The just-released HTC Inspire holds a number of firsts on the AT&T network. It is the first AT&T phone that is 4G-enabled. It is the first large (4.3”) touch screen phone on the AT&T network. And it is the first AT&T phone that uses Android 2.2 (Froyo). The specs of the Inspire are impressive, so we decided to take a look.
The Inspire comes in the typical orange and white AT&T box, shown in Figure 1. The box contents are clearly marked on the front of the box. As shown in Figure 2, they include the phone, a, AC charger, a Micro-USB sync cable, and a Quick Start Guide. The lithium ion battery and 8 GB MicroSD card, which are also included, are already in the phone.
Figure 1: The Inspire in the box
Figure 2: The contents of the box
At first glance, the Inspire, which is shown in Figure 3, looks very much like many other touch screen smart phones.
The phone is a typical black rectangle with slightly rounded corners. The first unusual feature is quite noticeable. Because of its large 4.3” screen, the Inspire at 4.8 x 2.7 x 0.5 inches (121.9 x 68.5 x 11.6 mm) is slightly larger than most other phones of this type. As shown in Figure 4, the Inspire is similar in size to the Motorola Droid X, with the Droid X being slightly longer.
Figure 4: The Inspire (on the left) and the Droid X
Only after closer inspection, you notice that this HTC phone is a uni-body construction. Instead of having a front and a back put together with a bezel, the entire phone is constructed of a single piece of brushed aluminum. Although the metal body adds a little weight (with the battery, the Inspire weighs in at 5.78 ounces or 163.8 grams), it leaves no fingerprints and gives this phone a good solid feel. [nextpage title=”Setting up the Inspire”]
Normally, getting a cell phone’s hardware setup is a no-brainer, but this is not so with the Inspire. This phone has two doors, one on the side of the back for the battery and one at the bottom of the back for the Micro SD chip and the SIM card. Figure 5 shows the back of the Inspire with both doors removed.
Figure 5: The battery and card openings
Inserting an SD card and the SIM card is easy. The bottom easily slides on and off easily. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the battery door. We needed a small screwdriver to pry it open. After inserting the battery, the door was almost impossible to get closed properly. It took a good 10 minutes of fumbling to get it situated properly. The door itself is rather thin and we were in constant fear of breaking it. The only good thing that we can say about this situation is that luckily, inserting the battery is something that you will only have to do once or twice during the life of the phone. If you purchase this phone, we suggest avoiding this frustration by having the battery inserted for you at the store.
Once you have the hardware setup, getting the rest of the phone ready for use is a cakewalk. It runs Android 2.2, so it is easy to set up email, to sync your contacts, and to personalize the phone to suit your needs.
Figure 6 shows the bottom of the home screen, which includes three icons. The arrow on the left brings up the full App screen. The larger one in the middle is used to access the Phone functions, and the one on the right is used to personalize the phone. Although some have indicated that they thought this icon looks like a football helmet and a stick, we believe that it is supposed to be an artist’s pallet and a paint brush.
Figure 6: The Home screen buttons
Tap on this icon and you are presented with options for personalizing your Inspire. This was actually one of the fun parts of setting up this phone. Where the vanilla Android operating system has four or five personalization options, the HTC’s Sense user interface has many more options. You can change the skins, wallpaper, sounds and other options, but you can also choose from a wide range of specially designed HTC widgets and Apps. There are also HTC Scenes which creates customized home pages. The phone includes six scenes which are nicely shown on the phone in an iTunes-like display, as shown in Figure 7. If you sign up for a free HTC account, you can easily download additional scenes.
You can also use the HTC Sense and HTC’s Friend Stream app for your social networking. It will allow you to check your status, email, or tweets. Other Apps from the Android Marketplace are now plentiful.
[nextpage title=”Hardware and Navigation”]
As shown in Figure 8 the main navigation for the phone consists of four lighted icons on the black strip at the bottom of the touch screen. They are (from left to right), Home, Menu, Back and Search.
Figure 8: The screen and navigation
Pressing the Menu icon brings up six choices that change depending on which screen you are on. The Menu choices for the Internet option are shown in Figure 9. They include Back, Forward, Add bookmark, Bookmarks, and Windows. The last icon is marked “More” and will obviously give you more options.
Figure 9: The browser menu options
The Inspire’s 4.3” screen is a WVGA LCD screen which HTC calls a Super LCD. Although this screen wa
s developed to compete with Apple’s Retina display and Samsung’s Super, we found that it did not live up to those standards. However, the screen itself was crisp, clear, bright, and gave a good color representation. It was viewable in bright sunlight and we found it extremely usable. As a capacitive touch screen, it was nicely responsive. Although some smart phones with dual processors are starting to appear, the Inspire’s 1 GHz Snapdragon processor with 768 MB RAM provided speedy responses no matter what chore it was presented with.
As shown in Figure 10, the top of the Inspire has only one silver button – the Power button. On the right side is a single toggle control for the volume, shown in Figure 11.
