AT&T’s Inspire 4G: A Top-Tier Android at a Good Price

AT&T's Inspire 4G: A Top-Tier Android at a Good Price

What You Should Know About the Inspire 4G

AT&T’s Inspire 4G is an Android smartphone of many firsts. It’s the first 4G, HSPA+ handset for AT&T. (Many more are being promised for release in 2011.). It’s the first AT&T Android with a 4.3-inch touchscreen. It’s the first AT&T phone to offer a built-in Wi-fi/Mobile hotspot. And, it’s the first Android superphone to begin life with a sub-$100 bargain-basement price.

From the beginning, the Inspire 4G is made for AT&T by HTC. That’s why the Inspire is so reminiscent of HTC’s Evo 4G that they produce for Sprint. For the most part – they could almost be considered twins. Almost.

Obviously, the Evo 4G runs on Sprint’s WiMAX 4G network and the Inspire 4G runs on AT&T’s HSPA+ network. And both contain certain featured applets that highlight each carrier’s best offerings (video streaming, video calling, music downloads, direction services, etc.). The Evo has a nice little kick-stand which allows you to prop-up the phone and watch videos hands-free. The Inspire does not – but does have two small, separate, tight-fitting, back cover hatches – one for the battery (on the side) and one for the SIM card and 8GB mini-SD card slots (on the bottom).

On the other hand, both utilize a speedy 1GHz processor, and (now) run on Android 2.2 (Froyo). Both use HTC’s Sense screen environment. I particularly love when the home screen tells you it’s raining outdoors – a big windshield wiper slides across the screen to make the point! Both phones have Wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 8MP cameras, HD video recording and so on. They’re both terrific devices.

The Inspire 4G measures 4.8 by 2.7 by 0.46 inches and weighs in at 5.78 ounces – pretty good for a device with such a large screen. It must be noted that the battery pack is physically quite small for a smartphone of this magnitude. The rechargeable, lithium-ion pack measures a capacity of only 1230mAh (most big Androids sport 1500-1600 batteries). Officially, the battery is said to provide up to 6 hours of talk time and as much as 15.5 days of standby. Those are pretty amazing estimates for such a small battery. In our tests the Inspire 4G was able to provide 10-11 hours of use – including making a bunch of voice calls (some longer than 15 minutes), watching live-streaming TV news feeds, checking and answering my emails every 5 minutes or so, having the built-in GPS help find a friend’s location and even playing a few games of Solitaire. HTC is doing something right with squeezing so much from such a compact battery pack.

Everything on the Inspire 4G seemed to work as described. That’s a huge compliment for any modern-day electronic device – especially a smartphone. The little indicator at the top of the screen (H+) tells me that I’m connecting to AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G network from my fringe/big-city location. That’s better than many other phones and carriers I’ve dealt with at this location. On the other hand, using the (free) Speed Test applet from the Android Marketplace the best I could get were downloads of 1,480 Kbps and uploads of 248 Kbps. Those are more like 3G numbers in my book – similar to what I get from Sprint’s Evo 4G and some of the T-Mobile 4G phones I’ve tried.

In Las Vegas, last month, we saw Verizon 4G/LTE modems provide speeds that destroy the competition. Of course, we haven’t tried Verizon’s LTE is real-life situations (like in NYC’s canyons), T-Mobile is promising much faster HSPA+ network speeds will be rolled-out this year and AT&T is promising a LTE network of their own. At least, the trend is in the right direction.

Upon it’s release, the Inspire 4G will begin selling for the low price of $99.99 along with the signing of a two-year contract. That’s pretty terrific considering what one hundred bucks will buy you from the cellular carriers.

I know the next generation of faster/better super-Androids are on the way. Everyone I know is waiting for handsets like Samsung’s Galaxy S 4G and Motorola’s Atrix 4G which promise even better specs and maybe even higher prices in some cases.

That’s where the brilliance of HTC’s Inspire 4G comes into play. It is a great Android smartphone right now – should be for at least the next two years of your contract – and it sells for less than one hundred bucks (even a penny less means it’s less). If you’re looking for a top-tier Android right now you should include AT&T’s Inspire 4G on your short list.

Highly recommended – especially for the asking price.

Gary is a multiple Emmy Award-winner television producer and reporter as well as one of the world’s foremost experts on personal technology products.  He has covered major news stories - everyth more


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