The HTC Inspire 4G is AT&T’s first 4G (HSPA+) smartphone and currently sits at the top of the carrier’s Android heap – at least for another few weeks until the Motorola Atrix 4G drops. I’d only used the phone for four days before filming the video – delivery was delayed by the snowstorms that hit the East Coast and Midwestern US last week – and so haven’t yet tested it as fully as I’d normally like before posting a review. That said, it’s not dramatically different from HTC Android phones of the recent past (the device, in fact, is largely modeled off of the Desire HD).
Between the 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 4.3″ WVGA display, and 8 megapixel camera with HD video capture, Inspire 4G reads on paper like a top-shelf Android phone. But it’s mid-level price tag ($99 on contract) speaks to the coming wave of “superphones” that will soon knock Inspire from its lofty perch. A range of dual-core smartphones with full video out over HDMI and dual-cameras for video chat, and – in the Atrix’ case – multiple docking options promising full desktop/laptop-class productivity have already been announced and will no doubt keep some potential buyers away from picking up an Inspire 4G.
Those are bleeding edge types, though. The rest of us can choose instead to reap the rewards of technology’s inevitable march forward by picking up a top-shelf phone at a mid-tier price. Inspire 4G has plenty of horsepower for most folks’ daily use. While I do wish it had a front camera for video calls, and maintain my ongoing quibbles with Android’s general lack of user-friendliness (it’s getting better but still maddeningly confusing in certain spots), it’s hard to find much fault with Inspire’s performance no matter how you look at it. This is a responsive device with a big, bright display, sensitive touchscreen, good voice quality on calls, solid camera for stills and videos, and some great additions in the form of HTC’s Sense UI and soft QWERTY board with its great predictive text system. Inspire’s battery cover is ridiculously difficult to deal with, and the phone will just plain be too big for some folks, but all in all it’s another classy, well-built device from HTC.
As for the whole “4G’ thing, color me unimpressed but hopeful. I didn’t have much of a chance to test Inspire’s 4G speeds outside of my office, which is notorious for getting lousy GSM reception. Head-to-head tests with an iPhone 3G on AT&T yielded some crazy results, including one round in which iPhone scored a perfect zero on upload speeds. Yup, 0.00 Mbps. In general Inspire’s HSPA+ was faster than iPhone’s HSPA, but not by that big a margin. Check out the video for two rounds of testing, and bear in mind that AT&T’s 4G rollout is literally just getting underway when it comes to consumer coverage.
So should you buy an Inspire 4G? If you need the best Android phone available for AT&T right now? Yes. If you want a 4G-ready smartphone for AT&T and don’t much care if it has two processing cores, two cameras, and the ability to turn into a $500 laptop? Yes. But if you’re an early adopter type you should hold out to see how Atrix 4G fares once it hits the stores and streets. I’m not saying dual-core in a smartphone will live up to the hype, but I am saying it’s worth holding off a couple of weeks to find out for yourself. I mean, it’s not like AT&T’s going to stop selling the Inspire once Atrix comes out, right?
NOTE: My apologies for the video quality. For scheduling/logistic reasons I had to shoot the video when I did, which was at night in a dark room. The lighting was bad, and the phone’s screen was too bright, which resulted in some sections being blown-out. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to reshoot the video, which I really would have liked to. I owe y’all one. – Noah