Android at CES 2011: Every Important Announcement ;).
You probably noticed Android dominating CES this year. With all those announcements, it can be hard to keep up with everything. Since these announcements are really giving us a glimpse of the future of Android, it’s important to take a close look. We saw more powerful devices on the show floor than even before, and some truly innovative ideas. Manufacturers are taking Android in new directions, and more carriers are getting in on the fun like never before.
Read on for a full rundown of all the big Android announcements from the show floor.
Motorola pulled out all the stops with this little beauty. Almost any property of a magical dream phone is embodied by this device. The Atrix is an AT&T phone running on the carrier’s HSPA+ “4G” network. The phone runs a dual core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 4-inch QHD display (960 x 540), a front-facing VGA, 5MP rear shooter, and a massive 1930 mAh battery. Frankly, it’s the best specced phone we’ve ever seen.
Moto also came up with some amazing software customizations. Plug the phone into an HDMI dock, and you can run the video signal to a monitor where you will enjoy a desktop experience via the Webtop OS. Use the phone for input, or plug in a keyboard and mouse to the dock. You get a full version of Firefox, a file browser, and more. Imagine a Chrome OS experience in your phone, and you’ll have a fair idea of the Atrix. There is also a laptop shell the phone can attach to that will let users have the same experience on the go.
That amazing customization is also a sore point for us. The phone runs Froyo, and with all these heavy alterations, we expect the update cycle for this handset to be very, very slow. Moto and AT&T not only have to QC software builds with all the MotoBlur customizations and apps, but now hardware devices will have to be tested with everything as well. If you like the Atrix (and there are plenty of reasons to), make sure you make the decision to buy or not based on what the phone is at launch. Not what is could be when/if Gingerbread hits it.
Imagine an Evo 4G that runs on Verizon, has a faster CPU, better screen, and LTE in place of WiMAX. You’ve just conjured up a mental image of the HTC Thunderbolt. We’ll leave you with that scrumptious image for a moment. Good? Okay, let’s move on. The Thunderbolt will be rocking Big Red’s shiny new LTE 4G network in a few months, and it looks like a great phone with a second gen 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, 512MB of RAM, 4.3-inch WVGA Super LCD display, 8MP camera with led flash, front-facing 1.3mp camera, and Android 2.2 with Sense UI.
We’re really happy to see HTC move to Super LCD in their 4.3-inch screens. These panels far outperform the standard LCD panel used on the Evo 4G. Much of these specs are lacking compared to a superphone like the Atrix, but the Thunderbolt has “real 4G”, and HTC’s very competent Sense software layer. Overall, we find this superior to MotoBLUR. We wish this was going to be a Gingerbread phone, but you can’t have everything. The Thunderbolt might not blow the doors off Verizon, but it’s going to be a solid experience, and worth your attention.
As if Verizon’s LTE network won’t be properly christened by the Thunderbolt alone, the Droid Bionic will be there in the coming months as well. This phone is using the same 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 chip as the Atrix, but only has 512MB of RAM. The screen is slightly larger at 4.3-inches, and the same QHD resolution. It’s also got a front-facing VGA camera, an 8-megapixel on the rear, HDMI out, and a mirror mode for throwing the UI up on a screen.
The software loadout is Android 2.2 Froyo-based, with Motorola’s lighter Blur skin. This is actually an updated look for Blur, and we like it. Instead of the strangely redundant Phone and Contacts links at the bottom of the screen, you now get 4 shortcuts. It’s more like TouchWiz actually. It still has that hard-edged robot vibe, but the find this look much less offensive than the heavier Blur that the Atrix is running. Still, you don’t get the cool docking goodies the Atrix has… at least not yet.
The Infuse is another HSAP+ “4G” phone for AT&T. It runs TouchWiz on top of Android 2.2. We’re not thrilled about that, but we are pretty excited by the screen. The Infuse will have a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. This is the new revision of the gorgeous screen other Galaxy S phones use. The resolution is still 800×480, but it no longer uses the pentile subpixel arrangement. What this means in practice, is the screen will be incredibly crisp in addition to having great black levels, and vibrant colors.
