HTC Aria review

Reviews Gary Krakow 15:56, Jun 16 2010

We review the upcoming HTC Aria, AT&T's pocketable Android phone, to see if it can compete with its over-sized siblings

With Sprint's magnificent EVO 4G, T-Mobile's HD2 and the soon-to-be-announced Motorola DROID X from Verizon, it looked like all we were in store for were huge-screened, pocket-breaking smartphones coming to the marketplace.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I have to admit that it's nice to have all that extra room on the screen to tap, type and slide. But, I've heard complaints about the size of the EVO 4G (and the DROID X may be even bigger) and wondered if the phone manufacturers were listening.

Enter the brand new HTC Aria. AT&T describes it as a pocket-sized Android handset -- and the pocket the carrier is describing is actually normal sized.

The Aria is adorable. At 4.6 by 2.3 by 0.47 inches and a scant 4.6 ounces, it's definitely HTC's most compact Android phone in the U.S. to date. Think Palm Pixi-sized rather than Apple iPad-sized. It really is the perfect size to slip into your pocket.

But don't be fooled into thinking this phone is somehow stymied by its size. This is a full-fledged, full-featured Android smartphone with a lot of goodies packed inside.

For instance, it runs on version 2.1 of the Android operating system with HTC's Sense UI screen interface, has a 3.2-inch, HVGA color touchscreen and a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera. It also packs 512MB of Flash memory, 256MB of RAM, a 2GB microSD memory card (expandable to 32GB), GPS/AGPS/Digital Compass, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and it works on AT&T's ever-improving, fast 3G network.

The Aria is also a world phone, which means it should work nearly anywhere on the planet where you can find a good GSM/GPRS/EDGE/HSDPA signal. Plus, it's a real Android phone and has all those (50,000+) Android apps available to choose from in the Android Marketplace.

After the quick Android set-up process, I took a look around and noticed a few of the more interesting features and programs buried inside the phone. Examples include the AT&T Family Map (lets you see exactly where you AT&T phone-toting family members on a map), AT&T Hot Spots (finds a Wi-Fi connection), AT&T Navigation and Maps, AT&T Radio, Facebook, Peep (for Tweets), Mobile Banking (with a choice of banks to deal with), Where, Yellow Pages Mobile and many of the standard Google applications.

I've saved the best for last.

There's also MobiTV. AT&T gives you a free taste, but it costs $10 per month to get the real service on your phone. I signed-up and within two minutes, I was watching live World Cup action on ESPN from South Africa.

I know other services offer similar programming, but I can report that the Aria/MobiTV combination did a wonderful job of letting me watch the game. The streaming (it will work only on AT&T's 3G network, not via Wi-Fi) looks great.

The phone itself did everything it was asked to do and did so quickly and accurately. There are seven home screens so even though there isn't much room on each screen, the Aria makes up for it by giving you lots of them. The smaller screen could mean problems for ham-fisted typists, but for me typing turned out to be a breeze (and accurate too).

And, HTC claims that the 1,300 mAh battery will provide you with as many as 6 hours of talk time and 15.5 days of standby per battery charge. Even calculating the normal battery life fudge-factor into the equation, that could set a new record high for Android phones.

There's one more terrific feature that comes with the phone -- a truly affordable price.

AT&T is offering the Aria for $129.99 with a two-year service contract. For the record, it will actually cost you $229.99 out-of-pocket, but AT&T will send you a $100 "Promotion Card" within 60 days of your purchase (so you don't return the phone and drop the service right away to pocket the hundred bucks).

HTC's Aria will be available, nationwide, beginning on June 20th. It's cute as a button and highly recommended.

HTC Aria info

Typical price: $129.99 on contract

Pros:
Small in stature, tall in features
MobiTV service is great
Price is very attractive

Cons:
Users with large hands may have trouble typing
Screen is a tad small at times

Verdict: While the Aria might be dwarfed by the latest trend of giant Android phones, it can clearly hold its own. A robust feature set and a pocketable frame make this $129.99 smart phone a definite smart buy.

Rating:

More info: HTC website

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