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Hands-On Impressions of Dell’s Streak and Aero

Aero Impressions

Dell’s more semi-normal 3G (3.6 Mbps) Android phone, the Aero, due from AT&T later this month, is a puzzle: it’s an Android phone that thinks its an iPhone.

At 3.7 ounces, the Aero is shockingly light (the iPhone, by comparison, is 4.8 ounces, and the Motorola Droid is 6 ounces). Anticipating more heft, I almost catapulted the smooth plastic Aero into the air upon first picking it up. The Aero might fly far when flung, but it’s definitely not aerodynamic and is likely to land as badly as Oceanic 815. But its feathery mass makes it a barely noticeable pocket companion.

Dell has re-rendered Aero’s Android home screen to be conspicuously iPhone-like. You get a customizable row of four frequently used apps, located at the top of its 3.5-inch, 640 x 360 pixel touchscreen rather than at the bottom like iPhone. Your other apps are 4 x 4 gridded across swipeable home screens like the iPhone, instead of Android’s usual ever-lengthening pull-up app tray. I was unable to determine, and Dell reps were unable to say, if you could create more than the four app screens on the test device.

Otherwise, the Aero acts like a regular Android phone except in one iPhone-like way – the Aero is bereft of the usual front Home, Menu and Back buttons. Instead, on the left perimeter, you get a dual-action button. One press brings you back a page, press-and-hold gets you back home. I’m not quite sure how you access Android app sub-menus.

I don’t like this. To me, this is a case of form over function since the Aero presents an uncluttered, smooth iPhone-like appearance. But when quickly navigating a phone, I don’t want to have to think about how long I’m holding down a small button, or even where the button is. Maybe I’d get used to this single-button navigating – by why should I have to? iPhone works sans physical navigation buttons because its OS is so immaculately designed to place all navigation options on whatever screen you’re on, and includes no sub-menus. Android is a great OS, but it’s designed differently and needs clearly-labeled, easy-to-locate physical navigation keys.

Amazingly, the Aero is endowed with Quick Office Document Viewer and Editor, which as far as I can tell from the supporting documents, is not included on the supposedly-a-tablet Streak.

Aero Specs

  • 3.5-inch 640 x 360 pixel, 262k color LCD
  • 5 MP camera with LED flash and photo/video editor
  • SMS, MMS, IM, email, MS Active Sync
  • WiFi b/g; Bluetooth 2.0
  • 4.8″ x 2.3″ x .46″, 3.7 oz.

We’ll have more on both Dell…devices, as soon as we can lay our hands on review units.

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