New toy after all – HTC Aria Android Phone
June 2011 update:
I updated my phone to Android 2.2 this past weekend. The HTC Sync program wouldn’t recognize my phone when I tried to connect it. Since all my contacts are synced to my google account, I didn’t need to back anything up, but it was strange that it wouldn’t recognize that the phone was connected to the computer, when it works as a USB storage device. The upgrade went smoothly and quick. As warned, it reset the phone to factory settings. However, all my apps did not automatically redownload from the app store, which is what the instructions said would do – I need to redownload them all manually, which will be annoying. There aren’t a lot of new features that are available to me – teather is now available, but not for my data plan. There are a few minor GUI changes that are for the better. There doesn’t seem to be any increase in speed.
The phone is no longer available at amazonwiress, but it is available at att.com.
February 2011 update:
Both phones are going strong (Elaine bought one in December as well). I got a Zagg screen protector for mine, since I was getting some tiny scratches on the screen. It was tough putting it on, and there is some dust under the cover. However, I’d rather a few specs of dust than worry about scratches from rubbing against keys in my pocket. I was also supposed to get the $18 activation fee refunded by AT&T (per terms of the offer on Amazon’s site). Six bill statements go by, and no refund. I don’t know if Amazon or AT&T dropped the ball, but AT&T credited my account with no hassle with a phone call.
Turns out I do have a new plaything. Elaine got me a HTC Aria (apparently also known as the Liberty or the Intruder) as an early birthday gift through Amazon Wireless, which is an amazing site. Much easier to navigate than the cell phone carriers own websites. They have a limited number of phones, but the prices are much better (the Aria was $49 with no upgrade fee after a credit by AT&T in a few months), vs $129 and a fee direct from AT&T. I did have a few issues activating the phone. It shipped with a brand new SIM card, with specific instructions to use the new card, not the one from the phone being replaced, which I think threw off AT&T’s system, but I was still up and running in less than 10 minutes.
I was originally planning on getting an iPhone. I have a Mac, and use iTunes to organize my music and videos, so an iPhone seemed like a natural choice for me. However, the iPhone 4 started at $200, and the 3gs, while starting cheaper at $99 didn’t seem worth it to me.
The Aria, while using the Android OS, has HTC’s “Sense” user interface, which was a bit confusing at first (I didn’t bother reading the quick start). Its actually very easy once you know what to do. It consists of 7 screens that you switch between by side to side swipes of the finger. Each screen can have icons for Apps or widgets, such as weather, news, messages, and the such. The phone does come with a lot of AT&T apps, which can not be uninstalled, however the icons can be removed, which is better than older phones I’ve used. AT&T does not allow side-loading of Apps.
The phone came with a 2GB micro-SD card (which is a plus for me, since EVERYTHING I own uses SD cards). This means that the Aria is upgradable with regards to storage space, something the iPhone is not (though the iPhones do come with significantly more storage to start; and using a low-quality micro-SD card could cause performance issues. Try to get at least a class 4).
The Aria has a ExtUSB port at the bottom, which is HTC’s proprietary connector for USB and audio, however, it is backwards compatible with standard micro-b USB cables. The phone came with one cord, as well as a wall charging block, which uses the cord. I had an iPod car charger that has a USB port, which means that I do not need to get an additional car charger, and the phone also charges directly from a computer’s USB port (although it is much slower to charge this way than the wall charger). Additional micro USB cords are available at Monoprice for less than $5 shipped.
The biggest downside compared to the iPhone is a lack of a simple computer syncing program, such as iTunes. Plugging in the Aria to a computer simply turns it into an external hard drive, and to put music, PDFs or anything on to the phone means you have to copy the files just like any other hard drive. You can’t set up playlists like you can in iTunes.UPDATE: I don’t know how I didn’t find this last week, but there’s a program called doubleTwist that allows you to sync iTunes with any mobile device. Worked like a charm for me. doubleTwist also makes a player app (free for now) that I find better than the music app that came with the phone.
Additionally, they ALSO make an app that uses the camera to read barcodes, including QR codes such as this one, which encodes the link to the doubleTwist player app.
I’ve found no lack of apps available for the phone, and I’ve actually found that Android Marketplace has TOO many offerings in some cases. Adding and installing free apps is quick and painless (I’ve yet to purchase any apps).
I’m not as impressed with the camera as I was expecting, or as I have been after playing with the iPhone 4′s, but it’s much better than the “camera” my 4 year old phone had. I’ve added two sample photos - low light indoor, and bright outdoor. These were taken with standard settings. I have a Canon S5 and Elaine has a superzoom Panasonic point and shoot, and I wasn’t looking for a camera to replace either of these; the Aria’s camera will be good enough for those times I’m out and want to take a picture of something and don’t have another “real” camera.
The phone syncs with my google account (I’m not using a GMAIL address, so I can’t really speak for how it works with that. My personal mail works fine with IMAP however.) This is a benefit when entering in contacts – I type them into my google contact list with a full keyboard and sync it to the phone.
The phone’s GPS works VERY well – I can’t see myself buying another standalone GPS unit in the future since the phone works so well. It comes with both Google Navigation (free) and AT&T Maps (which is a monthly fee and I haven’t used).
The phone has an FM radio, but requires the headphones to be used as an antenna. No AM option for those of us who listen to talk radio.
Overall, I’m impressed with the phone, and would recommend it if you can get it for $49.99. At $129, however, I would look around at other Android phones.