AT&T HTC Freestyle Hands-On at CES 2011

With all of the crazy 4G smartphones announced at the AT&T Developer Summit here at CES 2011, there was one smartphone in particular that will hold a large amount of significance for AT&T going forward. And if you blinked during the Developer Summit, you missed it. It’s called the HTC Freestyle, and on the surface seems to be the most boring and uncool device when compared to the Motorola Atrix 4G, HTC Inspire 4G, and Samsung Infuse 4G.

And the HTC Freestyle doesn’t really have specs that will impress the gadget-centric readers. It is, in all respects, a very basic smartphone. Why it’s important, however, isn’t in the hardware; it’s in the direction that AT&T is taking, and the Freestyle is just the beginning. The Freestyle marks the change of how the phone industry will be flipped upside-down.

Let me explain. The Freestyle is the first AT&T smartphone to use Brew MP, a relatively new OS that will be aimed toward the low-end smartphone demographic. It is thought of as a good starter smartphone, one that is more capable than QMP (Quick Messaging Phones) but without the hardcore top-of-the-line specs in the latest superphones.

Instead of AT&T and OEMs paying millions of dollars to develop custom UI’s and crazy cool features, Brew MP is already set up and ready to go. The amount of money invested in bringing these phones to market, on top of the inclusion of lower-end hardware specs, will mean that these phones can be sold for much less than the average smartphone today.

And AT&T announced at the Developer Summit that we should expect to see around 5 more Brew-powered devices coming to AT&T this year. So I am now envisioning over the next year or so that we’ll see the smartphone market grow exponentially and concurrently the QMP market will steadily decrease as these Brew MP-powered phones take over. “From this point forward, all of our quick messaging phones will be on the BREW MP platform,” AT&T CMO David Christopher said.

Don’t be confused by the name of Brew. It is nothing similar to the BREW platform that Verizon relied so heavily on for several years that was basically JAVA-powered. This is completely different. Having this new platform in place makes sense as a QMP replacement, since there are so many QMP devices being sold today that use different platforms, are very difficult to make quality apps for, and make it even more confusing for the customer to transfer from one phone to another.

With that all said now, let’s turn to the Freestyle specifically. It is roughly the same size as the HTC Aria that is currently sold at AT&T stores, only without having Android support. It also has an aluminum unibody casing on the outside which we welcome with open arms (and hands, of course).

The phone was tiny in my hands. Considering its size, that’s no surprise. It’s a 3.2″ HVGA capacitive touchscreen, measuring 12.4 mm thin, and weighs 4.52 ounces.

Here are a few other specs for the HTC Freestyle:

  • Qualcomm MSM7225 528 MHz processor with 256 MB RAM
  • 512 MB internal storage with external MicroSD support
  • 3.2″ HVGA 320 x 480 capacitive touchscreen
  • 1300 mAh battery
  • GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
  • HSDPA/UMTS 850/1900 MHz
  • FM radio
  • GPS
  • Proximity Sensor
  • FriendStream social networking interface
  • HTC Sense UI

I didn’t have the opportunity to play with the Brew MP platform or software because the Freestyle could only be shown turned off. It’s still awaiting technical certification, much like the Inspire 4G, which should happen sometime very soon considering Mr. Christopher mentioned a February release timeframe for the Freestyle.

So let us know what you think about this concept of Brew MP taking over the QMP market. My only real concern with this is if AT&T requires $15 minimum data plans for using these phones, considering there are many people out there who want a messaging phone but won’t need internet, and families who don’t want their children having access to the net as well. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Below you will find a full photo gallery of the HTC Freestyle. Enjoy!

Author: Brad Molen

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  • David Levine

    It’ll be interesting to see what the OS looks like, how it compares to other smartphones, and if it’s any better than a quick messaging phone.

  • David Levine

    It’ll be interesting to see what the OS looks like, how it compares to other smartphones, and if it’s any better than a quick messaging phone.