HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

Summary: The HTC Inspire 4G is a high-end Android smartphone that is priced like a discount phone. Learn why it's such a bargain and the pros and cons of this highly-anticipated device.

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Now that AT&T has lost its exclusive grip on the Apple iPhone in the US, the company is looking to attract new customers by jumping on the Android bandwagon. The wireless carrier has landed two of the most anticipated Android devices of early 2011 - the Motorola Atrix 4G and the HTC Inspire 4G. While labeling these devices "4G" is a bit of stretch, both are high-powered smartphones that will fuel AT&T's Android mission.

The HTC Inspire 4G combines the best qualities of my two favorite HTC devices from 2010, the HTC EVO 4G and the Google Nexus One. The design is also very similar to the new HTC Thunderbolt on Verizon. However, the distinguishing factor of the Inspire is that it costs a lot less than all of its high-powered Android cousins, all of which retailed for $200 or more at launch. AT&T is launching the Inspire at $99 in order to win over more Android fans to its network.

Here's my look at how the Inspire measures up.

Photo gallery

HTC Inspire 4G: High-powered Android, low-ball price

Specifications

  • Carrier: AT&T Wireless
  • OS: Android 2.2 (Froyo), and HTC Sense UI
  • Processor: 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (QSD8255)
  • RAM: 768MB
  • Storage: 4GB internal, 8GB microSD (expandable up to 32GB)
  • Display: 4.3-inch WVGA with 800×480 resolution
  • Battery: Lithium-ion with 1230 mAh capacity
  • Ports: micro-USB, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Weight: 5.78 ounces
  • Dimensions: 4.8 x 2.7 x 0.46 inches
  • Camera: 8MP with auto-focus, dual LED flash, and HD video capture
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, A-GPS, digital compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
  • Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY
  • Networks: GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, HSPA+ 850/1900 MHz
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1
  • Tethering: USB + mobile Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Price: $99 (with 2-year contract)

Who is it for?

Smartphone users who want a top-tier Android experience with a large screen (4.3 inches), large virtual keyboard, and HTC's excellent Sense UI software will be very happy with the Inspire 4G. Of course, you also need to be in an area that has good AT&T 3G coverage (or, better yet, an area covered by AT&T's new HSPA+ network). If you don't mind the bulkiness of the Inspire, then the phone's hardware design will impress you with its unibody aluminum frame. Business users who need a powerful, reliable device for heavy daily use should like what they find in the Inspire.

What problems does it solve?

The biggest problem that the Inspire solves is the price barrier. Most of the high-end smartphones of this caliber start at $200. The fact that this device offers as many top-notch features as it does and costs half that will definitely appeal to many. Of course, never forget that the monthly data plan for any smartphone is going to cost far more than the smartphone itself over the course of a two-year contract. The other breakthrough with the HTC Inspire is that it is one of the first truly high-end Android phones on AT&T. Plus, it's the first AT&T device to offer the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot feature.

Standout features

  • Excellent screen - The most striking feature of the Inspire is the 4.3-inch touchscreen. The extra screen real estate makes it easier to read text, better for viewing photos and videos, and provides more room for typing on the virtual keyboard. The screen itself is also bright and vibrant, although not quite as bright as the iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy S series.
  • Sturdy, attractive design - The unibody aluminum frame on the Inspire gives it a very high-quality, sturdy feel. It feels much higher quality than the Samsung Galaxy S models and their shining plastic finish or even the HTC EVO with its shiny plastic bezel around the edges. The Inspire has the same square form factor as the EVO, but it uses an aluminum frame that is reminiscent of the Nexus One and the HTC Desire. (In fact, the Inspire 4G is nearly identical to the Desire HD.)
  • HTC software - For all of the Android OEMs (Motorola, Samsung, LG, and Dell) other than HTC, I have repeatedly said that they should get out of the UI business and stop adding custom skins to Android. In all cases, they'd be better served by just running the stock Android OS. The only exception is HTC with its Sense UI, which adds some additional elegance to Android, in most cases, and offers a great set of additional Android widgets that look great, are highly functional, and don't cause a major hit to battery life.

What's wrong?

  • AT&T's Android naughtiness - As with AT&T's other Android devices, the wireless carrier makes some distasteful modifications to Android on the HTC Inspire. AT&T disables the ability to install applications that aren't in the Android market, it loads a bunch of its own AT&T software and services on the device, and it does not allow you to uninstall any of the AT&T software apps.
  • Big and heavy - If you've never handled the HTC EVO 4G before, then the first time you pick up the Inspire it will feel really big and a little heavy. After using it every day for a week or two, you'll forget about it and think it's not much bigger than other smartphones. However, there's no denying that this phone is bigger and heavier than almost any other smartphone on the market (see the comparison photos with other devices in our Inspire photo gallery).
  • A few missing features - The Inspire does not have a front-facing camera for video calls, does not have a Mini-HDMI port for video-out, and does not feature the latest and greatest Qualcomm CPU. It also lacks HSUPA support (for faster uploads), which means that this "4G" device can only upload photos and videos at about half the speed of the "3G" iPhone 4, for example.

