I’m not always sure where HTC draws its inspiration from. But the new Inspire, the latest top-tier Android phone offered by AT&T, definitely filled me with a sense of déjà vu.
Like HTC’s EVO 4G and HD2 before it, the Inspire is a hefty, slate-style smartphone. Below the huge 4.3-inch 480 x 800 WVGA touchscreen lies the usual strip of capacitive navigation keys. Centered on the upper portion of the phone’s back is the standard protruding camera lens. Everything else — from the brushed aluminum body to the recessed volume and power buttons — follows the same pragmatically drab blueprint. Snore.
Though my inner phone fashionista was a little deflated, there’s actually very little to knock. Save for eyesores like a finicky battery door and an oddly placed headphone jack, the Inspire is extremely responsive, easy to use, and, even with the exceedingly large screen, it’s comfortable in the hand. Like most slate phones, its overall looks are designed to take a back seat to the big screen, where all the e-mailing, browsing, YouTubing and sexting happen, so we can’t fault it too much for being a wallflower.
On a similarly predictable note, the Inspire’s vitals are what we’ve come to expect from modern Android devices: a 1-GHz Snapdragon processor, 4 GB of onboard memory (with an 8-GB card included), a sharp 8-megapixel camera, and even a little Dolby sound.
So the main differentiating factor here is the software, and HTC has wisely overhauled its Sense UI for the device. The response when switching between tasks is noticeably faster, and even boot times are speedier. Pinch-to-zoom is snappy and web pages scroll smoothly. It’s still a bit of a nightmare for the widget-averse, but otherwise everything works swimmingly.
Of course, the other big draw is the Inspire’s speedy 4G data and hotspot capabilities. (For those keeping score, the Inspire cruises on AT&T’s HSPA+ flavor of 4G and not LTE. Be sure to check out our primer on the fundamental differences over at Gadget Lab.)
Though it isn’t bleeding-edge fast, the Inspire’s connection speed is a noticeable improvement from what we’re used to seeing on AT&T’s network in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paired with the Inspire’s ability to spread the love with up to five other Wi-Fi-enabled devices, I was pretty much sold on the whole package.
To be fair, I did have a few complaints. It was a struggle to get the phone to last for an entire day without a recharge. And Android’s weak video chops — in this case, I used Blockbuster and a live TV app — are made painfully apparent by the phone’s gorgeous, sharp screen.
Despite these minor quibbles, I can’t really dis a serviceable, feature-filled, sub-$100 smartphone of this caliber. Would I brave a snowpocalypse full of wolverines to get one? Absolutely not. But with its balance of value and power, you can’t deny the Inspire’s appeal.
WIRED Powerful phone at a great price. Lookit that screen! Dual mic noise canceling keeps calls clear. Overhauled Sense UI is snappy. Finally, a camera worth using. Built in DLNA for streaming media to home theaters.
TIRED Accessing the battery results in broken fingernails. Hotspot occasionally drops devices (like they’re hot) and tethering service will cost you extra. Headphone jack is woefully located at the bottom of the phone.
Photo by Jim Merithew/Wired