HTC Thunderbolt

“In other words, the Thunderbolt has a very real opportunity to be the finest 4.3-inch device HTC has ever made — for the moment, anyway…”

At a quick glance, without any background information, your eyes might tell you that the HTC Thunderbolt is little more than a Verizon remake of Sprint’s EVO 4G and AT&T’s Inspire 4G. After all — like its contemporaries — the Thunderbolt features a spacious 4.3-inch WVGA display, 8 megapixel camera, and dual-LED flash. In reality, though, the Thunderbolt is something more: from the Inspire, it borrows a better, crisper display with a wider viewing angle and a newer-generation (though still single-core) Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. From the EVO 4G, meanwhile, it borrows a cool integrated kickstand and the addition of a second “4G” radio, making this a spec Frankenstein of sorts — the best of both worlds. Of course, instead of Sprint’s WiMAX for that 4G radio, the Thunderbolt grants you access to Verizon’s LTE network — a network so fresh, it still has that new-network smell. There’s a lot of horsepower here.

The Thunderbolt doesn’t buck the trend of packaging high-end phones in high-end boxes — put simply, it’s an elegant, sturdy, matte black cube encased in a black sleeve. Lots of black here, actually, which means you can’t see the name of the phone… but you can feel it. It’s embossed! Nice touch, the kind of thing that’ll make you want to put the packaging away in a closet or drawer somewhere rather than throwing it away. The black theme is broken in rather spectacular fashion when you crack open the box — which is split down the middle — to reveal gobs of bright Verizon red and your shiny, new purchase square in the middle. Underneath, you’ll find some literature, a slim, glossy black USB wall charger, and a micro-USB cable — sorry, no trashy earbuds here. As we’ve said in the past, that’s just fine by us; odds are good that if you’re spending $250 on a phone, you’re going to be spending a few bucks on a decent headset, anyway — the units that are bundled with phones are almost universally awful, which ends up unfairly tinting your opinion of the phone’s audio quality. In our review unit, both the battery and 32GB microSD card came pre-installed.

Pulling the phone out of its cardboard cradle, you instantly recognize that this thing is a beast — it’s just big and heavy. There’s no other way to put it. If you’re acquainted and comfortable with the EVO 4G, you’ll feel right at home — the EVO’s actually a few grams heavier, which took us by surprise when we looked it up — but if you’re coming from pretty much anything else, you’ll probably mouth the word “whoa” the first time you take it into your hand. For comparison’s sake, it’s right around 20 percent heavier than an iPhone 4. We’re not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing; in general, phones have a tendency to feel higher-quality when they’re more substantial and they’ve got a little more junk in the trunk, and that’s certainly the case with the Thunderbolt — but it’s still something to consider. We’re fairly certain there will be at least a few potential buyers who are off-put by the weight, so you should swing into a store and spend a little quality time with it before pulling the trigger.

Samsung Infuse 4G

4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display and crazy thin…

The Samsung Infuse 4G has yet to make its way to market, but when it does, you might be able to find it at Walmart. Rumor has it that the retail giant has been sending around circulars indicating that the Infuse and its 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display will hit shelves sometime next month. The notices also mention that the device will be sold for $178.88, which would likely be bundled with a two-year AT&T contract.

First introduced just last year on the Wave, it feels like Super AMOLED was just starting to get its sea legs… but here we go again: Samsung’s latest handset — announced today in collaboration with AT&T at CES — is the first to tout “Super AMOLED Plus” technology that features a 50 percent boost in sub-pixel count, promising improvements both in contrast and outdoor readability. Maybe more importantly, the display clocks in at a whopping 4.5 inches, besting HTC’s 4.3-inch range (the EVO 4G, Desire HD, and likely the Thunderbolt) without getting dangerously close to Dell Streak territory. It’s got an 8 megapixel camera on back paired with a 1.3 megapixel shooter up front, a 1.2GHz single-core Hummingbird processor, and still somehow promises to be the thinnest smartphone on AT&T when it launches at a to-be-determined date. Now, the controversy: despite the name, the Infuse 4G apparently doesn’t have a hint of LTE — it’s HSPA+, which means AT&T’s now playing the same game as T-Mobile.

We’ve had a brief chance to play with an early Infuse 4G dummy unit, so we weren’t able to turn it on, but we got a pretty good impression of how it feels. Basically, we came away encouraged that 4.5 inches isn’t going to feel too big for practical use — if you’re accustomed to something like an EVO, you probably won’t skip a beat (that’s undoubtedly due in part to the fact that the Infuse seems to be quite a bit thinner). We’re told the tastefully textured matte rear cover that we saw wasn’t final, but we’re crossing our fingers that the retail unit doesn’t diverge far from what they’ve done here, because it felt exceptionally high-quality and looked a whole lot better than the typical glossy plastic on the existing Galaxy S series. Speaking of Galaxy S, the Infuse is described as “a Galaxy S phone” — so yeah, that brand isn’t going away any time soon. Software-wise, we obviously weren’t able to get a feel for speed on the non-functional model, but you can expect the usual TouchWiz skin atop Android 2.2; sure, Gingerbread would’ve been nice at launch, but you can dry your tears on that 1.2GHz silicon.