Figure 10: The top of the Inspire
Figure 11: The side of the Inspire
The bottom of the Inspire, shown in Figure 12, has a USB connector in the middle, flanked by a 3.5 mm standard headset jack and a small microphone hole.
Figure 12: The bottom of the Inspire
[nextpage title=”Additional Features”]
While we have never been a big fan of the overlays that manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung put on their phones, the new HTC Sense user interface on this phone has some merits. For the most part, it actually enhances the user interface rather than bogging it down. We loved the HTC Widgets and Scenes. We also liked that fact that you can see all of the 7 Android screens at once by double-tapping the home icon and can move them around right from that screen. Another likeable feature is being able to press and hold the Home icon to get up recently used apps.
The HTC interface includes a useful Blocked Caller app that we haven’t seen much before. This allows you send calls from certain numbers directly to voice mail. There is also an HTC app that lets you transfer your personal data from one smart phone to another using the phone Bluetooth connections. Although AT&T will do this for you when you purchase the phone, this can be a useful app for do-it-yourselfers. There is also an HTC website that, with a Sense account, you can use to sync your contacts and locate your phone if it is lost.
HTC also uses its own version of the music player, camera, and web browser. Although we would have like to have seen a music section for podcasts and audio books, all the other features in these areas are very useable. And of course, you can access your podcasts and audio books in the Music section.
We only had one complaint about the Sense overlay – the keyboard. We found it a little more difficult to use than the previous Sense keyboard and we were dismayed at the lack of the Swype keyboard interface that we have come to love in other phones.
The Inspire’s 8 MP camera has a dual LED flash and records video at 720p HD. Pictures and video are both good. Outdoor pictures have good color representation; however, the LED flash when used adds a yellowish tint to the photos.
If you get good coverage from AT&T, you can expect this phone to perform admirably. All calls in our tests were clear with no dropped calls. The ability of this phone to handle the AT&T 4G network, will no doubt mean faster service. However, this phone works on the AT&T HSPA+ network not AT&T’s upcoming LTE network. AT&T says that HSPA+ provides data speeds up to 4X faster than its 3G network.
The 4G technology and the variety of different 4G networks from different carriers cannot yet be fully scrutinized. Since 4G is just being announced in various markets and since so few people are using 4G right now, it is difficult to determine just how much faster each of the different varieties of 4G will be when they are fully implemented and used. There is no doubt, however, that 4G will give faster service so you can somewhat future-proof yourself with a 4G phone. This phone also has the mobile hotspot app built in so with an additional monthly fee, it can connect up to five other devices to the Internet.
HTC includes Dolby Mobile and SRS Surround Sound in this phone, so the speaker quality is excellent. This is apparent when listening through the speakers, but is even more impressive when using headphones.
The Inspire also ha support for all the common technolgies including Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, and DNLA for streaming videos.
The battery of the Inspire, as with most other smart phones of this type, will last a day with average use. It does run Android 2.2 which has slightly better battery life than previous Android versions due to better task management. Of course, you can adjust the screen brightness, and turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to conserve power, if necessary.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the HTC Inspire 4G cell phone include:
- Dimensions: 4.8 x 2.7 x 0.5 inches (121.9 x 68.5 x 11.6 mm)
- Weight: 5.78 oz (163.8 g), with battery
- Display: 4.3-inch WVGA resolution with pinch-to-zoom
- Processor: Qualcomm QSD8255 1 GHz Snapdragon
- Operating System: Android 2.2 (Froyo) with HTC Sense
- Internal Memory: 768 MB RAM, 4 GB ROM
- Network: HSPA+ 850/1900 MHz, GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GPS GPS/AGPS
- Camera: 8-megapixel color camera with auto focus and flash
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack
- Memory slot: Micro SD
- Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 1230 mAh
- Talk Time: Up to 360 minutes
- Standby Time: Up to 15 and a half days
- More Information: https://www.htc.com
- Carrier in the US: AT&T
- MSRP in the US: USD 400, USD 100 with a two-year contract (early termination fee: USD 325 minus USD 10 per full month of usage), plus service (USD 40 minimum per month) and data plan (USD 15 minimum per month)
At USD 100 with a two-year contract, the HTC Inspire is a function-filled phone that is very affordably priced. With Android 2.2, the ability to use AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G network, a large display, and mobile hot-spot capabilities, this phone has everything the average user needs.
The new HTC Sense overlay provides some good solid enhancements to the OS. In our opinion, this is the first overlay of this type that is truly useful and doesn’t bog the phone down.
Although there are phones on the horizon with dual processors and some already have higher resolution screens, the Inspire’s 1 GHz Snapdragon processor with 768 MB RAM and its Super LCD screen, will have enough speed and clarity for the average user. At USD 100, it is an attractively priced phone full of functionality. Perhaps they should have called this phone the “Incredible” since it is an “incredible” value, but then, that name is already taken.
- 4G capable
- Large capacitive touch
- Sturdy uni-body construction
- Hot-spot capabilities
- New HTC Sense overlay
- Android 2.2
- Good 9-megapixel camera
- 720p videos
- Battery cover difficult to handle
- A bit heavy
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