Motorola Atrix blurs line between smartphone and computer

One of the biggest surprises so far at CES 2011 was Motorola Mobility’s opening salvo of new smartphone and device releases to start off the year. The most exciting of these smartphones is the Motorola Atrix.

Available during the first half of 2011, the Atrix will be launched by AT&T in the US and will be carried by Bell Mobility in Canada. No pricing information is yet available.

With a killer spec sheet that includes a large 4-inch QHD display with 24-bit colour graphics, a fast 1Ghz dual core NVDIA Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of RAM, and a fingerprint scanner, the list of features is topped off with an impressive battery life with 9-hour talk time.

Motorola is pitching the Atrix as the world’s most powerful smartphone or even better, the world’s first bona fide pocket computer.

The specs and capabilities of this Android smartphone surpass even those of netbooks sold on the market just a year ago and match some of the tablets we’ve seen launched this year.

Motorola Mobility has further extended the Atrix’s computer-ness by offering a slew of accessories that harness the phone’s functionality and make it perform like a laptop, desktop or home entertainment device.

There’s the thin and light Laptop Dock, which when connected to the Atrix, comes to life just like an ordinary laptop. The notebook dock sports an 11” inch screen, a full size QWERTY keyboard and runs a derivative browser OS as well as whatever version of Google’s Android OS the Atrix will ship with (the demos at CES ran Android version 2.2 Froyo but might ship with version 2.3 Gingerbread).

Aside from being able to run apps, make voice calls and extend the use and functionality of the Motorola Atrix, the notebook dock can also charge the device and comes with its own battery that can last for roughly six hours. This notebook adjunct-to-a-smartphone idea may be clever but it isn’t new.

Palm tried the same idea with the Foleo, a subnotebook that hooked up to a smartphone and extended the experience to a larger screen with a full QWERTY keyboard. Sadly, the Foleo folded before it even shipped as Palm decided to kill off the device.

Another dock, called the HD Multimedia Dock, features HDMI out, speaker and USB ports for keyboards and mice, and converts the Motorola Atrix into a tiny desktop PC or a slick media PC.

While users are limited to the browser and browser app experience as well as Android apps, this seems like a viable solution for users who live their lives on the cloud and use a lot of web applications.

Motorola has truly embraced the Android platform and while their earlier smartphones were well received, the Atrix simply leapfrogs its predecessors in terms of power and functionality. It even eclipses the highly touted Google Nexus S flagship phone from Samsung in many areas and might emerge as the smartphone to beat in 2011.

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