Mobile deathmatch: Motorola Mobility Atrix 4G vs. Apple iPhone 4
Motorola's versatile new Android smartphone outshines the iPhone in some ways, but falls short overallFollow @MobileGalen
InfoWorld has been putting the major contenders up against Apple's iPhone for several years, and the iPhone handily has won each time. But with Motorola Mobility's new Atrix 4G smartphone, the iPhone's reign may be coming to a close.
The Atrix is in several key ways superior to the iPhone, though it has some idiotic flaws that cost it major points in the competition. When all is said and done, the Atrix and iPhone essentially tie, and the choice between them comes down to the unique capabilities of each and how they matter to your work needs, as well as your preferences regarding the devices' different user interfaces.
[ Find out how well the Atrix performs as a "lite" PC when docked to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. | See all of InfoWorld's mobile deathmatch comparisons and personalize the scores to your needs. | Compare the security and management capabilities of iOS, Windows Phone 7, Android, and more in InfoWorld's Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF report. ]
When you add optional equipment to the Atrix, it transforms from a smartphone into a "lite" PC, becoming the first phone that can act as a PC. As I explain in my article "Can the Atrix 4G really become your next PC?," this first example of a mobile computer that adjusts as you dock it to peripherals is just the first step in that evolution -- but it's an important development and will be attractive to many users.
As "just" a smartphone, the Atrix is pretty amazing as well.
Deathmatch: Email, calendars, and contacts
For testing, I used a personal IMAP account, a personal POP account, a personal Gmail account, and a work Exchange 2007 account. Both devices work directly with IMAP and Gmail, as well as with POP; my email, email folders, calendars, and contacts all flowed effortlessly among the smartphones, my laptop, and the server.
Both devices try to autodetect your settings wherever possible, but the Atrix was typically unsuccessful. In manual mode, I spent hours trying to get it to send emails from my POP and IMAP accounts, logging failure after failure. After comparing the Atrix's settings to a standard-UI Google Nexus One device, I found the cause: Motorola Mobility's MotoBlur kept overriding my manual settings to add a user name to the SMTP settings, even though neither my POP nor IMAP Internet service providers use one for authentication. That unwanted information essentially caused both servers to reject the mail being sent from the Atrix.
The Nexus One, which uses the plain-vanilla Google Android OS (both the Atrix and Nexus One run the Froyo 2.21 version), lets you disable such authentication, and it had no trouble sending email from both accounts. For the record, neither did Motorola Mobility's own Xoom tablet, reviewed here. The iPhone (I tested the Verizon Wireless version running iOS 4.26) also handles these accounts without issue. This "I know better than you do" override is a major problem -- and emblematic of flaws throughout the MotoBlur interface, which cannot be removed or disabled -- that will make the Atrix unusable for many people's email accounts.