So – it was with rapt attention and excitement that I read about Sprint’s latest global phone offering, the Motorola XPRT. It’s a chic little Android device with a fabulous screen, an efficient keyboard and smooth edges that work together to achieve a stylish candy bar form factor. The device has both CDMA and GSM capabilities, which is a fancy way of saying it works in the US (CDMA network) and all of the other countries around the world (GSM), and that is a big plus for anyone who travels. Business travelers remain somewhat limited in the phones they can use both at home and abroad – there’s basically this device, the iPhone and Blackberry (yes, there are some others but no real big players).
You might be looking at the picture of this phone and thinking that it looks vaguely familiar. There is a good reason for that – the XPRT is pretty much the same device as the Droid Pro, first offered last fall by Verizon (aka: Big Red). This is a prime example of what the automotive industry calls “badge engineering” – the practice of taking the same product, tweaking its external appearance slightly and selling it under a different brand. There are a few minor differences between the Droid Pro and the XPRT – the Sprint device has a bigger battery and the keyboard is slightly tweaked (according to Slash Gear – story here). No harm, no foul: if badge engineering means consumers have access to more devices across a broader range of carriers, I’m all for it.
The XPRT is not without its drawbacks. The device is 3G only, which means no access to Sprint’s wicked fast 4G WiMax network. That’s the one thing keeping me on the fence about purchasing this device. I have been cruising along at download speeds of between 2000 and 5782 Kbps on my 4G Samsung Galaxy phone … a switch to the XPRT would bring me back to the days of 400-700 Kbps. This won’t really matter a whole lot except in two areas – video streaming and hotspotting (turning the phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot). I’ve really enjoyed the hotspot feature on my 4G Samsung – I use it with my iPad when I travel and it’s way better than the native AT&T cellular service that is optional on the iPad. I’m able to stream Netflix movies and basically do full scale Web surfing with no problems. Switching to the XPRT still leaves me with hotspotting capability, but only on a 3G network … ho hum. At a cost of about $30 per month extra for the hotspotting feature, I think I would skip it on the 3G XPRT.
The net/net: Sprint finally offers an interesting global phone with a few compromises. I’m on the fence, but leaning toward the purchase…