The Motorola Photon 4G is one of the better smartphones on the market for multimedia consumption, boasting a kickstand to prop up the device while listening to tunes or watching YouTube clips and other content hands-free.
The Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” handset, which Sprint began selling last week for $199.99 on contract, can also be connected to an HDTV with an optional dock to let you port music, photos, video and other content onto a larger screen. More on that later as I go through the phone’s key specifications.
The Photon is sleek and muscular looking. The front is imbued with a gorgeous 4.3-inch qHD (quarter high-definition) Corning Gorilla Glass display that adorns most of the 5-inch-long phone’s real estate with a resolution of 960 by 540.
The typical Android input buttons comprise the rest of the phone’s face. As spartan as the gadget’s front is, the back has Sprint and Motorola logos. The metal kickstand is a strip of metal embedded in the phone’s soft, black plastic enclosure.
There is an 8-megapixel camera that shoots great pictures, captures HD video in 720p and plays it back in 1080p. These accoutrements make it clear you’re using a multimedia-friendly machine. A front-facing VGA shutter for video chat accompanies the 8MP shooter; this camera worked OK using Qik.
Watching videos and listening to tunes, as well as sharing such content through the media gallery on this handset is a blast. Several elements are at work here to make both actions enjoyable.
While the aforementioned kickstand for propping the device is a nice perk, the phone speeds data on Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network via the Nvidia dual-core Tegra 2 1GHZ processor, a chip I’ve tested on myriad smartphones and tablets, and found to be more than serviceable.
I was able to easily port music from my PC to the Photon 4G via the phone’s included USB cable. YouTube videos and games played without a hitch.
The device boasts 1GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard memory, expandable to a 32GB SD card, for up to 48GB of storage. So it should meet the data and application storage needs of most users.
The real joy of using the phone is something you will have to think about making an extra investment in. Sprint sent me the Motorola HD Station, a $129 dock that works just like the multimedia dock for the Motorola Atrix 4G.
I plugged the Photon 4G into the small dock, which connects to an HDTV via the included HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cable. From there, I accessed any music or photos from the Photon 4G, as well as my Facebook photo gallery.
Motorola Photon 4G: The Speedy 4G Handset
I also launched the Motorola Webtop application, which lets users view, edit and manage documents or make calls from the Mozilla Firefox Web browser the Webtop software includes.
If I have one big complaint about this, it’s that most of the phone content looked grainy on my 46-inch Toshiba TV screen as it translated from the 4.3-inch display of the Photon 4G.
If anyone knows how to fix this, drop me a line. I played with some of the controls on my TV, but I’m not sure something isn’t getting lost in the translation between the phone and my TV.
The dock has additional ports to let users connect keyboards, mice or other peripherals. But you also get a wireless remote to manage the content ported to your TV so you might be happy with that.
The Photon 4G is a phone, so you can make calls, too. Calls were crisp and this so-called “world phone” can make them near and far, thanks to its support for WiMAX 2500, CDMA 800/1900 (Code Division Multiple Access 800/1900), WCDMA 850/1900/2100 and GSM 850/900/1800/1900 bands.
The Sprint wireless hotspot capability will support up to eight 4G or 3G devices, as long as you don’t mind spending the $30 a month for the perk.
One thing that can’t be helped about using this phone is how much you burn down its battery. At 1,700mAh, it’s no slouch.
Yet you might be surprised at how fast it burns down when it’s not plugged into a power source, and you’re watching several videos or listening to music when the device is propped up and playing continuously.
Motorola claims 6.5 hours of video playback and 10 hours of talk time. I saw only two hours of life max from constant video play, as well as accessing multimedia content via my TV with the HD station.
I did spend one whole day just doing normal texting, calling and emailing with occasional Web data use, and it lasted 10 hours with no threat to the battery.
Overall, the Photon 4G is a solid entry in the ever-expanding Android army of high-end smartphones. You’d be right if you said the Photon 4G seems like existing devices on the market. It admirably continues the multimedia-munching legacy of the Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo lines.
However, the Atrix 4G is the only other phone that works with docking stations to flash phone content on the big screen. So if you want an update to that device on a network that is truly 4G, the Photon 4G might be the right choice for you.