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The major selling point of the Motorola Atrix is not necessarily what the phone is – but what it becomes.
For power users and business people who it is inevitably aimed at, the Lap Dock will be a fantastic addition.
The idea is simple. The Lap Dock is a dummy laptop. It's thin, but it's heavy. To fire it up, you lift open a cover at the rear and slot the Atrix in.
It then fires up the computer, which runs two operating systems side by side. One is a form of Linux that allows you to browse the web and do simple netbook tasks (bizarrely, considering this runs Android, it comes installed with Firefox rather than Google Chrome).
At the same time, on the left-hand side, your phone screen pops up and you're able to do everything you'd normally do on it (including making and receiving calls via the laptop, sending and receiving texts and emails).
The Lap Dock will even charge your phone for you and piggy back the Motorola Atrix's 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connections. The battery lasted a good four days like this, bearing in mind that you'll likely be carrying this around and using it intermittently rather than continuously.
And just in case you're wondering how it's doing, it even comes with a sequence of lights on the case that indicate how much power is left, alongside two USB ports.
A few apps are included on it as standard, including the Entertainment Centre (which runs through your media and plays it back from the phone) and that Firefox browser.
Others, such as Motorola's own Webtop Zone and Facebook, are merely shortcuts to the websites. The idea is that you'll use this as a cloud computer (making it all the more bizarre that it runs neither the Chrome browser nor the cloud-based Chrome OS) for your work when you need it.
In theory, the Lap Dock is a very good idea. In practice, it falls down in a few places.
Firstly, it feels like it's not complete. Having two operating systems feels like awfully hard work. You're constantly flitting between your phone and the Linux environment. It's almost as if Motorola couldn't decide what it wanted them to do so it threw both OSes in.
It would make more sense to have the Lap Dock running either a Linux operating system only, that then integrates the various phone elements into the core OS, or just blow up the entire Android screen and use that as the OS.
Android Froyo is certainly capable – especially when you consider that it comes with Flash support for websites plus full email clients and media players.
Secondly, the screen may be nice and bright but because of the way the Atrix sits at the back of the Lap Dock, there's only a certain amount of leeway. This means you can't actually push the screen too far back, and it can make for a very uncomfortable angle when trying to work with the Lap Dock on your knees.
It's a simple design fault that is annoying, inexcusable and should surely have been picked up during the conception and testing processes.
Thirdly, there's the price. Some bundles are available which will give you the Lap Dock at a discount with Orange, or you may get the phone for free and just pay for the Lap Dock. But you're still looking at a minimum of £250-£300 on a high-spend tariff, which means that you're then in cheap notebook territory and, frankly, netbooks will probably do the job better.
Another problem is also one of the strengths of the package. It integrates so well with the phone that it won't work without the Atrix being plugged in. It should be desirable to have the Atrix connected, not essential, because if you find yourself in a position where you need to use it as a standalone laptop for any reason, you're out of luck.
It's then nothing more than an expensive doorstop.
You can see what Motorola is trying to do with the Atrix and the Lap Dock, and the fact that Android is so open and customisable means that manufacturers are limited only by their imaginations.
It's a credible and exciting first step, and a very exciting insight into where smartphones and laptops are going and how their relationship with each other is developing. But alas, with the Lap Dock it just feels like it's not quite there yet.
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