LG G-Slate To Challenge iPad, Galaxy Tab

“The LG Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network bristles with 3D features”

LG and T-Mobile announced the G-Slate a few hours before Google fully unveiled the power and features of Android 3.0 Honeycomb. The G-Slate will be T-Mobile’s second tablet (following the Samsung Galaxy Tab), but its first Honeycomb device.

The G-Slate boasts some impressive specs. It has an HD 8.9-inch 3D-capable display; viewing 3D content will require glasses. Users will be able to watch 720p HD content on the G-Slate, as well as deliver 1080p HD/3D content via HDMI to other playback devices.
Under the hood, the G-Slate is powered by a dual-core 1Ghz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and it has enhanced 3D graphics support. Android 3.0 Honeycomb supports Flash for native browser video playback, and it has other gaming niceties, such as Wi-Fi, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and adaptive lighting.

As if the G-Slate doesn’t have enough 3D capabilities already, LG decided to endow it with dual-cameras for 1080p HD 3D video capture. The cameras also shoot still images at 5 megapixels, and are supported by an LED flash. The G-Slate also has a 2-megapixel, user-facing camera for video chat support.
LG and T-Mobile said the G-Slate is the first in a coming line of G-series devices. It can access and use T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, which can be used for video chats, TV streaming, and gaming.
At first blush, the G-Slate looks like a contender. Its 8.9-inch display puts it smack in the middle of the 7-inch and 10-inch tablet camps, which could be a positive differentiator for the G-Slate. Devices such as RIM’s PlayBook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab have 7-inch displays, while the Motorola Xoom and Apple iPad have 10-inch (or, near 10-inch) displays. LG says the G-Slate is an ideal device for reading.
With a dual-core processor and 3D graphics support, it sounds as if LG is taking performance seriously — as it should. Many of the tablets primed to hit the market are hoping to snag gamers from other mobile gaming platforms.

Sidekick 4G – The Best Android Phone for Text

The perfect Android Phone for heavy SMS users, top marks as a favored deck for the younger set…

The T-Mobile Sidekick as we once knew it may be gone forever, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the franchise. Far from it actually.
T-Mobile dished out fresh details about the upcoming Sidekick 4G this evening, and the smartphone mixes a bit of the old with the new to offer something that’s both familiar to Sidekick fans and modern enough to keep it relevant in today’s competitive smartphone market.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the design doesn’t stray far from its roots. You get the five-row keyboard and even the navigation buttons are still located on the corners of the phone.
However, don’t think the Sidekick 4G is just a rehash of the previous design. Manufactured by Samsung instead of Sharp this time around, the smartphone is the first Sidekick to have a touch screen (a 3.5-inch WVGA touch screen, to be exact) with a spring-loaded hinge, a front-facing VGA camera for video calls, and a 1GHz Hummingbird processor.
The Sidekick 4G is also 4G capable and can hit theoretical download speeds of 21Mbps, which puts it on par with the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and potentially faster than T-Mobile’s other 4G smartphones, the T-Mobile G2 and MyTouch 4G.

Hardware aside, the Sidekick 4G was really more about taking the product to the next level, and T-Mobile approached that in a couple of ways. First, it enhanced the messaging capabilities of the smartphone by adding Group Text and Cloud Text features.

Don’t think the Sidekick 4G is just a rehash of the previous design. Manufactured by Samsung instead of Sharp this time around, the smartphone is the first Sidekick to have a touch screen (a 3.5-inch WVGA touch screen, to be exact) with a spring-loaded hinge, a front-facing VGA camera for video calls, and a 1GHz Hummingbird processor.

Acer Iconia A500 Tablet

Once again, the A500 makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab look pretty shabby.

If you’ve been waiting for Android tablets to catch up with Apple’s iPad, the wait might be over.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the first batch of Android tablets. They reminded me of the early Android smartphones like the HTC Dream – brimming with potential but not quite ready for the big time. After spending some time with the sleek new Acer Iconia Tab A500 running Android 3.0 “Honeycomb”, I feel it’s safe to say Android tablets have come of age.

The 10.1-inch A500 is a thing of beauty and makes a striking first impression. It’s just as slender as the original iPad and is only a tad heavier at 765 gm compared to the iPad’s 680 gm. The A500’s tapered edges help emphasise the feeling of slenderness and the extra weight isn’t really noticeable at first. After a while I found myself resting the A500 on my lap more than I would with the iPad, so I guess you start to feel the weight after a while. That doesn’t bother me too much because I’d say the A500 is designed more for using on the couch than the train. If you’re looking for a smaller and lighter travel companion, keep in mind Acer will also offer a 7-inch A100 – unlike Apple’s one-size-fits-all approach to tablets. The A100 features a pretty meagre 8GB of storage, but the other specs are good and it will most likely be the cheapest entry-level Honeycomb tablet. The wifi-only A100 will be available in June and the 3G/wifi A101 will be available in July.

