Motorola ATRIX 4G Handset: A New Stage for Smartphone and PC Integration

With the release of the Motorola ATRIX 4G, the line between smartphones and personal computers will become a little blurrier.

AT&T said Thursday that it would offer users the opportunity to buy both the ATRIX 4G and a Motorola Laptop Dock at a bundled price of $500. This is significant because the Atrix's most interesting feature is its ability to integrate its screen, applications and capabilities to a desktop computer. AT&T is also offering ATRIX users a package that includes a Motorola HD Multimedia Dock, as well as a Bluetooth-enabled wireless keyboard and mouse, for an additional $190.

PRODUCT ROUNDUP: The ATRIX 4G and 4 other cool things first seen at CES

During a demonstration at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Motorola showed how a laptop could take data directly from the smartphone and edit it as though it had originated on the laptop itself. It also showed how the laptop could be used to enact such crucial smartphone functions as text messaging and voice calling when integrated with the ATRIX.

The device also aims to give users the option of having a more PC-like experience through Motorola's own Web top application that runs the 3.6 version of Mozilla Firefox and that supports Adobe's Flash. In other words, when you plug your device into your laptop dock and browse the Web, it will be more like browsing on a laptop rather than on a giant smartphone. The device also promises to be very fast, with a dual-core 1GHz processor.

The device is less than revolutionary in other key metrics, however. In the first place, it will at least initially run on Android 2.2 ("Froyo"), which has since been surpassed by both Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread") and the tablet-centric 3.0 ("Honeycomb"). So while the ATRIX will feature several of the big enterprise features introduced in the Froyo release, it will lack Gingerbread's support for SIP-based VoIP, Near-Field Communications (NFC), and front-facing cameras. The ATRIX will also lack the power-monitoring and application-management applications that were designed for Gingerbread to address complaints that Android-based devices often drain power too quickly.

And even though the ATRIX is labeled as a "4G" device, it will actually run over AT&T's HSPA+ network, which is an advanced form of 3G GSM technology. Much like rival carrier T-Mobile, AT&T refers to both the LTE and HSPA+ wireless standards as "4G" technologies even though HSPA+ is most widely considered a faster and more reliable version of the 3G GSM-based HSPA standard. AT&T plans to launch its first 4G LTE network this summer and it has not yet formally announced any smartphones that will support LTE.

Verizon and Sprint are currently the only major wireless carriers that offer 4G services, as Verizon launched its LTE network commercially last month while Sprint and Clearwire have been rolling out their WiMAX network across the country for the past two years. AT&T's commitment to launch LTE in the U.S. this year leaves T-Mobile as the only major U.S. wireless carrier to not set a firm timetable for rolling out 4G services.

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