Motorola on Wednesday showed off a new Android phone that connects to a docking station that looks like a laptop but has no CPU, so that users can access a full physical keyboard and monitor.
The Atrix 4G runs a 1 GHz dual-core processor, matching the power of full-size PCs from just a few years past. The phone hooks to the dock using an app called Motorola Webtop. The docking device weighs just over 2 pounds and has long battery life, said Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility. He unveiled the device at the AT&T Developers Summit at CES in Las Vegas.
Users will be able to browse the Internet on the full version of Mozilla Firefox. “This is not desktop-like. This is the desktop browser running on this,” said Jha.
He did not disclose many more details about the dock. Presumably users will be limited to the applications that can run on the Android phone. The concept of pairing a mobile phone with a “dumb” device that features a larger keyboard and monitor is similar to one called the Folio that Palm once announced but later killed.
Users of the Atrix will also be able to connect the phone into a different dock that will allow streaming to an HDTV or any HDMI-compatible monitor.
Jha did not say how much the Atrix or the docks would cost or when they would be available.
His announcement followed one from AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph de la Vega who said that the operator is speeding up the launch of its faster network. It now plans to launch LTE (Long Term Evolution) in the middle of this year, completing the network by the end of 2013. He credited recent tax law incentives for the new schedule, but the operator is also catching up with competitor Verizon which has already launched LTE in around 40 markets.
This year AT&T expects to launch 20 new “4G” devices, which will include phones that run on HSPA plus as well as LTE.
In addition to the Motorola Atrix, AT&T customers will get access to a new HTC Android phone, the Inspire 4G. It will be the first from HTC to feature a new version of HTC Sense, a user interface created by HTC. The Inspire will be compatible with a new service from HTC that will offer some remote capabilities that should appeal to enterprise users. For instance, users will be able to remotely wipe the phones if they lose them.
AT&T will also this year sell the Infuse 4G from Samsung, a phone that will have a 4.5-inch screen, one of the largest on a smartphone. It will have a 1.2 Ghz processor and two cameras to allow for video conferencing.
AT&T also plans to launch an HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) tablet this year. It will come from Motorola, have a 10.1-inch screen, run a Nvidia dual-core processor and be based on Android Honeycomb. Motorola is expected to reveal more details of the tablet at a press conference Wednesday.
Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy’s e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com