The Infuse 4G also comes with a new Hummingbird CPU clocked at 1.2 GHz, 512MB of RAM, an 8MP rear camera, and 1.3MP front sensor. It might be getting dangerously close to Dell Streak territory at 4.5-inches, but if it passes the “do I look like a tool while talking on it” test, we could have a winner here.
The LG Revolution was announced at CES as yet another Verizon LTE handset we’ll see in a few months. This is a somewhat more conventional device. We’re looking at a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, a 4.3-inch WVGA screen, DLNA, HDMI and DIVX capable video out, and Android 2.2 with LG’s new skin. It sounds like a capable phone, but some other options are looking better now.
The other LG announcement at the show was the LG Black. Unfortunately, this phone is headed for an international release. So no US version is planned. Bummer, because it uses a new 4-inch “NOVA” display with 700 nits of brightness, making it the brightest display out there. Early reports say it looks great, but we’ll just have to wait for the tech do reach our shores later. The Black is also incredibly thin, at only 9.2mm thick.
The LG Optimus 2x was shown off as well, but was announced before the show. Still it deserves a mention for being another Tegra 2 device. We’re really looking forward to seeing how this chip can handle Android and the high end games devs are starting to crank out.
One last AT&T HSPA+ phone for the pile. The HTC Inspire 4G is basically the Thunderbolt for AT&T. What we said about the specs and screen hold true here. Excited for a bigger Super LCD, but a little sad it’s an HSPA+ phone instead of a real 4G technology. But that LTE Thunderbolt isn’t dropping for months. The Inspire is landing soon.
The other thing you miss from the Thunderbolt is the front-facing cam. There is no video chat happening here. But for those looking for an updated Evo on AT&T, the Inspire 4G is still bringing that great Android 2.2 Sense UI build to the table. Gingerbread? We hope, but don’t hold your breath.
It’s finally real. Android for tablets has been revealed, and it’s 3.0 Honeycomb. The UI has been vastly altered from the phone version, and that’s just what we wanted to see. There are no hardware buttons for the traditional Android functions. Instead, they are floating software buttons. This means you can always know where to find these buttons, no matter which way you hold the tablet. The home screen has been totally revamped with more space, and a new swiping effect. There is also a more advanced widget management system, tablet formatted Google apps, and a better browser.
The Xoom will have a 10.1-inch 1280×800 resolution, 1GB of RAM, and 32GB integrated NAND memory with an expansion card for good measure. There is a 5MP rear-facing camera, and a 2MP front sensor for use with the new video chat features. The Xoom will weigh in at 1.6 pounds; just a tiny bit more than the iPad. The device itself is a very understated flat black affair. The real show here is Honeycomb, and we’re okay with that.
The Xoom is going to be a Verizon 3G device at launch, with a later upgrade to LTE. But we’re not entirely sure how the upgrade will happen. Presumably there is an LTE modem in the device that will be flipped on with a software update when Verizon is ready. This is the future of Android, and it’s terribly exciting. No details on pricing yet.
Everything we said about Honeycomb above goes for the G-Slate as well. The obvious differences are that the G-Slate is a 7-inch tablet, and it is on T-Mobile’s network. You might like both of those things, or dislike them. But we can tell one thing by having two examples of Honeycomb: we can be sure what stock Android 3.0 looks like. Both these devices are running unaltered Google code, and that’s really cool.
What are we most excited for?
It comes down to two products from one company. The best, most impressive Android devices from CES are the Motorola Atrix 4G and the Xoom tablet. Moto really killed it this time, and our hats go off to them. The Atrix makes us feel like we’re living in the future. That imaginary future where your phone really is a computer just started being real, and Motorola is right there. We’re a little concerned about how updates will work, especially considering that the phone is shipping with 2.2 when 2.3 is out there. Still, the Atrix is downright impressive.
The Xoom looks like the most credible iPad competitor so far. It is of similar size and weight. It runs the version of Android Google designed for tablets, and it looks great. With Verizon’s 3g and 4G networks driving it, the Xoom is looking mighty appealing. We wish we knew how much they were going to be asking for the Xoom, but it that can wait. Right now we’re just feeling too impressed to care. But that’s just us. What product announced at CES are you most excited about?
Who said? Ryan Whitwam said ;).