January 13, 2011

By itself, the Atrix was but one of the dozen or so large-screened Android smartphones that invaded CES 2011, but what really set it apart was its lapdock accessory. This clamshell combination of a full-sized keyboard, screen and battery allow the Atrix to function more like a Linux smartbook.

Extending the processing and connectivity of a smartphone to notebook proportions is, of course, not a new idea. The pre-Elevation Palm sort of tried it with the Foleo, which was a mostly independent device and in some ways a closer ancestor to the BlackBerry Playbook. Celio implemented it with the Redfly, although that product was tied to the unpopular Windows Mobile OS and later BlackBerry, where it was poorly integrated. Rather than a dock, both solutions were able to use bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth to pair the input and output enhancement to the phone. In the case of the Redfly, a cable could also be used.

The Atrix 4G lapdock solution seems like it will work better than those approaches, but in the excitement over a smartphone that can apparently transform into a laptop, I think we’ve been too quick to overlook the lapdock’s strange design, in which the Atrix is docked behind the screen. This allows for easy connection and disconnection of the smartphone, but it doesn’t allow for use of both screens simultaneously. More importantly, it doesn’t allow you to easily transport the docked Atrix within the lapdock. I’d be surprised if a competitor taking a crack at this didn’t make it so that the phone is inserted securely inside the clamshell, allowing for sufficient ventilation, of course.

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September 26, 2008

Engadget’s been harshing on the Celio Redfly pretty severely since its debut; I suppose anything that’s even calls to mind the Foleo is going to leave a bad taste in their editorial mouths. When I first saw the device, though, I thought that $200 would be a key price point for something marketed as a smartphone accessory, so Celio will certainly pick up some interesting data points in October. At least some commenters on the Engadget post announcing the promotion think they might give the device a try at $199.

I’ve also been trying out the Redfly for a couple of weeks. It’s definitely not for everyone at this point and most consumers would be better served by a netbook that is closer to its (non-promotional) price. But one glance at the company Web site’s mention of “TCO” tells you that the company is targeting enterprise users for now. At least it is solidly positioned as a terminal, unlike the Foleo that tried to be both a smartphone companion and a new platform.

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