AT&T CMO David Christopher talks Android, Atrix pricing

February 3, 2011, 5:19 PM UTC

With the Inspire 4G, the Atrix phone/laptop hybrid and the Samsung Infuse 4G, AT&T now thinks it has gone from worst to best in its Android offering.

AT&T CMO David Christopher Credit:AT&T

Talking to a technology company CMO is often like reading a press release, but AT&T CMO David Christopher is better than most and did shine some light on a new pride in their Android line today.

Specifically, AT&T (T) had the iPhone exclusively, they had the first/high end BlackBerry Torch, they were first with Windows Phone but up until next week, their Android line was the least impressive of the major four carriers.  All of a sudden however, they have the most high end Android phones announced at CES in their pipeline.

Most skeptics would argue that AT&T limited their Android exposure to make Apple happy, and indeed it does feel a little strange that AT&T’s Android coming out party occurs the same week as it loses iPhone exclusivity, but Christopher insists that it was just a “ramp up”.  I asked about the litigation between AT&T and Google’s (GOOG) Voice product in iOS/ rural areas.  “can’t comment”.

Fine.  Let’s talk Android…

I’m playing with the HTC Inspire 4G right now and it is a fantastic phone.  It is big, but it is all screen with almost no “chrome”.  The “unibody aluminum” enclosure feels solid – so solid I had some trouble getting the battery and SIM card door open.  But I’m fairly certain that this could take a fall better than just about any phone out there.

The Inspire is technically a rebranded Desire HD, but with AT&T’s new HSPA+ network, it gets faster download speeds than any phone AT&T has ever released.  I can vouch for that.  Even in New York, I consistantly get higher data rate speeds than I get with my iPhone or Samsung Captivate (or so says at 6Mbps) and much higher than I’ve ever gotten on a Verizon phone.  That’s important because AT&T now offers Hotspot plans with their high end Android 2.2 devices which connect to much more data-hungry laptops and tablets that view much bigger image and movie files.

The Inspire HD has the same great 4.3-inch screen as the EVO on Sprint or the T-Mobile HD7.  In fact it seems a bit brighter than the EVO but that may be because of the burn in on the EVO which is now almost a year old.  Incredibly, the Inspire costs only $99 with a 2-year smartphone plan from AT&T.

While the Inspire is AT&T’s first great Android phone, the big splash at CES (probably the most talked about device at the show) was the Motorola (MMI) Atrix. I’ve talked about the Atrix before but today AT&T has announced prices for the Atrix ($199 on 2-year plan) and its laptop shell/dock ($499 for both). That seems very agressive, especially considering that it’s a launch price which is likely to come down over time.  You’ll be able to pre-order the Atrix on Feb 13th for early March delivery (I’d guess no later than the 6th).

Christopher says it isn’t just techies that are excited about this phone.  Enterprise CIOs are beating down his door for details on the device which would allow them to consolidate their laptop and phone equipment purchases.  Then there are the media junkies who can plug in an HDMI cable and watch 1080P movies wherever there is an HDTV.

For Superphone purists, AT&T is launching the Samsung Infuse 4G later this Spring.  This thing has an insane 4.5-inch SuperAMOLED display which Christopher is absolutely gaga over, yet is the thinnest phone that AT&T will carry at a scant 9mm.  Like the other two phones, it will also run on AT&T’s improved HSPA+ 4G network.

It’s hard to imagine how AT&T can top this trifecta.  LTE phones will likely come in the second half of the year, only trailing Verizon’s LTE phones by a few months.

“That’s just the beginning,” says Christopher with a newfound sense of Android pride.  “AT&T has already committed to launching 12 Android phones over the next twelve months with additional phones being a very real possibility down the road.”