outright for $799. An LG spokesperson said that Telstra and Optus should follow shortly.