Don’t be fooled by the photos: this is not a Sidekick 4G ($99.99, 4 stars). Though the Sharp FX Plus (Free with 2-year contract, $349.99 without), certainly looks like T-Mobile’s classy smartphone, it’s a less ambitious device. Available exclusively through Walmart, the FX Plus is a good choice for AT&T texters looking to save a few bucks, and it’s the best keyboarded Android phone available on AT&T. Just keep in mind that it isn’t a do-everything, high-end super-smartphone.
Design, Screen, and Keyboard
The FX Plus measures 4.7 by 2.4 by .6 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.3 ounces. Made entirely of black plastic, it feels solid, though it looks somewhat generic. The 3.2-inch display is a standard 320-by-480 pixel resolution. The glass capacitive touch screen is bright and suitably responsive. There are four physical function keys below the screen which are backlit and easy to press.
The screen slides up to reveal a solid, four-row QWERTY keyboard, which looks a lot like T-Mobile’s Sidekick 4G. Unlike the Sidekick, however, the FX Plus lacks the extra fifth row of dedicated number keys. Still, the slightly raised, flat keys are easy to press, and I was able to type long messages quickly and easily. This is a very good keyboard for typing messages on.
Dell unveiled the new phone, the Venue, and the tablet, the Streak 7, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which draws tens of thousands of buyers and sellers from around the globe to Las Vegas.
Dell launched a smartphone late last year with Microsoft, using the US software giant’s Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, but it opted for Google’s free Android platform for the latest device.
Dell said the new Streak 7 tablet has a seven-inch (17.8-centimeter) screen, slightly larger than the display on the first Streak the company released last year.
Dell said the Streak 7 is designed for the faster Internet speeds of US wireless carrier T-Mobile’s 4G network.
“With its dual-core processor, seven-inch multi-touch screen and dual cameras, the new Dell Streak 7 tablet takes full advantage of the unrivaled power of T-Mobile’s 4G network,” said John Thode, vice president of Dell’s Mobility Product Group.
The Streak 7, which Dell said will be available in the coming weeks, is one of dozens of touchscreen tablet computers being launched at CES as electronics manufacturers seek to match Apple’s success with its iPad.
What is it? The W500 is a dual-purpose device – it can operate as a tablet/slate, or you can connect it to a keyboard that also doubles as a protective carrying case. It looks more like a notebook at first than a tablet. The device runs on Windows 7 (Home Premium or Professional), has a 10.1-inch multi-touch screen, AMD dual-core processor (1GHz) , 2GB of RAM, 32GB Solid State Drive, dual 1.3 megapixel cameras (front and rear), and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The device is aimed at an education, health care and general business audience, Acer says.
Unique features: The keyboard attachment makes it easy to detach from the office and bring into a meeting, or for workers who need to be more mobile. When connected to the dock, it was nice to be able to work on the device as if it were a notebook, making text input a lot quicker and easier via keyboard than having to type something with my fingers on the screen. The attachment also has an Ethernet port, which was great for connecting to the Internet for application and OS updates – especially with Windows 7 updates, it’s nice having that Ethernet wire instead of having to hope for a good Wi-Fi connection. Like the other Iconia device, this one has the Clear.fi app for organizing and accessing multimedia stored on different devices within the same home network.
Compared to iPad: With a Windows 7 OS, the W500 is geared more towards workers or markets with a need for Windows-based applications. The “apps” on the device don’t operate like they do on Android or Apple iOS devices, but are rather shortcut links to Web pages or other Windows 7 programs. The W500 reminded me more of the earlier days of tablets, when they were called slates, well before the iPad came along. The two cameras on the W500 are geared more towards Web chatting rather than any digital camera or video taking that the other tablets would offer.
Bottom line: Windows 7 is not a particularly good tablet operating system, so comparing it to the iPad or an Android tablet could be seen as unfair. However, designing a tablet to look and feel like those devices could confuse users into thinking that Windows 7 should be compared to that – in reality, the W500 is more like a netbook or earlier slate/tablet device.
Don’t let the name fool you: the Samsung Galaxy Prevail ($179.99) is not a high-end Samsung Galaxy S cell phone. It is, however, a wonderfully functional, inexpensive Android device for everyone who wants a budget smartphone. Just how inexpensive, you ask? Boost is charging $50 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data on Sprint’s nationwide 3G network. That price shrinks by $5 every 6 months you pay your bill on time, until you reach $35. It’s not like this is breaking news, but it’s a lot more relevant now that Boost finally has a device capable of taking full advantage of those rates. Sure, it may not have the same high-end specs as the latest and greatest Android gadgets, but it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to get in on the Android action on the cheap. That makes it our Editors’ Choice for smartphones on Boost. It also makes the cut for our list of The Best Android Phones.
