First impressions of the AT&T HTC Aria, lots of power in a cute little package

The first HTC Google Android device to launch on AT&T is the HTC Aria and it packs quite a bit into a very compact form factor.

AT&T is the last major US wireless carrier to roll out Google Android devices and up until now they have only had the Motorola Backflip which was pretty limited by AT&T, which is not surprising. I was surprised by the announcement on Monday revealing the AT&T HTC Aria Google Android smartphone. The HTC Aria is one of the most compact smartphones I have seen from HTC since the days of the HTC Touch Diamond. I was sent an evaluation device to play with for a bit and the first thing that strikes you when you pull the Aria from the box is just how extremely compact it really is. Check out my image gallery, walk through video, and initial thoughts below.


Image Gallery: Check out some images of the HTC Aria from AT&T.
Image Gallery: Back of the HTC Aria
Image Gallery: HTC Aria and EVO 4G

In the box and first impressions

The evaluation device was sent from AT&T so it did not come in the full retail box that you will get when you buy one from AT&T. Inside the evaluation box I found the HTC Aria, yellow battery, USB cable, USB charging adapter, and wired stereo headphones.

The device feels great in your hand with the shell completely covered in soft touch rubber material and a length of just around 4 inches. It is the smallest Google Android device I have held and I can see it appealing to quite a few people.

Specifications

Specifications for the AT&T HTC Aria include the following:
  • Android 2.1 with HTC Sense 2.5 experience
  • 600 MHz Qualcomm MSM 7227 processor
  • 5 megapixel camera without flash
  • 3.2 inch HVGA (320x480) capacitive touch display
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • FM radio
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • microSD card slot
  • Dimensions: 4.10 x 2.30 x 0.46 inches and 3.8 ounces

As you can see above, the specifications for the AT&T HTC Aria are quite good compared to the high end Android devices like the EVO 4G and HTC Incredible. The two features that show it is a mid-level device are the processor and camera. Even though it has a 600 MHz processor, while most new higher end devices have a 1 GHz processor, I found the Aria to be quite snappy and responsive. You can also see that the Aria is a very compact device and fits into a shirt pocket with ease. It is just slightly bigger than the extremely compact HTC Touch Diamond.

Walk around the hardware

The front of the HTC Aria is dominated by the 3.2 inch HVGA display. Even though the display is not the highest resolution available I was surprised by how well it actually looked. Colors look great and there is just a bit of font pixelation visible. Below the display you will find the four touch sensitive areas for Home, Menu, Back, and Search. Below these areas is the very small optical trackball. There is an indicator light inside the earpiece grill above the display.

The volume rocker is on the left side with nothing at all on the right. The microUSB connection port and microphone are on the bottom while the 3.5mm headset jack and power button are found on the top. The power button is located in a metallic silver area on the top and appears to be well constructed.

The 5 megapixel camera and mono speaker grill are found on the upper center and left side of the back. There are four visible screws in the corners of the back and if you pop off the back cover you will find a vibrant yellow color. The battery is yellow too and the area down in way of the SIM card and microSD card is fairly clear yellow so you can see some of the device internals.

Walk through the software

The HTC Aria is powered by Google Android 2.1 with the latest version of the HTC Sense UI loaded on it. This version of Sense includes the slick Leap view that shows all 7 Home screens in one view, Friendstream social networking view, integrated Exchange support (email, calendar, and contacts), a number of HTC widgets, and more HTC applications. I personally like using HTC Sense and in particular I find the HTC keyboard to be very good on Google Android devices.

In addition, you will find that AT&T loaded up several applications on the Aria, including AT&T FamilyMap (a service you sign up for that lets you view those on your family plan on a map), AT&T Hot Spots (you get free WiFi at AT&T hotspots on the Aria), AT&T Maps (a TeleNav powered utility that lets you jump right into a map view and choose to access AT&T Navigator if you desire), AT&T Navigator (AT&T branded TeleNav GPS navigation client that is priced at $9.99 per month), AT&T Radio ($6.99 monthly subscription service), Mobile Banking, Cingular Mobile Video, MobiTV ($9.99 subscription service), Where ($2.99 per month subscription), and YPmobile. As you can see AT&T went their typical route and preinstalled a bunch of applications and services that will end up costing you a LOT of money if you accept or buy the subscriptions for each one. Unfortunately, you cannot uninstall the applications that AT&T loaded on the device so you will have to just try to ignore them if you don't want to use them.

Pricing and availability

The HTC Aria will be available from AT&T on 20 June for $129.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate and compatible voice and data plan. This is a great price for a functional Android device, but it is going to be tough to compete with the newest iPhone 4. This may be why AT&T didn't have HTC provide them with a high end Android device like the Incredible or EVO 4G. AT&T customers who want a better device always have the option to buy an AT&T-compatible Google Nexus One.

Final first thoughts

I showed the Aria to my wife and daughters and they all thought it was "cute" and could easily be carried around in any pocket. They were actually a bit surprised by how capable the device was as I ran through all of the features and Android operating system. I think the Aria will appeal to those looking for a compact touchscreen device and do not want an iPhone.