Motorola Atrix 4G: ATandT's First Fine Android Smartphone

Motorola's Atrix 4G is a quality Android 2.2 smartphone on AT&T's network, providing a solid answer to Verizon Wireless' Droid lineup and the various Samsung Galaxy S handsets.

The Motorola Atrix 4G, which launched earlier this month on AT&T for $199 with a two-year agreement, is a powerful smartphone that is clearly the best Android handset to grace AT&T's lineup.

Finally! I've been testing Verizon Wireless' Droid phones since November 2009, and while I've played with a few Android gadgets at AT&T's stores I haven't really found one that I'd wanted to spend a lot of time testing.

With Apple's iPhone 4 catching attention at Verizon Wireless, the Atrix 4G changes that mindset. I've been using the Android 2.2-based Atrix 4G for the last several days and it's a joy to use.

Supported by AT&T's HSPA+ network, the Atrix 4G is super fast. The only Android device I've tested to date that was comparable was the Android 2.3-based Samsung Nexus S on T-Mobile.

The Atrix 4G is 4.6 inches long, is 2.5 inches wide and 0.4 inches thick, the perfect size for my hand. At 4.8 ounces, it's heavier than it looks, but not so heavy you'd fumble it in surprise. The phone's corners are rounded, much like the Samsung Galaxy S devices I've tested.

The 4-inch screen sports another new technology from Motorola: Quarter high-definition (qHD), with a 960-by-540 resolution. While the Atrix 4G screen won't be mistaken for a great Samsung Super Amoled display, it's close. Very crisp, very bright. I could really tell the difference in screen quality holding it next to the Droid X.

Angry Birds, for example, on the Atrix 4G was gorgeous, both faster and crisper on the screen. In fact, every app I tested appeared to zip better than on my Droid X.

I'm counting Facebook and Twitter for Android, YouTube, Google Places, Google Latitude, which is actually preinstalled in the app launcher, Google Maps, Gmail, and several other apps performed well.

As for the OS, I'm more than comfortable with Android 2.2, which in my opinion is the first decent Android smartphone OS build. The touchscreen keyboard is something I'm very used with my Droid x, but others have found the keys too narrow for their taste.

Motoblur, with all its Gmail, Facebook and other social network aggregation that stitch together users' accounts on the phone, also rules the Atrix 4G. If you don't like the Motobur UI for whatever reason, don't buy this phone.

Good news: Motorola said it's getting the bump to Android 2.3 later this year. The Gingerbread keyboard is certainly superior to the one in Froyo devices.