Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Motorola Atrix 4G

Two days ago I ordered myself a Motorola Atrix 4G!  This is a big deal:  I've been wanting a smartphone, specifically an Android phone, for quite some time.

My contract isn't actually up.  Last February we renewed all four of the contracts on our family plan at the same time.  This, I realize, was a mistake, because while it increases flexibility in that it makes it easier to leave the carrier (two years later when all of the contracts are up), it actually reduces flexibility in that if you have trouble with one of the phones (as it did with my dad's), you are left without the option to upgrade out of time.

Since my current phone is a "dumb" phone, the early termination fee (when I cancel the contract) is not so bad.  With 11 months left on the contract, it will be $98.

The way I'm going about this is to order the Atrix on a new line on our family plan.  When it arrives and I activate it, I will attempt to get AT&T to exchange the numbers associated with the contracts so that my old contract has the new number, and the new contract, with the Atrix, has my old number.  I estimate that I have a 20% chance of succeeding.

I would like to keep my number, so if that doesn't work, I will simply port the old number to Google Voice.  I currently use Google Voice for voicemail and for sending text messages from a computer, and I wouldn't mind it a bit if by default, everything went through it, especially text messages, since I would prefer not to pay for them.  If I port the number, text messages sent to it won't be text messages anymore: they will be data.  I have always hated that the carriers charged so much for delivering messages piggybacking on traffic between the phone and tower that was being sent regardless of whether there was a message.

Why the Motorola Atrix 4G? 

Well, that's a good question, after all, the name is a lie.  The Atrix is not physically capable of actual 4G, and AT&T has even disabled HSPA+ upload speeds on everything but the iPhone 4.  What AT&T offers is "4G download speeds delivered by HSPA+ and enhanced backhaul."  Real, actual 4G is coming to AT&T's network later this year (probably this summer) in the form of LTE.

Motorola Atrix 4G Android Phone (AT&T)
Motorola Atrix 4G
If I waited until my line was eligible for an upgrade in October, there would almost certainly by then have been a crop of new phones introduced, of equal caliber to the Atrix, supporting actual 4G.  Motorola wasn't my first choice in manufacturer.  I have heard nothing but good things about HTC's Sense interface, and nothing but bad things about Motorola's Motoblur interface.  There is, in fact, a direct competitor to the Motorola Atrix 4g:  the HTC Inspire 4G.  Why did I not go with that instead?  It's even cheaper.

HTC Inspire 4G Android Phone (AT&T)
HTC Inspire 4G
There are a number of reasons, of course.  First, despite Motoblur's sordid reputation, reviews and users in forums seem to be saying that it's actually a good experience on the Atrix.  The Atrix is a very fast phone, with a Dual-core 1GHz processor and a Gigabyte of RAM.  The Inspire is no speed slouch either, but, especially coming from a feature phone, I'm not keen on it's size.  I have very good eyes at close distance, and have always liked screen real-estate:  not largeness of screen, but number of pixels.  The Atrix has over a third more pixels in its 4" display as the Inspire has in its 4.3" display.  The Atrix also has four times the internal memory as the Inspire, though both can be expanded with up to 32GB microSD cards. The Inspire has an 8 megapixel camera, but the Atrix has both front and rear-facing cameras, and I don't think that the 5 megapixel snapshots taken by the Atrix will be of any less quality than the Inspire's.

The Atrix accessories have been touted as it's huge selling point, but I don't see much use for them, especially at the prices they're asking.  I would rather haul a netbook around than a phone dock, and I already have a computer hooked up to my HDTV at home, so I don't think I'll need to hook the phone up directly. 

Selling Points

In short, despite the hype about a "superphone," and "4G,"  I find the Atrix to be by far the best phone for me:
  • Despite being small (and pocketable--I'm a guy, I don't carry a purse), it has excellent screen quality and resolution.
  • Because it was made to drive a netbook, it is a powerhouse phone, capable of running any apps I throw at it--and I intend to be a power user.
  • Because it's a flagship product, it gets all the bells and whistles, like the fingerprint scanner, HD video recording, front-facing camera, gorilla glass, etc.
The iPhone is physically a fine product, but it does not interest me, mainly because of Apple's philosophy of control, especially when they see an opportunity to lock down a revenue stream.

Why now?

I suppose I could have waited until October.  As I have mentioned before, AT&T is rolling out their LTE network, presumably with a new crop of top-of-the-line phones, and there would be no hassles with my phone number.  I could just wait.  I was going to wait.

But it was my birthday, and I got "smartphone" money!  Did I mention I had already waited a long time?  I think there will always be something better to wait for, and if you always wait, you will never buy.  Pining for nice things is OK if you actually intend to buy; otherwise, you're just living in a fantasy land, coveting what you cannot have.  The extra expense, to me, is worth the extra time of getting to use a smartphone.

I also found a decent price at Costco's wireless site, which gives you free activation, free shipping and a free accessory kit (including a car charger).  [CarToys has the best price, but no option for adding a line to an existing family plan.]

Besides, come October, there will be three lines on our plan due for an upgrade, and I doubt that all three will want to exercise it just then.  Perhaps if I there's an awesome LTE phone from HTC with NFC and I work things right, I can get that, and pass the Atrix (or my current phone) along to someone else.