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AT&T’s first little Android: HTC Aria

After a day with the Aria, I’m finding that it is a very capable, elegant smartphone.

AT&T is definitely walking the walk.  With the $129 w/plan HTC Aria, they are saying, “See! We carry real, up-to-date Android phones too!”  While that may be technically true, unfortunately, fate isn’t going to be kind to this little guy.

(update: I know about the Android 1.5 Backflip, that doesn’t count)

The Aria works well enough.  It is small and speedy with a 320×480 screen resolution, the same size as the first generation Androids or current iPhone 3GS phones.  It looks like a mini EVO or Droid Incredible and if you’ve used one of these, the Sense OS  and buttons work in the exact same way.

The camera (no flash) works well and you can take solid stills or video with the same HTC camera application that the EVO and Incredible share.  The back is rubberized and it has a very solid feel to it although HTC made the questionable design decision of putting four big fake screws in the back.

It is a full ounce lighter than an iPhone and as you can see in the picture below, significantly smaller.

HTC EVO , HTC ARIA, Apple iPhone. Photo Credit Seth Weintraub

For a lot of people, that may be a very enticing proposition.  A smaller (slightly slower) Incredible that works on GSM carriers for $70 less?  Sold?

But carriers always seem to want to shoot themselves in the foot.

AT&T (T) plops their applications  on the top 5 spaces fo the device  and of course you can’t remove them.  Among them, AT&T Radio, Maps, Hotspots and FamilyMap.  The subscription-based AT&T Navigator GPS program doesn’t hold a candle to Google’s own, included free Maps application, for instance.

The Aria is thinner than the EVO and the iPhone 3GS and within millimeters of the iPhone 4

Also, you can’t install applications from untrusted sources (like the Swype keyboard app), only the Android market.  That is a drag.

Then there is AT&T’s network, which doesn’t need explaining here.  You can buy an Incredible on Verizon for $20 more.

The biggest factor, however, is that AT&T sells iPhones (lots of them) so this little device will likely get lost in the marketing shuffle.   I won’t go into the iPhoneOS vs. Android because of the zealotry on both sides, I’ll just say that the Aria runs Android 2.1 very well.

Here’s a quick, strangely blurry video of the Aria in action:


If you are willing to jump on AT&T’s network and are interested in a very portably but fully capable GSM Android device, have a look at the HTC Aria.