Design, Call Quality, and Pricing
The Samsung Galaxy Prevail measures 4.4 by 2.3 by .5 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.8 ounces. And while the phone is surprisingly light, it feels solid. It looks a bit like T-Mobile‘s Samsung Galaxy S 4G ($199.99, 4 stars), with curved edges and a silver border that runs along the outside of the phone’s face. The back is made of a soft-touch black plastic, which gives it a comfortable, luxurious feel in the hand. The 3.2-inch glass capacitive touch screen LCD has 320-by-480-pixel resolution, which is common on midrange Android phones. The display itself is a bit on the small side, but it was nicely bright and vibrant, and suitably responsive to touch. Typing on the on-screen keyboard felt predictably cramped, but still entirely doable. Four function keys sit below the screen on the face of the phone, and light up whenever the screen is touched.
he Prevail is a dual band EV-DO Rev. A (800/1900 MHz) device, with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. It connected to my WPA2-encrypted Wi-Fi network quickly and easily. Reception was average, and voice quality was good overall. Calls sounded bright and clear in the earpiece, if a bit thin. On the other end, calls made with the phone sounded fine, though voices were a touch muffled and fuzzy. The phone didn’t completely block out the sound of a passing city bus while I was making a call, but I was still able to hear my voice above it just fine. Calls were clear through an Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset ($99, 4 stars), and voice dialing worked well. The speakerphone was also clear, but I couldn’t hear it outside on a slightly noisy city street. Battery life was good at 6 hours and 33 minutes of talk time.
The HTC Inspire 4G ($99.99) is a big, powerful and affordably priced Android cell phone for AT&T, and it can stand up well against Apple’s iPhone. Comparable in many ways to Verizon’s popular Motorola Droid X, this high-quality super-phone is loaded with useful apps and makes a good big-screen theater for videos. It’s one of The Best Android Phones, as well as one of the The 10 Best Touch-Screen Phones.
The HTC Inspire 4G is AT&T’s answer to big-screen phones like the HTC EVO 4G ($199.99-$449.99, 4 stars) on Sprint and the Motorola Droid X ($199.99-$569.99, 4.5 stars) on Verizon. Like with those other two phones, you’ll want big hands to manage the huge 4.3-inch screen; the iPhone 4 ($199-$699, 4.5 stars) is better for daintier folks. At 4.8 by 2.7 by .46 inches (HWD) and 5.78 ounces, this isn’t a thick phone, but it’s big and broad. The Inspire 4G looks classy, with a solid heft and a metal back. There’s a power button on top; the 3.5-mm headset jack is on the bottom. One sore spot, though: The battery door is so tough that it took me half an hour to remove it. It’s a good thing you won’t replace the battery often.
The Inspire 4G won’t save you from dropped calls. Tested side by side with an iPhone 4, I actually connected fewer calls in a weak signal area than on the iPhone. Oh, well. With decent AT&T signal, though, the Inspire 4G did just fine. Voices sound loud and clear in the earpiece, without scratchiness or distortion. Transmissions sounded clear on the other end, as well, and only sent through a minimum of background noise, even from a noisy area. The speakerphone isn’t great; it’s on the back, and while it’s loud enough to use outdoors, it could be louder. Transmissions made through the speakerphone sounded a bit echoey.
The phone paired easily with an Aliph Jawbone Era ($129, 4.5 stars) Bluetooth headset, including triggering the accurate voice dialing. Battery life, at 5 hours 51 minutes of talk time, was fine for a 3G—oh, sorry, 4G—phone.
The device connects to the Internet via AT&T’s and foreign 3G HSPA and HSPA + 21 networks, and via Wi-Fi. It can be tethered to a laptop with the appropriate service plan, and it also works as a Wi-Fi hotspot. On the Ookla speed test app, I got significantly faster Internet speeds than on an iPhone 4, but not what I’d consider “4G.” I got an average of 1.5Mbps down on the Inspire and 1Mbps down on the iPhone. That makes for a faster Internet experience on the Inspire, but I’d want to see numbers like 5Mbps before I start trumpeting 4G to the masses.
We’re not stretching the truth when we say that Sprint’s Kyocera Echo is one of the most unusual phones we’ve ever seen. Sure, it looks pretty boring when you take if out of the box, but a little exploration reveals a second display that flips out from behind the first to form a huge 4.7-inch screen. Don’t feel bad if you’re scratching your head at this point; indeed, the Echo has had an interesting life so far.
