UPDATE: This preliminary review was written based on a relatively short time with this smartphone. A much more in-depth review has now been published based on extensive testing:
The HTC Aria is the second Android OS phone to join the AT&T lineup. This petite powerhouse includes a 3.2-inch touchscreen, 5-megapixel camera with video capture, GPS, Wi-Fi wireless networking, and Bluetooth.
It is currently available from AT&T for $130 with a new two-year contract.
I’ve only had this model for a short time, so I’m not yet ready to do a full review. Even so, this smartphone has already impressed me with its small size and usefulness.
BUILD & DESIGN
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the HTC Aria is that it is tiny in comparison to most of the recent smartphones. It is significantly shorter and narrower than the HTC EVO 4G, and though it’s roughly the same size as my old LG Dare, it is much thinner. It is also very light, weighing in at just 4 ounces.
The back of the case is covered in a soft material that is comfortable to hold and helps to improve grip. The back does tend to get rather warm, especially when used for long periods such as catching up on the news with MobiTV. Once you stop using the phone for a while,though, it quickly cools down.
The display is bright and vibrant, and even looks good outside. the video service MobiTV looks great, with sharp images. I didn’t see any ghosting or pixelization issues during my initial testing.
The HTC Aria doesn’t have a physical keyboard. The on-screen virtual keyboard is well laid out, but somewhat difficult to use since the screen on this device is relatively small. It works far better in landscape mode, and this orientation allows me to keep a better grip on the phone.
Other Buttons & Controls
The Power and sleep/wake button is on the top, as is the standard headphone jack. The volume up/down control is on the left side of the device.
The Home, Menu, Back, and Search “buttons” are actually touch-sensitive areas on the front, just under the display. Below that you’ll find the optical joystick, which works fairly well, but seemed a bit too responsive and “twitchy” during my initial tests.
I was concerned at first that the back cover of the phone could be difficult to remove because the each corner has a screw with a triangular head. Fortunately, they appear to be more for show more than function, because the back cover of the phone is easily removed. The battery compartment is shocking yellow, and the SIM card slot and microSD card slot are located just below the battery in the same compartment.
The Aria is definitely snappy, with fast performance. It is extremely responsive to my every command, opening apps and loading web pages very quickly indeed.
This smartphone runs Google’s Android OS 2.1, with the HTC Sense user interface layered on top. Rather than replacing Google’s standard UI, HTC’s enhances it with additional homescreens and widgets.
Thanks to Google’s operating system, it comes with a suite of communication, entertainment, and productivity software, as well as access to 50,000 additional apps on the Android Market.
Call volume is very good, but there has been a persistent low hiss/static evident in my test calls. I hear the party on the other end loud and clear, and they can hear me, but they can also hear a persistent low hiss, even when I’m in a very quiet environment like my office. It is impossible to tell at this point whether this is a serious issue or a random glitch; AT&T coverage in my area can be somewhat spotty. Further testing will enable me to make a better determination on this, so be sure to check out the full review as soon as it is published here on Brighthand.
Of course all of the standard Google mobile apps are included on the Aria, such as Gmail and Google Maps. Calendar, contacts, a calculator, and a clock keep you organized and on time. There is no task management app preloaded on the phone.
The Quickoffice viewer for Microsoft Office documents and an Adobe PDF Viewer come preloaded, as well as Mobile Banking and a stock tracker. AT&T includes a Wi-Fi hotspot locater, FamilyMap, AT&T Maps, and AT&T Navigator.
A music player is a standard part of the Android OS. The volume and quality on the external speaker are slightly disappointing, with significant distortion at higher volume levels. Sound quality is much better with headphones.
As mentioned previously, the streaming video service MobiTV looks great — the picture is surprisingly sharp and clear.
The 5-megapixel camera on this smartphone has face detection and is also capable of video capture. I haven’t spent a lot of time with it yet, but my first photos came out rather nicely.
Since there is no camera button on the side of the device, you take photos by pressing the optical joystick. It works well, minimizes problems with camera shake, and is much easier to use than a side button.
I haven’t had the Aria long enough to make any conclusions about the battery life; that aspect of the device will be covered in the full review.
The HTC Aria packs a lot of function into a very small device; the real question is whether it is too small to be usable.
My initial impressions are basically favorable; I have some concern about whether typing on the phone might be difficult since it is so small, and about the voice quality. Further testing will provide the answers, so be sure and check in within the week for my full review.