Second-gen LG Prada, not the iPhone, rules the fashion cellphone market
Mobility Features

Second-gen LG Prada, not the iPhone, rules the fashion cellphone market

Chicago (IL) - The premium cellphone market has proven very lucrative, being dominated by high-end smartphones bound to expensive two-year service contracts. Apple has been the first to see the hidden potential in this space with iPhone, profiting greatly while successfully expanded the premium smartphone space beyond corporate and high-end buyers to include general consumers as well. However, the iPhone doesn't rule the niche segment of premium smartphones, the one appealing to high-fashion-driven consumers looking not just for a branded phone. For that, we turn no further than LG's second-generation smartphone, the LG Prada.

Although several vendors have tried to address this niche segment, only LG and Prada have successfully tackled it with the LG Prada smartphone -- the device many claim Apple actually copied with its iPhone. The second-generation LG Prada smartphone, recently released in Europe and parts of Asia, still packs the signature Prada design, adding a slide-out keyboard and support for Prada's wristwatch accessory to display notifications without having to pull the phone out of your pocket.

You may remember LG's Prada smartphone from the time when Apple CEO Steve Jobs first unveiled the existence of the iPhone in January 2007. LG then made some noise in the media with claims Apple actually copied the design of the Prada smartphone which also featured large touchscreen packed in a similar form factor. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding the iPhone completely killed the perfectly fine Prada smartphone aimed at the same high-end smartphone markets as Apple's handset. In fact, Apple's success in the market ultimately slaughtered LG Prada -- which has sold only 1 million units to date (compared to Apple's over $10 million). That still doesn't change the fact that LG Prada made cellphone history as the first full touch-screen phone to reach the market.

LG Prada rules the fashion world

In the meantime, LG released its second-generation Prada handset in Europe and some Asian territories, such as Singapore. According to executives from both LG Electronics and Prada, the two companies have no intentions of surrendering. They have announced plans to continue their partnership for the design of future smartphones. According to Matteo Sessa Vitali, licensing director of the Italian fashion label specialized in luxury goods, Prada is in it with LG Electronics for the long run.

In fact, the fashion label has been working together with LG's engineering and design teams for fours years now. Although no new plans for future phones exist yet, the co-operation will continue. Prada's Sessa Vitali describes the partnership as "a sort of open conversation," while LG's vice president of marketing and business strategy Chan Ma said the partnership is free of pressure of having to release Prada-designed cellphone products on an exact release schedule. "We are not trying to launch a product every year, or every second year," he said. "When we have a good idea, then it's time to make the product."

Second-gen LG Prada, not the iPhone, rules the fashion cellphone market

Combining best of both worlds, LG Prada still features a large touchscreen that dominates the front but also comes with secrets: an ultra-thin metallic QWERTY keyboard that slides out from underneath the screen, in addition to two new buttons, call and hang-up. It sells for 600 Euros in Europe (around $775 in US currency), and still requires a two-year service contract.

Read on the next page:  Photo and video quality, Slide-out keyboard,  Wristwatch accessory, Final thoughts

Photo and video quality without compromises

Although one could argue the paultry 1 million LG Prada units shipped to date represent a mere drop in the bucket compared with iPhone sales, the figure actually exceeded all internal projections, encouraging the two companies to create the follow-up handset. The new LG Prada phone, KF900, packs 3G with 7.2Mbps HSDPA and video calling, in addition to Wi-Fi accessibility. The phone packs a 5 megapixel camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach certified lens, video recording and a full HTML browser.

Slide-out keyboard

The second-generation LG Prada follows the same design as the first model, but now comes with an ultra-thin QWERTY keyboard that slides out beneath the screen for those users who find typing via touchscreen's virtual keyboard clunky and unreliable. When slid-out, the metallic keyboard compliments the overall design aesthetics and black casing of the phone. The addition of physical call and hang-up buttons positioned bellow the touchscreen is also a welcomed addition. These features add a lot of value for users accustomed to physical rather than virtual buttons, and without degrading an overall emphasis of the handset's touchscreen and animated user interface.

Wristwatch accessory support

Another interesting addition is the Prada Link wristwatch accessory enabling the phone to beam short notices to the accessory via Bluetooth. The wristwatch displays each notification on a small wristwatch screen. These include things such as missed calls, received text messages, etc. It also eliminates the need to pull the handset out of your pocket to check for new notifications or caller ID, signifying how much the mobile landscape has changed considerably since the first-generation Prada phone hit the market two and a half years ago.

LG Prada's successor will face several entrenched rivals, with Apple's iPhone and Android G1 holding ground in the consumer smartphone segment. RIM's dominant position in enterprise space could also keep would-be newcomers from the business world away. The situation will be further complicated by a plethora of upcoming smartphones powered by the new Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft's portable OS that received an important facelift treatment giving it a more visual appearance, along with several interesting features.

Final thoughts

Executives of both LG and Prada are determined to have their handset be appealing in the lucrative niche segment of fashion-conscious buyers, those looking for a high-profile branded cellphone that also serves as an effective fashion statement. Although Apple's iPhone appeals to this design-conscious buyer segment, it does not resonate well with the high-end of the fashion market where the combination of LG's engineering and the power of the Prada brand name seems to resonate with prospective buyers, especially those who are already customers of Prada.