Perhaps it was because Sprint held such a major media event to introduce it–David Blaine locked himself in an aquarium–but the Android-powered Echo faced a backlash following its debut. The general reaction from cell phone fans was, “That’s it?” Others proceeded to dismiss the handset as just too weird. Admittedly, we were a bit baffled as well, but after spending time with the Echo we can report that the wacky design offers a few advantages. We welcome the extra space for mapping and Web browsing and the “simultasking” and “optimized” modes bring a unique user experience.
Of course, the dual-screen design also comes with some drawbacks. The seam between the two displays can be a bit distracting and we worry about the durability of the flip-out hinge. What’s more, the design is the Echo’s only draw. The feature set inside is pretty standard, the Android OS version is Froyo, and data speeds top out at 3G. Sprint may have been concerned about getting the Echo under the magic $200 price point, but this is a device that would really benefit from WiMax support. The Echo won’t be for everyone, and even Sprint has more or less admitted that it’s a niche device, but we encourage you to at least give it a chance.
No one likes signing their life away to cell phone contracts, but fortunately, most service providers offer some kind of prepaid solution, and they’re slowly starting to diversify their phone offerings to include smartphones.
Case in point, today AT&T introduced the LG Thrive, the first smartphone to be available on its GoPhone prepaid service. The Android 2.2 device will start shipping on April 17 and will cost $179.99 and require a GoPhone smartphone data package, which comes in three flavors: $25 for 500MB; $15 for 100MB; or $5 for 10MB.
The Thrive features a 3.2-inch, 320×480 touch screen, a 600MHz processor, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. The smartphone also has Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, and 3G support and ships with 160MB of internal memory and a 2GB microSD card.
In addition to the Thrive, AT&T will offer a postpaid version of the Thrive, called the LG Phoenix, for $49.99 with a two-year contract. The Phoenix will also be available on April 17 and adds mobile hot-spot capabilities and data tethering support.
The LG dLite is a stylish and fashionable phone for the ultrafeminine. It has a unique hidden LED matrix display, an edge-lit LED surface, a 2.0-megapixel camera, a music player, 3G support, and fantastic call quality.
Not too many phones can wow us these days, especially if it isn’t a tricked out smartphone or a multimedia touch-screen wonder. However, the LG dLite sparkled and dazzled its way into our inner adolescent heart. More closely resembling its Korean cousins than any of its American siblings, the dLite is utterly girly in every way, with blinking lights, pastel colors, and cartoonish wallpaper. Its features aren’t earth shattering by any means–there’s a 2.0-megapixel camera, a music player, threaded messaging, a social networking app, and a few other basics–but the charm and whimsy of the phone’s design won us over in the end. If we were still in our tweens, we would totally beg our parents to get us this phone. The LG dLite is available for an affordable $49.99 with a new two-year agreement with T-Mobile.
The T-Mobile MyTouch 3G has a sleek, attractive design with a gorgeous display, tactile controls, and an easy-to-use, customizable interface. Stereo Bluetooth and Outlook e-mail syncing are standard features, and call and data performance are excellent.
Sometimes, good things come to those who wait. Almost 10 months after the G1, we finally have the carrier’s second Android phone, the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G. And after giving it a shakedown, we’re happy to report that it improves on its predecessor in a number of ways. As a rebranded HTC Magic, the design is familiar, but we like the sleek profile, expansive touch screen, and user-friendly controls. We don’t miss the G1′s physical keyboard, though we recognize that some people may not agree.
Inside the phone offers everything you saw on the G1, plus a few extra goodies thanks to the Android 1.5 Cupcake update. And we can’t thank T-Mobile enough for adding Microsoft Exchange Server support. On the downside, the MyTouch has some usability quirks, the Web browser remains iffy, and some important features are missing. But when you factor in its agreeable performance and broad degree of customization, the MyTouch does much to broaden Android’s techie base. You can get it for a reasonable $199.99 with a two-year contract. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need a data plan.
The LG Ally is a sturdy device with Android 2.1. It has a great slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Features include GPS, a 3.2-megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and
Though LG has made Android phones for a while, they were always for the European and Asian markets. The LG Ally, however, marks the first LG Android phone to hit U.S. shores. There’s nothing too new with the Ally, but we think LG did a great job here. The display is very nice, we love the slide-out keyboard, and the performance is great. We also really appreciate that it comes with the latest Android OS build, Android 2.1, right out of the gate. The LG Ally has a very impressive price tag of $99.99 as long as you sign up for a new two-year agreement with Verizon Wireless.