First look: Motorola Photon 4G (on Sprint)

For being “No. 3,” Sprint has had a decent offering of 4G Android devices, including Google’s Nexus S, HTC’s EVO and Samsung’s Epic. And while Sunday’s announcement of the XPRT (a rebranded Droid Pro) saw Motorola finally enter the mix, it wasn’t until today’s introduction of the Photon 4G that Motorola had a truly high-end phone on Sprint.

Just like HTC and Samsung’s offerings, the first thing you notice about the Photon 4G is the screen. At 4.3 inches, it is large, bright and crisp. The qHD (960×540) display is impressive, and easily the most attractive (superficially, at least) aspect of the phone. The phone is neither slim nor bulky by today’s smartphone standards, and does not feel heavy at all.

The dedicated camera button along the side of the device is appreciated, as is the dual LED flash. The 8MP sensor is all well and good, but we found still images to be quite grainy in our few test shots, and the flash didn’t help much with fill-in. The 720p video, however, was quite nice, and played back smoothly on the large screen.

While Motorola and Sprint took considerable pains to show off its HD multimedia dock, the standardized ports on the side of the device (micro HDMI and micro USB) are both standardized. This is quite useful, since users can output video and audio to their TVs without purchasing the accessory.

When outputting to a TV, users have the ability to take advantage of Motorola’s Webtop app, first seen on Verizon’s Atrix 4G. While Sprint didn’t show off a laptop dock like the Atrix 4G, they did show how the Photon 4G could be used like a desktop computer, with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Another impressive feature is Motorola’s “Blur” interface, which collects and collates social networking feeds into one stream, reducing the need to check your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIN accounts separately. They have a similar application for messaging that combines emails, IMs and SMS messages into one stream.

In a cluttered Android market, the Webtop and Blur features are the only thing that truly distinguish Sprint’s new offering from its competition. If Motorola is able to prepare a laptop dock like the Atrix 4G’s in time for the Photon 4G’s summer release, this phone could get much more appealing.

Author: Matthew Ismael Ruiz

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