Hi all,

I thought this is very interesting, however if you lose your phone you have major problems!

Take care, Jay

A Phone Thatís the Life of a LaptopBy DAVID POGUE
Does the redundancy of your gadgets ever bother you?
February 16, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/te...gewanted=print

You have a phone. A laptop. A desktop PC. A GPS thing. A TV. Maybe a tablet. Each contains the same stuff: a screen, a processor chip and some memory. Youíre buying the same components over and over again ó in duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate ó just so each device can perform identical functions in different situations.

Well, that does bother Motorola. For several years now, itís been hammering away at a central idea: since the modern app phone is essentially a computer, why canít it become a brain that you slip into different docks? That was the idea behind the Bedside Dock (phone becomes touch-screen alarm clock) and the GPS Dock (attaches to your windshield) for certain Motorola phones.

Now comes Motorolaís most compelling, ambitious and exciting idea of all: a phone that can become the brain for a full-blown laptop.

The Motorola Atrix 4G ($200 with a two-year AT&T contract) is a beautiful, loaded, screamingly fast Android phone. The companion laptop ó sleek, light, superthin, black aluminum ó has no processor, memory or storage of its own. Instead, you insert the phone into a slot behind the screen hinge. The phone becomes the laptopís brains.

Thatís a powerful idea. It means, first of all, that you donít have to sync anything. Everything lives on the phone; the laptop is simply a more convenient viewer.

It also means that when youíre sitting on a plane or at your desk, you can work with a trackpad, full screen and traditional keyboard.

And it means that your laptop is always online, thanks to the phoneís Internet connection.

Finally, it means that you have to reverse your usual thinking about battery life. The laptop is basically a giant battery. With the phone inserted, you can happily work away for eight or 10 hours on a single charge. In fact, the laptop actually charges the phone while you work. Yes, thatís correct: youíll get off the plane with a more fully charged phone than when you got on.

Both the phone and the laptop are gorgeous. The phone has the usual Android goodies, like front and back cameras and hi-def video recording, and it uses Motorolaís MotoBlur software, which can unify the address books and messages from your various online accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mail).

But to make it powerful enough to drive a laptop, Motorola had to give it far more oomph than a typical phone. It has a dual-core processor, which, in English, means ďfaster than any phone youíve ever used.Ē We are talking slick, responsive, satisfying.

The phone also has a fingerprint sensor built into the power button on the top back of the phone. That is, you can unlock and turn on the phone with a single finger. Itís better in theory than in execution, alas: it often takes several finger-swipes before the phone recognizes you. (You can also set up a regular typed-in password, or none.)

This phone doesnít do much to address Americaís cellphone obesity epidemic; you could probably fit an iPhone inside its body cavity and still have room for a pencil. On the other hand, the screen is gigantic ó 960 x 540 pixels ó which is great when youíre viewing GPS maps, documents and photos.

The laptop looks and feels like a black MacBook Air: 2.4 pounds, all cool brushed aluminum. The flat-topped keys poke up through the aluminum ó again, very MacBook Airish. Theyíre slightly smaller than standard size, but still fine for rapid touch-typing.

The best thing about the whole phone-laptop concept is that you donít have to think. You can pop the phone into the laptop, or yank it out, without shutting it down or entering any kind of special mode.

After about 10 seconds, whatever was on the phoneís screen appears on the laptopís screen. Itís wild: you actually see your phone in a window. All of the buttons and icons are clickable with the trackpad clicker. You can even make phone calls in this setup ó the laptop becomes a speakerphone. Itís a crazy, mind-blowing experience.

You can even run all your Android apps on the laptopís 11.6-inch screen. Sadly, the apps donít actually exploit the much larger laptop screen real estate. If you click the Full Screen button on the phone window, the software magnifies beautifully; if youíre over 40, youíll have no problem reading ďsmallĒ type, which is now bumper-sticker size. But youíre not seeing any additional area ó only an enlarged version of what was on the phone screen. Good thing the phoneís screen has such high resolution to begin with.

The laptop also lets you open a second window, containing the Firefox Web browser at full size. Thatís handy for doing e-mail, checking online calendars and, of course, surfing the Web.

All of this is so thoughtfully executed, so beautifully designed, that recommending it might seem like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, itís ultimately a some-brainer, because there are a few flies in the Atrix ointment.

First, scrolling is a serious problem. On the phone, you scroll things with a quick swipe of your finger on the touch screen: your e-mail Inbox, your Twitter feed, your Applications list and so on. But when the phoneís in the laptop, swiping is far more difficult. While pressing down the recalcitrant clicker button, you drag one finger on the trackpad. Itís spectacularly awkward, especially because the phone frequently misinterprets the initial click as an ďI want to open this appĒ gesture. There are Page Up/Page Down keystrokes, but they donít function in phone apps ó only in Firefox.

Second, remember that this is an Android laptop, not a Mac or Windows laptop. You can edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files very comfortably, using the built-in Quickoffice software. But you wonít be running the kinds of programs you could run on a real laptop ó games, Photoshop, whatever.

Because the phone runs Flash video, you ought to be able to enjoy TV shows at Hulu.com. But maybe because itís phone Flash, itís so jerky that itís unwatchable, even on a fast Wi-Fi connection.

Third, the Internet speed isnít what it should be. If youíre in one of the cities where AT&T has finished upgrading its network to 4G (fourth-generation equipment), youíre supposed to get superfast Internet service. In practice, though, the 4G adds nothing. Even when you test it in a 4G town like New York (as Engadget did) or Boston (as I did), the Atrix has an even slower Internet connection than a non-4G phone. (AT&Tís explanation: the 4G indicator may appear on the phone even when the areaís 4G network upgrade isnít yet complete.)

Fourth, the phone and the laptop together cost $500 (after $100 rebate). Now, for that money, you could get a nice phone and a full-blown Windows netbook that runs faster and does it all. Of course, you lose most of the perks ó a single storage gadget, eternal battery life and so on. And the netbook you buy wonít be anywhere near as beautiful as the Atrix laptop.

But itís not just the price of the hardware. To use the browser on the laptop, youíre required to pay AT&T an additional $20 a month ó a ďtethering plan.Ē

You can also buy a TV dock for the Atrix, with remote control, so that you can view your photos, videos and other stuff on the big screen. Thereís also a beautiful wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse; together with the TV dock, you can turn any TV into a full-blown Android PC.

The Atrix, then, is three things. Itís an extremely fast, powerful, superbly designed phone. Itís a gorgeous, lightweight, long-lasting laptop thatís tragically clumsy to use.

Above all, itís a really, really brilliant idea. Hereís hoping that Motorola sticks with its team of fresh-thinking engineers long enough to produce an Atrix II.


E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com