Android Explainer Series: Best Android smartphones and devices from AT&T

by Ian Black

While AT&T has moved on from its exclusive iPhone vendor status, the carrier offers a variety of Android-based smartphones from a host of different manufacturers. If you’re into Android phones and devices, you can shop ‘til you drop at AT&T.

Here’s everything you need to know.

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Motorola Atrix offers a new dimension in mobile media

The current biggest splash from the carrier comes from the Motorola Atrix 4G. The marketing slogan “Is it a phone or a computer? Yes” and that captures the essence of the product. You can purchase the Motorola Atrix 4G Android phone and innovative LapDock together for about $400 with contract. The Atrix runs on AT&T’s new HSPA+ high-speed 4G network and boasts a brilliant 4-inch qHD (quarter HD) screen and HD video recording capability.

The Atrix’s LapDock is a first-of-its-kind laptop-sized phone accessory that, by simply sliding the Atrix into a slot on the back, provides a large (11.5-inch) screen with keyboard and touchpad. It looks like a slim mini-notebook but, in fact, uses the Atrix as its brains. Alternatively, you can purchase a dock for the Atrix and supply your own keyboard, screen, and mouse.

The device-specific app that makes it all work is called WebTop. It allows you to use the phone calling and texting capabilities of the Atrix in a window while at the same time running apps like the phone’s web browser, all on a large notebook-sized screen. You can use WebTop through the unique LapDock accessory or with the regular dock and your own screen, keyboard, and mouse.

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Another inspiring option

Want more 4G options? Check out the HTC Inspire 4G. It features a 4.3-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera, and 4GB internal memory with an 8GB microSD card included. You’ll also find a host of pre-installed useful apps like Blockbuster, Ereader, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Samsung’s Galaxy tab on AT&T

Among the dozens of Android-based tablets available right now, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is one of the few worth buying. The 7-inch tablet retails for $549 and includes front and rear-facing cameras. The device is Wi-Fi-based, and AT&T offers a monthly $14.99 plan (which can be canceled at any time) to access its 3G network.

Deals on wheels

Want a great price on a smartphone? Try scoping out AT&T’s Website. You’ll find periodic sales, some of which are only available online. On AT&T’s home page, also check out the link for refurbished phones – these are phones that were either repaired or just returned and have been fixed, cleaned, and repackaged for sale at a great savings. For example, currently AT&T is offering an Android-based Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 phone for free with a contract.

Apps, apps and more apps

For smartphone newcomers, AT&T pre-installs several apps so all that’s required is to turn on the phone and go. AT&T brands several special apps on many of their Android devices – including AT&T Maps, Music, Social Net, and FamilyMap – to provide a good user experience right out of the box. They also pre-load Android apps like Loopt, YP Yellow Pages, Allsport GPS, WHERE and others.

What about finding more apps that are most relevant to you? Your friends at Appolicious have an Android App you can download that will provide custom app recommendations based on the apps you own, your areas of interest, and recommendations from your Facebook friends.

Of course, you’ll find the Android Market on the home screen of every Android phone that AT&T sells too. If you’ve never downloaded an app before, just tap the shopping bag icon, search on any keyword that interests you or browse the app categories, and then press “download” when you find something you like. The Android Market now stores over 250,000 apps so you’re sure to relate to something.AT&T is a powerhouse service provider with new phones coming out all the time. Whether you’re looking for the latest Android device or just a bargain, it’s worth browsing their online hub or stopping by one of their many retail stores.

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