AT&T Motorola Atrix 4G Hands-on at CES 2011

By a large margin, Motorola Mobility stole the show at CES 2011. Though several companies like LG, HTC and Samsung stepped up to the plate and delivered some great new handsets (and tablets), Motorola not only announced several new top-notch handsets but also a tablet in the Motorola Xoom that could quite possibly be the most solid and capable competitor to the iPad.

One other reason I consider Motorola to be the Best in Show at CES is because it was the only mobile OEM to announce innovative new products that are beyond just hardware components and nifty little Android OS User Interface quirks. The most creative products come associated with the Motorola Atrix 4G for AT&T, announced on Wednesday morning at the AT&T Developer Summit, and I spent some time with the whole package.

First off, there’s the Atrix 4G phone itself. Though there will be a lot of stiff competition to become the hero 4G device on AT&T’s lineup with the Inspire and Infuse, this could very likely become AT&T’s newest flagship Android phone because of its top-notch specs. The Atrix will be the standard by which all phones will be held to during 2011.

To quickly recap, the Atrix 4G sports:

  • Tegra 2 dual-core 1 GHz processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1930 mAh battery (bringing 9 hours talk time)
  • 4″ qHD screen (540 x 960) with similar screen res as Super AMOLED and NOVA
  • Dual cameras: 5 MP rear (with dual LED flash), VGA front
  • 720p HD video recording
  • Android 2.2
  • 16 GB internal storage with external up to 32 GB
  • AT&T 4G HSPA+ at 14.4 Mbps
  • Fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone

In short: wow. It doesn’t get any better than that. Heck, how often can you even find a phone with a fingerprint scanner on it?

It would be fascinating enough if all the Atrix had to bring to the table was its new Tegra 2 dual-core processor. But what really made Motorola shine at CES was finding unique ways to utilize the true potential of that dual core power. Without doing so, I foresee a time in the very near future in which phones would get even more processing power and not know what the heck to do with it. The size of the processor doesn’t matter; it’s what you can do with it that matters.

Which brings us to the next portion of the Motorola Atrix 4G hands-on experience. The Atrix comes with a MicroUSB port right next to a mini HDMI port, which allows you to dock the phone into separate docking stations. Each station, when the phone is docked, acts as a virtual extension of the phone onto a larger form of media such as computer or TV screen.

What do I mean by a “virtual extension of the phone”, you ask? The docking station you see below looks like a computer. It’s not. In fact, it will only turn on when you dock your phone into it; and when the Atrix is docked, it brings up a custom UI that shows off your phone’s view on the left and specialized applications, called webtop applications, on the right. These apps are similar to what you would normally use on your phone by itself, only the larger screen allows for more user-friendly features to be thrown in. This thing that looks exactly like a laptop is actually, in every circumstance, your phone. It’s just extending its programming and features and “projecting” it onto a larger screen, with a full keyboard to take advantage of.

In fact, to take it one step further, it’s also an extension of the actual phone software components. All of the internet being accessed on this docking station is actually being tethered to it from the Atrix. When the phone is docked, any calls can be answered directly through a set of mics and speakers in the accessory itself. Emails and texts can be answered using the full keyboard. In just about every way the docking station truly acts like it IS the phone, not just an extension of it.

This laptop-looking device, which doesn’t have an official name to it other than that it’s a docking station for the Atrix 4G, has a special port on the very back that the phone docks into. This way it fits easily onto the device without getting in the way.

This isn’t the only thing you can dock your Atrix 4G to. Another docking port is offered for the TV that comes with USB and HDMI ports included, making it much easier to connect your phone to the TV, as well as a mouse and keyboard to allow better navigation of this new UI on such a huge screen. One demo that was shown off on the TV was Angry Birds, where I was able to see the game on the big screen while using the Atrix’s touchscreen to actually fling the birds.

I’ve been praising the innovation of this particular technology. At first it may not seem like it’s very practical. After all, you keep your phone with you all the time in your pocket in order to be more mobile and portable. Why carry something around with you that resembles a less-portable laptop? Think about those times in which you had only your phone but wished you could take everything from that phone and spew it out onto a laptop or a TV more easily. I know there are many times that I’m doing emails that require a lot of typing, but only have my phone with me. Every time this happens I wish I had a bluetooth wireless keyboard that could connect to my phone. The Atrix 4G and its docking station takes this that direction and steps it up an extra level.

Still confused? Watch the video. I think the whole concept will become very clear after you see the visual aids. Then, come back here and look at the rest of the pictures.

Author: Brad Molen

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  • Mark

    moto should use chrome os to integrate with android instead of this,

  • phairway

    I’d rather have separate devices, separate phone, laptop, hd tv, but be able to access all my media on any device separately. This docking into laptop, into hdtv seems cumbersome. What if a phone call comes in when I am viewing something on my HDTV with my phone docked? I have to undock the phone then redock it, extra cables and docks. You should be able to just store your music, videos, pictures online, then access and view it from your tv, laptop, and phone separately over the web. This docking model from motorola seems like a waste and cumbersome.

  • phairway

    I’d rather have separate devices, separate phone, laptop, hd tv, but be able to access all my media on any device separately. This docking into laptop, into hdtv seems cumbersome. What if a phone call comes in when I am viewing something on my HDTV with my phone docked? I have to undock the phone then redock it, extra cables and docks. You should be able to just store your music, videos, pictures online, then access and view it from your tv, laptop, and phone separately over the web. This docking model from motorola seems like a waste and cumbersome.

  • Magste672112

    Did you read the whole article or just the head line and BIG WORDS. You can answer calls through the dock via built in speakers and mic.