Name: HTC Inspire 4G
Price: $100 w/ Two-year contract
The Back Story: The current mobile industry buzz word, besides "merger", is "4G". The next generation of high-speed mobile data has all but consumed the focus of every wireless carrier who've been working to build a line-up of extremely powerful, high-speed handsets. AT&T is no different. The network’s recently released 4G phone, the Motorola Atrix, has garnered rave reviews (check out our co-sign here). But Ma Bell knows no one phone should have all that power and is looking to make next-gen hardware and service available to more customers. Enter the HTC Inspire 4G. Partnering with the company that's been at the forefront of the 4G handset market, AT&T has produced a smartphone that, on paper, can go up against any other model on the market, and will only run you $100. Keep reading to see how it stacks up against the mobile elite.
• Marvelous touchscreen and impressive hardware: The Inspire sports a sharp 4.3-inch WVGA display that produces a 480x800 pixel resolution and high-quality video output. YouTube clips look great thanks to Flash 10.1 integration and games like Angry Birds Seasons run smooth on the large screen. Its built-in accelerometer and virtual keyboard were highly receptive, along with the four haptic keys located below the screen. HTC's handset also showed it can perform tasks extremely fast without a dual-core processor at the helm, as the second-gen 1GHz Snapdragon CPU had us zooming through apps and web pages.
• Advanced UI and software: This upgraded version of HTC Sense offers new animations, faster booting speeds, and a variety of social and news aggregation widgets. On top of having a universal inbox and the standard seven homescreens, you can monitor Twitter and Facebook updates courtesy of the Friend Stream widget. There’s also a Transfer App that lets users wirelessly exchange data from their old AT&T phone to a new one, providing a list of the network's brands and models to help expedite the process.
• HTCSense.com: Still in its beta phase, AT&T is the first carrier to offer HTC’s cloud service, which allows subscribers the opportunity to automatically backup their important data (phone book, SMS messages, etc.) and lock or wipe their handset remotely. The promising online feature will also offer advanced multimedia capabilities in the near future.
• Sleek and solid build: Aluminum casing combined with a smooth back surface gives the phone an opulent appearance and feels great in your hands. Though it weighs 165 grams, it does feel lighter than other large-screen smartphones and fits comfortably in any pocket.
• Great camera and video recorder: Here’s an 8MP camera that does an incredible job of taking clear and detailed shots. The dual LED flash is super bright (which you can test using the Flashlight app), its auto focus feature is spot-on, and the 12 different image effects worked well in changing the aesthetic of our images. Get your mobile photog on. It also captures 720 HD video at 28 fps, offering quality audio and color saturation.
• Affordable price: Considering the expensive price tags of the Atrix and iPhone 4, $100 (with a two-year contract) is a steal for this high-powered handset. Even as a standalone purchase at $400 it’s still a great deal.
• 4G speed? Not likely: AT&T has experienced a number of complaints for its lackluster high-speed HSPA+ service. In fact, recent reports have shown the company’s 4G phones performing slower than some of its 3G devices. From our experience, the Inspire did not run slower than 3G, but its erratic data upload and web browsing pace demonstrated the phone was far from true 4G. AT&T acknowledges the problem and informed subscribers via Facebook that a software update will be available in April to enable faster speeds.
• Hard to access internal slots: Opening the battery compartment on the side is frustratingly difficult and requires some effort. The phone's smooth casing can also make it challenging at times to access the SIM card and external memory slots on the back.
• Poor battery life: Enabling the wi-fi and Bluetooth settings, plus having several apps running in the background, will drain the energy bar in about five to six hours. And recharging the device can take up to two to three hours for a full charge. So keep the charger on hand.
• No fancy extras: For a phone that's catered towards multimedia buffs, we would have liked to have seen more current features like an HDMI port or a front-facing camera. But then again, you have to give up some features for such a great price.
Final Say: Overall, the Inspire 4G is a great addition to AT&T’s growing collection of powerful, high-speed handsets and packs enough firepower to compete with Apple and Motorola’s offerings. Its biggest selling points are its highly intuitive UI, beautiful design, and unbeatable price. But where the device really shines is through its software, which is speedy and offers a ton of useful apps and widgets. AT&T subscribers in search of a powerful phone at a cost-efficient value should definitely check this one out.