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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Motorola's amazing desktop dock for the Atrix

When Motorola showed off the Atrix 4G device for AT&T, everyone was excited that it was a remarkably powerful Android phone for AT&T's 4G network. It's thin, capable, has a great screen, and is just what smartphone enthusiasts have been waiting for.

But then Motorola surprised everyone by showing off the Atrix's desktop and laptop docks which are extremely impressive and unique accessories that truly change what we expect from a smartphone. The docks allow you to snap your phone into a small dock and immediately begin using it as a desktop or laptop computer. Not just view your phone's screen on a big screen...really use it like a desktop.

The desktop dock has connections on the back for USB keyboards and mice, as well as power for charging, and HDMI out for a monitor. When the phone is docked, the monitor displays a real, desktop version of Firefox (admittedly an odd choice), complete with Flash support, tabs, and everything else you've come to expect. You can also run any Android app from your phone full screen on the monitor, interacting with it using the desktop mouse and keyboard. You can even make calls and send texts right from the desktop setup. Yes, it's just as cool as it sounds.

The laptop dock is shaped like a thin netbook style computer, with a dock behind the screen. The laptop part itself contains just a keyboard, touchpad, screen, and some huge batteries. The idea is that you can keep the batteries in the dock charged and whenever your phone is docked, it's actually charging the phone from the dock batteries. The laptop dock works just like the desktop, giving you a fast desktop-like experience straight from your phone.

Whenever the phone is disconnected from one of the docks, it immediately returns to the standard Android interface, but it remembers all the tabs and websites you had open on the desktop side, so that the next time you dock it, it returns to where you left off.

If you still aren't convinced, be sure to check out Engadget's hands-on video of the device in action. The Atrix and dock accessories are said to be hitting AT&T in a month or two for undisclosed prices.

I'm going to be honest here. I have never really liked AT&T and never had even the smallest desire to switch. This device is definitely changing my mind. It's the first device I have actually thought about switching carriers to get. Up until today I wouldn't have even thought something like this was all that possible, let alone that I would actually want or use it. Now that I've seen it, I'm extremely jealous and it's seriously raised the bar for future smartphone innovation.

So at first I had a hard time understanding the usefulness of something like this. It doesn't eliminate the need for an actual desktop or laptop. But, I do see the advantage of having all of your information with you at all times, it's super portable, it can access the internet anywhere there's AT&T service, and it would definitely replace the need for a netbook, at least. Not to mention it's more powerful than most netbooks on the market. That says a lot right there. And, this is the first ever device to even attempt this. Just imagine what the future holds in this area.

The thing that has me concerned, though, is pricing. Smartphones have been walking the line between phone and computer for quite awhile, now. This takes it to a whole new level. Is AT&T going to charge the same as a normal phone data plan? If so, will they limit it? If people are trying to use this as a desktop computer, that's going to be a problem. Will the pricing be similar to home internet costs? Unless this can eliminate the need for home internet, that's getting pretty expensive. I'm very curious about how AT&T is going to handle this. I'm kind of bracing myself for disappointment, but perhaps they'll surprise everyone and come out with some kind of plan that's just as awesome as this new technology.

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