I’m not exactly sure I understand what just happened to one of the most innovative new mobile devices unveiled at this year’s CES. While I blogged last week about my misgivings regarding the execution of Motorola’s Atrix smartphone and unique docking system, I still think it’s a good start towards further convergence of the smartphone and other connected devices. Alas, it appears that price alone could sink what The Wall Street Journal called AT&T’s answer to Verizon’s iPhone launch.
When AT&T released pricing details for the Atrix, I’m guessing a lot of expectant AT&T customers decided they would either A, take the Atrix and forgo the docking system, or B, go with another smartphone altogether. The Atrix itself is still a good deal. At $199 on contract, you’re getting a state-of-the-art dual-core monster of an Android smartphone for pretty much the industry average. But you’re going to have to shell out some dukets for the luxury of that innovative laptop dock (and I’m still not sure it’s a luxury).
AT&T is pricing the Atrix and laptop dock bundle at $499.99 “after a two-year service contract and $100 mail-in-rebate after subscription to Data Pro smartphone data plan and tethering add on.” I’m not exactly sure why you’d be required to buy the tethering plan along with the Atrix, as the docking mechanism seemed like the kind of thing both Motorola and AT&T were pitching as a way of simplifying one’s life. If I’m still going to have to pay to connect the laptop to the Internet when my smartphone is powering said laptop, why would I spend $500 for the bundle when I could just tether my existing laptop to my smartphone?
And even if you do go with the bundle, there’s still more optional accessorizing AT&T would like you to do for the low price of $189.99, which will get you the Motorola HD Multimedia Doc, a Bluetooth keyboard, mouse and remote control.
Will someone please explain to me why the Atrix and dock user experience will be any better than the one I might have using any high-end Android phone and my existing laptop with a browser that syncs all my information? Sure, seeing your smartphone integrated with a laptop environment is just dreamy, but when you actually get down to it, it’s really not all that practical and even a bit redundant. At its current price, the Atrix docking system is an unnecessary half step in the device continuum.
I realize the contradictory nature of my argument here. First I say it’s the most innovative mobile device to come out of CES, then I say it’s unnecessary. Still, I’m not sure those two comments are unresolvable. The Atrix docking system is innovative and can be seen as foreshadowing of what’s to come. But alas, when all is said and done, it’s too expensive to be even the slightest bit practical.
Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I think we see a lot of magic in the wireless industry and some tricks are just amazing enough to hypnotize. The Atrix is one of them, but I think the price tag just broke the trance.