Display and Multimedia
Who doesn’t love a large display? The 4.3” SLCD display on the Inspire is currently the largest used on traditional form factor smartphones. It’s perfect for watching videos and reading web page text without lots of pinch zooming or squinting. The display is very sharp with good looking text and colorful images. Though not as super-saturated as Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays, we didn’t find ourselves pining for our Nexus S with Super AMOLED. For those of you who’ve checked out out the display on the HTC HD7 (also 4.3”), the Inspire’s is much better with higher contrast, stronger colors and wider viewing angles.
HTC improves upon the basic Android media players and that’s a good thing. The music player features a cover flow presentation and sound is enhanced with Dolby + SRS Mobile. Dolby adds a bit of bass and improves channel separation (noticeable with headphones more than the speaker). The Inspire has an FM radio with good reception that as per usual uses the wired headset as its antenna but you’ll have to supply your own headset since none is included. The video player is tweaked to add a Dolby button and as we noted, playback of locally stored MPEG4 movies was flawless.
AT&T includes their Live TV app, powered by MobiTV. This includes streaming content from news and sports sources and on-demand downloadable full TV episodes. The service costs $9.99/month and requires a WiFi connection for downloadable full episodes and we’d love to see it on the HTC’s large display, but the service wasn’t ready before the device’s official release.
The HTC Inspire supports DLNA but there’s no HDMI port for output to a TV or projector.
HTC Sense and Other Software
AT&T used restraint and didn’t litter the Inspire 4G with bloatware. AT&T Navigator, AT&T Family Locator, AT&T Barcode Scanner, myAT&T, Live TV and YPmobile are on board from AT&T, and we count only YPmobile as bloatware. AT&T and HTC have also included Twitter, Facebook, Blockbuster, Adobe Reader and Quickoffice (MS Office suite).
HTC’s Sense software include their well-known home screen clock with embedded weather widget (yes it snows on the home screen), Friendstream (an excellent social networking widget that streams Facebook, flickr and Twitter updates), wireless control widgets, an RSS reader widget with lots of pre-loaded options but weak controls for adding non-stock feeds, Voice Recorder, HTC Likes, HTC Hub (download free widgets, themes and sounds) and Footprints. Other goodies include a call history app, caller blocking, a very cool desk clock with day and night modes, flashlight and HTC’s customization of contacts (People) that does an excellent job of linking your contacts with your social networking pals (you can choose which contacts to link).
The usual Google apps are here including Google Maps, Navigation, Latitude and Places, Gmail, email (POP3/IMAP and MS Exchange), the webkit web browser, voice dialing, YouTube, Reader (Google’s eBook Reader), Google Search/voice search and Gtalk. The Android Market is here for app downloads but alas, as per usual AT&T has blocked installation of non-market apps. That means you can install apps from the Android Market to your heart’s content but you won’t be able to install from alternative markets or test beta software that’s available on the developer’s website rather than the market.
GPS and Camera
The good news first: HTC’s 8 megapixel shooter with dual LED flash takes very good photos and videos when lighting is decent. The dual LED flash is reticent and we wish it would fire more often indoors to prevent blurry and grainy shots. That said, the flash is blinding when it does fire and it tends to white out light colored objects. You can select the focus area by moving the green focus box around the viewfinder using your finger and you’ll take a photo by pressing the on-screen shutter button. Given the phone’s large size, it’s easy to accidentally move the phone when taking a photo, so use extra care to keep it still. The camera application has a full array of settings and is intuitive to use. The camera can shoot video up to 1280 x 720 and video looks quite sharp.
The Inspire 4G’s GPS was spot on indoors with decently quick fixes as long as we left WiFi on (you need not be connect to an access point, just leave it turned on). When we turned WiFi off, fixes were pitifully slow indoors, if we got a fix at all. Strange. Outdoors when driving the GPS managed to obtain and hold a fix perfectly and both Google Navigation and AT&T Navigator performed well in our tests.
The HTC Inspire 4G has a 1230 mAh Lithium Ion battery, and that’s not a terribly high capacity battery for a powerful smartphone with a large display. We found we had to charge the phone by 10pm with moderate use. Heavy use (watching 45 minutes of video, several email accounts checking email, and hour of calls and 30 minutes of navigation) killed the battery by 7pm. If you get significantly poorer runtimes, download a task manager and check to see what’s eating your battery.
AT&T and HTC have a winner in the HTC Inspire 4G. It’s a high end phone with a mid-tier price, and the quality, speed, materials and grand display are simply wonderful. Call quality is top notch and data speeds are solid though AT&T hasn’t yet reached T-Mobile’s HSPA+ or Verizon’s LTE speeds. The Inspire can handle MS Office, email and the web as well as serious multimedia playback, making it the perfect crossover device. We’re a little worried about the GPS’ problems obtaining a fix indoors when WiFi is off, and we wish the loudspeaker was as impressive as Samsung’s offerings for multimedia playback, but there are workarounds (turn on WiFi when using the GPS indoors and use headphones for a fuller experience). Battery life isn’t stellar, but the HTC Inspire 4G can last a day with moderate use and certainly beats the HTC EVO 4G for runtimes. All in all, the HTC Inspire 4G is a steal.
Pro: Fast, huge display, elegant materials at a low price. HTC Sense software is our favorite. Very good camera.
What's not: 4G HSPA+ on AT&T isn't impressing us yet. GPS on our unit had issues indoors but was fine outdoors, battery life just passable.
Price: $99 with 2 year contract
Websites: www.htc.com/us/, wireless.att.com