Name: HTC Vivid
Price: $200 (w/two-year contract)
The Back Story: Had you asked us earlier in the year, or mid-year even, which mobile carrier was killing it on the gaming tip, we would have generously placed the crown on AT&T. And that’s just off the strength of the Motorola Atrix 4G, which wowed critics and consumers across the board, and took top honors in our Top 15 Android Phones Available Now feature this past spring. However, beyond Moto's powerhouse and the addition of the iPhone 4S to its smartphone line-up, Ma Bell has lacked the premium and gaming-changing hardware found on Verizon, and even its as-yet-undetermined subsidiary, T-Mobile. Adding insult to injury, the company has also been labeled the worst cell phone provider two years and running. Already knee-deep into the holidays, HTC hopes to switch things up and provide AT&T the superior phone it so desperately desires with the HTC Vivid.
The phone has been the center of controversy over the past few weeks as it's been caught in between a cease-and-desist from porn giant Vivid Entertainment. Nevertheless, HTC's handset has found its way into retail stores. And as the network's second LTE phone (first being the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket), equipped with a strong dual-core and colossal touchscreen, high expectations are in order for HTC's new phone and AT&T. Can the Vivid end 2011 in the same dominating manner the Atrix accomplished? Or will its eccentric styling and minor discrepancies hurt its chances?
• Strong and speedy processor: Qualcomm continues to offer some of the most dynamic dual-core chips on the market, and its 1.2GHz CPU fits in with the rest of the gang. Navigation on the homescreen and through the menus was fluid, touchscreen commands were spot-on, apps loaded quickly, and media played stutter-free. Even though HTC blessed the recent Beats-ready Rezound with a 1.5GHz dual-core, in all honesty, there isn’t much of a difference between the two handsets in terms of performance, though it would have been an awesome addition to the phone. Just sayin’.
• Fast 4G service: In comparison to Verizon’s LTE network, AT&T’s comes off as sub-par. That doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of pulling off some notable data speeds as we witnessed with this device. We scored some pretty effective numbers, with uploads clocking in at 3.32Mbps and downloads between 12 to 15Mbps according to our Speedtest.net analysis. Signal reception was steady throughout the Tri-State Area and in several parts of New Jersey (Hoboken in particular), while YouTube clips and websites loaded promptly. Looks like AT&T's LTE network has finally arrived.
• Ginormous, beautiful screen: It’s difficult selling on us a mobile display that isn’t Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus, but the Vivid’s 4.5-inch Super qHD Super LCD screen definitely held our attention. It’s capable of delivering 520 X 960-pixel resolution, besting Samsung’s 480 x 800 output. The screen is incredibly bright and clear, plus the onscreen text is sharp enough to read everything from Kindle books to emails. Netflix videos and Android Market games looked superb as well. The viewing angles were also great and provided us extended vision from different outlooks. Overall, the Vivid's qHD display can handle its own against Samsung's imperial screen.
• Software real estate: Between the latest version of Gingerbread and HTC Sense, users can enjoy a number of user-friendly features, an attractive layout, and, unfortunately, a plethora of loaded productivity and multimedia bloatware. With access to the HTCSense.com portal, you can utilize a number of remote attributes such as locking, locating, or wiping your phone via PC or laptop. All necessary messaging apps and widgets are on-board, with FriendStream serving as a universal inbox for all social media updates. You’ll find some minor enhancements to the stock music player like new equalizer settings to strengthen audio levels, along with a bunch of media purchasing and rental options (MOG Music, Live TV, etc.). Best of all, the Vivid is due for an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade in the near future.
• Commendable camera and video recording: The rear 8MP snaps crisp and colorful images, while capturing high-quality 1080p HD clips. HTC offers a robust set of effects and editing tools such as auto-enhancing and panorama mode to improve photos, plus the auto focus picks up objects instantly and homes in on targets within a time span of one second. The dual-LED flash is also powerful and does a solid job of brightening darker settings. In fact, it's so bright to where you can use it as a alternate flashlight.
• Generic and unattractive design: Considering the phone's namesake and HTC's reputation for building luxury mobile handsets, we expected nothing short of sexy results. But instead of the standard silver accents and solid aluminum finish, we caressed our hands around an inferior, plastic-feeling cover resembling the first-gen Galaxy S models and a dense battery plate, which together deviates from the manufacturer's patented look.
• Poor call quality and voice recognition: Besides Google Voice failing to recognize most of our voice commands, the phone delivered a droning background noise that made it difficult to communicate at times with others on the receiving end. Yet, surprisingly, the speakerphone served as a better alternative for voice calls: in low-pitched environments that is.
• Huge and heavy: Tipping the scales at 6.25 ounces (177 g) and measuring at 5.07 x 2.6 x 0.44 inches (HWD), the Vivid stands out as one of the carrier's more obese options. The metal battery plate also adds weight to the device when carrying it in-hand and on the go.
Final Say: As trite as it may sound, the Vivid is the Tim Tebow of AT&T’s smartphone roster. What it lacks in finesse and flair at first, it makes up for in performance and brute wireless speed in the end—serving a solid Android experience. HTC’s new mobile welcomes an impressive spec sheet, which is quarterbacked by a powerful dual-core chip that generates swift results and handles multitasking with ease. Ma Bell’s second LTE phone also garners fast data speeds and the huge display produces great picture quality. Even though it boasts enough firepower and visual aesthetics to get it passed the wild card round, the phone's still a long shot against the more attractive and powerful AT&T handsets such as both Atrix models and the Samsung Skyrocket. Still, if you’re all about mobile capability and execution, you’ll feel comfortable placing your chips on the Vivid.