Whatís the best Android phone on AT&T?

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Old 17-Mar-2011
Whatís the best Android phone on AT&T?

In our continuing Best Android Phone series, I address the desire to find the all around most useful phone on each of the major carriers in the US. These devices are not the best based on pure specs, but rather an entire understanding of the device and its day to day use. In these posts you will find my estimation of the best handset, its runner up, and whatever the next big thing might be for that network.
Today, weíre going to look at AT&T. What makes this piece especially unique to the other carriers is AT&Tís very recent ďadoptionĒ of Android. Android devices have been seen on the network before, sure, but at the January AT&T Developers conference it was made extremely clear that alongside a wealth of new Android devices to be released this year lie the support and dedication of their developers as well as their partners. So, whatís new over at AT&T?
The Best
For the moment, itís hard to argue with the Motorola Atrix. AT&Tís flagship device is, in many ways, the first of its kind. Not that weird kind of first we saw with the dual-screen Kyocera Echo either, but actual functional newness. From the network down itís a superior device. Starting with its ability to access AT&Tís HSPA+ 4G service and adding in the first Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor to be seen in a phone is enough to make even the most average of nerds drool. Toss that in with its unique ability to offer a separate UI, almost a separate operating system, when connected to a variety of extended display devices and a mid-to-high quality battery and youíve got a real handset.
The goodies come in when you connect the device to access this ďother OSĒ. Sure, you can connect the phone to an HDMI to TV connection, or use the HDMI dock and get bluetooth mouse and keyboard to create a portable office. Thatís cool. Almost as cool as being able to plug it into a laptop with an extra long battery life and literally turn your phone into a computer. Itís the first phone to have a laptop as an accessory, though itís mighty expensive to go that route.
All in all, itís clear to see how the Atrix is AT&Tís shining star for now.
The Runner Up
Also announced at the AT&T Developers conference in January was a device from HTC. Unlike Motorola, HTC has taken a much less ďbrute forceĒ method of releasing Android devices. The Inspire 4G is the first in a new line of Android devices from HTC that are more focused on software innovation than hardware.
Rather than constantly releasing Android devices on the latest and greatest, the Inspire stops to get to know the neighbors. With a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 768MB of RAM, and a 4.3-inch screen, itís not unlike their Sprint device, the HTC Evo 4G, on paper. Taking into account both the tremendous progress the Snapdragon line has had since the EVO, and the highly optimized Sense 2.0 however, will reveal this to be a device of significantly higher quality.
This device is the flagship release of Sense 2.0, a highly modfied version of Android that offers what HTC considers to be a much more pleasing user experience. UX opinion it aside, Sense 2.0 does include a really useful feature in its device specific web features. By logging into your Sense account, you can remotely access a great number of features from locking or wiping the device to remotely activating the ringer and creating a location alarm. Itís clearly not the best phone in terms of hardware, but the features and bump in screen size alone make this a formidible second place phone.
Whatís next?
I feel that itís fair to let you know that youíve been duped. I donít plan to talk about another device here, but rather all of the devices coming to AT&T once their definition of 4G changes from HSPA+ to LTE. As most of you know, LTE devices are much faster, and unfortunately those who has purchased HSPA+ devices will not have the luxury of the speed increase. The big thing thatís next for AT&T is any of the many devices that are due out on their LTE network, which is expected to begin deployment in Q3 of this year. So weíll see new devices before then, but this really is the next big thing for the carrier.

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