For now Acer is selling the 16GB wifi-only A500 for $579 and the 32GB wifi-only for $678 – impressive pricing compared to the first-gen Android tablets. The A501 wifi/3G models should be available in June.

HTC Incredible 2

“The leaked Verizon roadmap we saw a week or so ago mentions April 28…”

Well, well, what have we here? An all-new, hot-off-the-press, get-it-while-it’s-hot look at the upcoming (and still not actually announced) Incredible 2 on Verizon. From what we can tell, the body’s exactly the same as we saw on the HTC Incredible S at Mobile World Congress (see our hands-on here). Same rounded corners, same plateaued battery cover (which we still really like). But this one’s all done up in Verizon duds, and that makes us all tingly inside.

Flip it over, and we see the same 8-megapixel camera with dual flash, and the ever-comforting “with Google” logo.

We also get another look at the HTC keyboard (which remains one of our favorites), confirmation that indeed we’re dealing with ADR6350, for those of you who keep up on your HTC code numbers, and this one’s running Android 2.2.1 at the moment. Whether it’ll launch with that, well, we’ll see (and keep our fingers crossed for something a tad newer).

And speaking of release dates. Nothing official, of course, but that leaked Verizon roadmap we saw a week or so ago mentions April 28. That said, we’ve heard that roadmap might already be out of date, and we might be treated to a phone or two a little sooner rather than later. Will the Incredible 2 fall into that category? And is that actually its name? We’ll just have to see.

HTC Sensation 4G

“HTC’s first device enabled with a new feature called HTC Watch…”

If you don’t remember, this model was originally being tossed around as the HTC Pyramid, so that name change rumor turned out to be true.
But let’s get to the important stuff. Enabled with both the signature HTC Sense interface on top of Android 2.3, the Sensation runs on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor. The Sensation 4G is also quite powerful than most other comparable smartphones when it comes to the 8-megapixel camera that also shoots full HD 1080p video at 30fps.

This is also HTC’s first device enabled with a new feature called HTC Watch. Basically, it’s an on-demand service with a library of movies and TV shows that can be rented or bought. Those purchases can be shared amongst up to five HTC devices. HTC also boasts that the Sensation allows owners to watch movies “in their full cinematic glory.” Let’s not get ahead of ourselves – this is still just a smartphone.
The Gingerbread phone is also outfitted with a 4.3-inch qHD touch screen, aluminum unibody and rounded edges. It sounds rather sleek and slender, so I’m definitely intrigued to see this in person when it lands with T-Mobile USA this summer. Pricing hasn’t been revealed yet.

HTC Desire S

“It’s not novel, it’s not surprising, it’s just very, very good.”

HTC is rightly proud of its aluminum unibody construction method. It goes beyond what other manufacturers do — such as Nokia with the aluminum-clad N8 — by using just one piece of the lightweight metal, which is wrapped around the phone’s internal components and acts as both its case and frame. On the Desire S, there are a couple of plastic-covered rear compartments, one to accommodate the 5 megapixel camera, LED flash, and loudspeaker, and the other to permit access to the 1450mAh battery and SIM and MicroSD card slots. The latter chunk of soft-touch plastic also acts as the Desire S’ antenna. You might expect the move to a metallic construction to incur some penalties in terms of weight and bulk, but the Desire S is five grams lighter than the original Desire at 130g (4.59oz), 4mm shorter at a height of 115mm (4.7 inches), and just slightly thinner and narrower than its predecessor. Another appreciable upgrade over the original Desire is that the display now sits closer to the glass at the front of the phone, eliminating what was a noticeable distance between the two on the older device.

Acer Iconia Tab A500

“An Android 3.0 Honeycomb device in a dual-core Tablet for $450 at Best Buy…”

Acer has officially unleashed its Iconia Tab A500, a 10.1-inch tablet poised to defy the likes of Apple and Motorola. Unsurprisingly, Acer is billing its new creation as the ultimate companion device for Web browsing, accessing social networks, reading e-books, listening to music, watching videos, playing games and so on.

Like Motorola’s Xoom, the Tab A500 is powered by Android 3.0 Honeycomb and a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 250 SoC, which is quick enough for 1080p video playback and mobile gaming. In fact, Acer is shipping the slate with free copies of Need for Speed: Shift and Let’s Golf installed (the former is $5 via the Android Market).

The slate carries a 1280×800 display with 80-degree viewing angles and the ability to register input from all 10 fingers. You’ll also find 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (a 32GB model is in the works), a microSD card reader that can handle up to 32GB cards, a 5MP rear camera with flash and auto-focus and a 2MP front cam.

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