Motorola Atrix 4G notebook: a $500 conundrum
Thursday, AT&T and Motorola announced pricing and availability of the Motorola Atrix 4G convertible smartphone. The public first recoiled at the pricetag --$199 for the phone and $500 for its notebook dock-- but the Atrix is an extremely enticing new type of gadget that could be a good solution for specific users.
The main idea behind the Atrix 4G is that the smartphone acts as a "brain" that can power a notebook computer, a set top box, or stand alone as a phone. It features a dual gigaherz core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 1 GB of RAM, up to 32 GB of storage, and features the Android 2.2 operating system with special dedicated interfaces for the notebook and multimedia set top box.
The notebook dock is extremely thin, light, and sturdy, with a bright and clear 11.6" display.
Unfortunately, without the Atrix 4G, it's also useless, and charging $500 for an accessory that has no standalone value is unprecedented in the mobile phone business. Furthermore, for the cost that the notebook dock adds, you could get all but one of the broadband-connected netbooks that AT&T offers unsubsidized.
The Atrix and its unique dockability have piqued a lot of people's interest, and the unfortunate truth of the matter is: there is no other Android solution that does what Motorola's Atrix does.
BlackBerry and Windows Mobile both have the REDFLY by Celio Corp, a $199 Bluetooth "netbook" that does something similar to the Atrix and the old, unreleased Palm Foleo, but without the need for a physical dock.
Back in 2009, Celio demonstrated REDFLY working with the Google G1, but unfortunately it has shown no progress since the video embedded below.
In December 2009, the company tweeted that Android REDFLY was "neither fail nor scam...we are making progress and hope to have something new to demo soon," but even the company's Twitter account has only posted a couple of updates in the time since that message. We've reached out to Celio to see what happened to the prototype and if development has ceased, but they haven't yet gotten back to us.
Still, short of building one yourself*, if you want a portable notebook-like solution for an Android phone, the Atrix is currently your only solution. It goes up for pre-order on February 13 and will be available at AT&T's retail stores on March 6 or earlier.
*I'm in the process of trying to assemble something portable and cheap that at least duplicates the functionality of REDFLY, which I'll post a story about as soon as I can.