Let’s get down to brass tacks: The much-hyped HTC Aria is worth singing about. Maybe not loudly (or in the shower), but it manages to nail most of the basics that some of AT&T’s other Android phones have fumbled.
The Aria’s biggest asset is the fact that it’s small. While other smartphones are chasing the ”big is beautiful” trope, the compact Aria is constructed to fit comfortably in your pocket. The 480 x 320 touchscreen is a tight 3.2 inches and the phone’s overall velvety black chassis is gussied up with sleek chrome accents. The super-glossy front is subtly outfitted with touch-sensitive softkeys below the screen, and the tiniest optical trackpad. To be fair, this diminutive design might frustrate the sausage-fingered but it’s a minor quibble considering how intuitive the rest of the Aria feels.
Under the hood lies an effective (though hardly blazing) set of specs. The 600-MHz processor falls well below mainstays like the Nexus One’s 1-GHz Snapdragon, but in regular use the Aria rarely stuttered. We were a little bothered that the handset ships with Android 2.1, especially since version 2.2 has already been unleashed, and wireless providers are notoriously slow on updates.
But in terms of how it performs today, we can’t really hold that against the Aria. Even while running HTC’s somewhat bloated Sense UI skin, the device performs exactly like it’s supposed to — be it snapping photos with the passable 5-MP camera, or running apps from the Android Market — with hardly a pause. Paired with its reasonable performance as a phone (with a little over five hours of talk time), there isn’t much to dislike.
Until you consider the cost. In terms of AT&T’s offerings, the Aria’s $130 sticker price wedges it between the (cheaper) iPhone 3GS, and the much more expensive (and capable) Nexus One. This awkward middle space isn’t the worst place to occupy, but when one considers how quickly the Aria will age it becomes a problematic choice. Bestsellers like the iPhone 3GS and the Nexus One are already being eclipsed by newer hardware like the iPhone 4, and this leaves even more to desire from the spec-challenged Aria.
So, here’s the rub: If the Aria is exactly what you’re looking for (at least for the next two years), then it’s entirely worth the buck-thirty asking price. However, if you’re spec-obsessed (or especially thrifty), you’ll probably want to sit this song out.