Bottom line for business

If the oversized form factor doesn't bother you and none of the missing features are that important to you and AT&T works well in the areas you need, then the HTC Inspire 4G offers a high-end Android smartphone at an up-front price that you can't beat for a device of this caliber.

I hope that HTC and/or AT&T will do a firmware fix to enable HSUPA for the Inspire, and I hope that AT&T will eventually see the error of its ways and unleash Android from the distasteful restrictions that it has imposed upon it. Otherwise, there's a lot to like about the HTC Inspire 4G, especially at $99.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

This was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Android, Google, Hardware, HTC, Mobility, AT&T, Wi-Fi

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12 comments
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  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    I was confused for few days about picking up new android device for my development. I had been thinking between Inspire 4G and Atrix 4G. Finally took Atrix 4G on the launch day, which was two days back. My decision to go with Atrix 4G, eventhough I don't like Motorola and its culture, because of its lapdock, 1GB RAM and dual core processor, otherwise would have gone with Inspire 4G. Yes, Inspire 4G is a good phone and I think the other thing it is missing is from EVO 4G is front facing camera.
    Ram U
    • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

      @Rama.NET i know this cell phone from http://www.2011bestphone.com/?p=97 !!! it's really very good!!! but the bad is i don't have enough money to buy it
      guostar
  • This nails it!!

    It?s an old pattern by now. Phase 1: Apple introduces some new gadget. The bloggers and the industry tell us why it?ll fail. Phase 2: It goes on sale. The public goes nuts for it. Phase 3: Every company and its brother gets to work on a copycat.
    Hasam1991
    • Copy cat?

      @Hasam1991

      Copy cat? Android has lead the competition:

      1st with front-facing camera
      1st with 4 inch + screens
      1st with hot spot and tethering
      1st with 4g
      1st phone to dock with a laptop
      1st phone with dual-core processor

      Must I go on...?
      Bj77
      • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

        @Bj77
        Well Said.
        Ram U
  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    Stopped by my ATT store to look at the Inspire and the Atrix.
    Inspire - nice looking phone and love the screen real-estate
    Atrix - sucker screams and display is on par with the i4

    EOD - bought neither. The Ispire lacked too many little things I "think" I want and the Atrix case looks cheesy and shabby next to the Inspire.
    rhonin
  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    I bought both the day they launched (Feb13 for the Inspire 4g and Feb22 for the Atrix 4G). I so wanted to love the Atrix more than anyting. It is supposed to be everything all others phones are not - Dual core, tons of RAM, front facing camera, HDMI, amazing screen and battery. However, I must say that I love the Inspire and I am not thrilled (putting it mildly) with the Atrix. If the Inspire had a front facing camera HDMI out and a stand it would be the best phone on the market today (which is the Evo from Sprint in my opinion). Motoblur for the Atrix is aweful, period. HTC has nailed it with HTC Sense. This interface is the best I have ever used. The size is a little big compared to the Atrix (which fits my blackberry bold 9000 case size wise to give you an idea). However, after a few days you realize that it may be a little bigger but you fall in love with the large screen! My $.02.
    guest@...
  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    I wish I could take the great Android features of my new Atrix 4G and put them inside my HTC Tilt 2 which is on Windows Mobile 6.5. Texting is a miserable experience on the Atrix. I hate the heat-sensitive keyboard and want to be able to use my stylus (the Tilt offered 3 ways to text: touch screen, tap with stylus or full sliding QWERTY keyboard with tilting screen). The speech-to-text feature is only OK if you feel comfortable sending messages without proper punctuation or leaving typos in, and that's just not me. I can't get the hang of Swype, either. The Inspire is probably a good marriage of HTC Sense and Android, but I really didn't want a candy bar phone and I'm seriously pouting over this. I'm going to consider the Inspire for my teenage daughter's upgrade because I know someone who just returned a Samsung Captivate and is way, way happier with the Inspire now.
    natalie@...
  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    I just upgraded from a Motorola Razr V3xx, so almost any of the new phones would be amazing by comparison. Though I have to tell you I am impressed. I know I haven't been thru all the things it does yet, but I'm not going to be surprised if there is an app that will let this thing tap dance. Love it.. Easy to use. Menus are intuitive. HTC has done an impressive job on this phone.
    sitan01
  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    Hi THE att inspire 4g has a problem with ring tone volume it is set to the highest level and it is very low you can"t hear it on the street.or even in the house. I called HTC and they said they recieved lots of calls about this problem. They said the corporate office is aware of this and is working on it, Also it has no front camera and no kick stand,Like the thunderbolt by verizon Why the same phone with differance in features
    fak47
  • RE: HTC Inspire 4G review: High-powered Android at a low-ball price

    I am getting ready to upgrade, wish I didn't have ATT but I do, should I get the HTC Inspire over the iPhone 4?
    nfflatford@...
  • Great phone

    Nice phone with large display android 2.2. Good performance. Only issue is poor battery life. But I found that after recharging it 10 times, the battery is staying longer. Also, autopilot and auto task killer is helping in improving battery life. It lasts for more than 12 hrs for me. Over all I am happy with the phone, thou its processor speed is less compared to Atrix. Large screen is the major reason for me to pick this phone. Wonderful display.
    rajsharan