We had high hopes for the HTC Aria. And, HTC for a moment rewarded them. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Read more for the debrief.
HTC’s Aria is a compact Android phone. In fact, it’s one of the most compact on the market today. With a 3.2-inch screen, it harkens back to all those Windows Mobile advocates who insisted that 3.5-inch screens were somehow a bad thing.
Choice is good, we say. And having a 3.2-inch offering alongside Android phones all the way up to 5-inch screens makes for something for everyone. In a sea of around-2.8-inch phones, the good ones have trouble standing out.
The Aria is HTC’s first Android phone launched by AT&T. As you may know, we have a policy of issuing Do Not Buy ratings to any Android phone that prohibits “sideloading” of applications. If you haven’t heard of sideloading, we’ll explain.
Typically, Android devices are considered open, unlike iPhone which operates within a closed App Store. The Android Market is the primary place where people can obtain applications. But, in order to deter from the Android Market becoming anti-competitive, and downright evil, Android supports loading applications that are self-signed, or unsigned. Essentially, this means you can go to an application developer’s web site and download an application.
AT&T however, blocks sideloading of applications. This is legally permissible, but in our opinion, deplorable on the part of AT&T. It allows AT&T to force applications off of the Android Market, and stifles innovation. Developers on Android are supposed to be able to attempt bold, net-neutral ideas that create awesome new apps. Without this vital option to run unsigned applications, that cannot happen. Developers won’t be able to innovate without fear of rejection from AT&T.
However, we were pleasantly surprised when HTC updated their Sync application to work around this limitation. HTC Sync was updated to allow unsigned applications to be installed onto the Aria. So, we were all ready to post our review giving a very encouraging rating.
Those satisfactions were destroyed, when AT&T found out about the app, and appears to have demanded HTC update Sync once again, pulling the ability to load your own applications onto the device.
As such, our rating is simple, do not buy this phone. Send AT&T a message that you’re an informed consumer, and you care about being able to run software from any developer on your device. We countine to suggest that customers looking for an Android solution for AT&T, to go with the AT&T-banded variant of the Google Nexus One. While the phone is currently sold out from Google’s developer store, due to an AMOLED shortage, Google says they are ordering more units from the manufacturer (which also happens to be HTC).
Pros: Compact size, very affordable Android phone.
Cons: Orwellian Walled Garden comes standard.
Rating: Do Not Buy