This is the phone that Motorola once called "the most powerful smartphone in the world"



These days, a fingerprint scanner on a smartphone is no big deal, and octa-core CPUs are seen on mid-range handsets. But back in early 2011, the Motorola Atrix 4G was one of the first smartphones to feature a dual-core processor. The AT&T exclusive also featured a fingerprint scanner. Unlike today's rear-facing scanners and the ones found embedded inside a home button, the Atrix 4G had its fingerprint scanner inside the power button. It was placed on an angle on the top of the back cover. It worked so poorly that it set back biometrics on smartphones for about two years. The fingerprint scanner was so disliked that Motorola left it off of the sequel.

Under the hood was a NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC, which featured a dual-core 1GHz CPU. This made the Atrix 4G one of the first handsets to employ a dual-core CPU, and allowed Motorola to call the device "the world's most powerful smartphone." The LG Optimus 2X used the same chip and launched a month before the Atrix 4G did..

The Atrix 4G came with a 4-inch display carrying a 540 x 960 resolution. The unit also featured 1GB of RAM, a 5MP rear-facing camera and a .3MP camera in front. A hefty (for the time) 1930mAh battery kept the lights on. Plug an Atrix 4G into the optional laptop dock, and it would drive a portable computer. Priced at a steep $500, the accessory came with an 11.6-inch screen carrying a 768 x 1366 resolution. The desktop version of Firefox was included out of the box, giving users a desktop-type experience.

We've come a long way since the Motorola Atrix 4G first launched, and while the fingerprint scanner failed and the laptop dock didn't exactly impress consumers, it did help manufacturers learn how to improve these features. Fingerprint scanners are practically standard these days, and the Asus PadFone line allows a handset to power a tablet when it is plugged into a dock.

We gave the Motorola Atrix 4G an impressive 9.5 in our review, which you can read by clicking on this link.


Related phones

ATRIX 4G
  • Display 4.0" 540 x 960 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP / 0.3 MP VGA front
  • Processor NVIDIA Tegra 2, Dual-core, 1000 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 1930 mAh(9.00h 3G talk time)

FEATURED VIDEO

41 Comments

1. darkkjedii

Posts: 31529; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I remember almost buying this, but instead opting for the HTC Evo 3D. That phone was a joke, should've bought the Atrix 4G.

9. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I got the htc inspire 4G instead, it was a good phone for the time.

12. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2474; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I purchased the same phone at the time. Looked at the Atrix 4G and decided against it based on the problems they had with it (battery life plus some lag with the UI). I was glad with my purchase at that time. The Inspire 4G was a really nice phone and one of the last times I really looked at HTC.

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 31529; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

HTC was on the move back then.

41. WPX00

Posts: 511; Member since: Aug 15, 2015

They werent just on the move: its US marketshare was one percentage point behind Apple, 1 in 3 Android devices in America was shipped by HTC, and roughly 1 in 5 of the global market. HTC was big.

11. nwright94

Posts: 211; Member since: Oct 14, 2014

You weren't missing much with the Atrix. Hardware glitches and defects galore. I had to return 2 of them because the screen went out within the first 2 weeks. Camera was meh too compared to the Samsung phones at the time, need up getting and Infuse 4g instead.

14. darkkjedii

Posts: 31529; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I had an infuse for a minute, but at that time I hadn't yet realized android phones came with so much stuff turned on by default, and returned the infuse due to bad battery life. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd have just went thru and turned things off like wifi always scanning.

35. buccob

Posts: 2978; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

The Atrix was my first Android device, and the funny thing is that the 1 feature that worked flawlessly for me was the fingerprint scanner... Maybe people didn't know how to swipe it or properly set it up, anyway the device was good for about a year, the it broke a lot. Also Motorola software back then was crap. The Google deal was very good for them internally

2. Adsr14

Posts: 118; Member since: Aug 08, 2015

I remember begging my dad to buy me this phone at Costco when I was 17. The phone I loved the most. My fingerprint scanner never worked but I didn't really care I just loved the dam thing until I shattered the screen with my soccer cleats on accident

6. frustyak

Posts: 248; Member since: Mar 08, 2010

I had the Atrix 4G for about a year, and I couldn't wait to replace that thing as soon as I was eligible to do so. It wasn't the crappy fingerprint sensor that turned me off to this phone, or the crappy Motoblur, or the docking capability which I couldn't afford and would never use, although none of those helped it's cause. The phone had a random reboot problem that never really went away, even after Moto updates to the OS.

7. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

5years later... even $70 smartphone have better specs than that..

8. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Just goes to show how fast computer tech inside cell phones are improving. All thanks to competition in the industry for your hard earned dollars!

20. mahima

Posts: 743; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

and yet $700 iphone still has a smaller battery than this one...

23. L0n3n1nja

Posts: 1581; Member since: Jul 12, 2016

I feel this progress has really begun to slow down, snapdragon 800 devices still perform well. I use my old Note 3 on a regular basis still, still much better than today's budget phones.

29. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

yeah right.. it slower now.. it wont be funny if people can buy S6edge specced device for $70 on 2019.. (wont be funny for ex-flagship owner)

42. WPX00

Posts: 511; Member since: Aug 15, 2015

Agreed. I have no issue running my 3 year old GS4, which uses the fatally flawed Exynos 5410. Rooted it, used L Speed, underclocked the chip to 900MHz, and use power saving: 4h SOT no problem. Although the battery does go down very quickly when its used and then recovers some of that loss in standby...

15. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

AT&T always got Motorolas second hand devices until 2013. From 2009 until then VZW got all the good isht from Moto.

16. dragonhart66505

Posts: 8; Member since: Aug 06, 2016

2011 I was rocking the Droid X. Saw the Atrix in comparison and drooled over the specs, but stuck with my X for another good 2 years before grabbing something relevant for the time. The modding scene kept me stuck to the Droid line for a while as they seemed to dominate alongside HTC and Samsung. Poor Motorola hit the back burner on low while Sammy and Apple hold the front lines nowadays. And now it's all about who has more cores and more ram and bigger screens. I'm good with my 3-gen behind phones, a 5s and Galaxy S4. Newer stuff appeals to me as a power hungry user, but so long as there is root and jailbreak I'll sit on the sidelines knowing every other idiot out there doesn't know what the term "ol' faithful" means anymore

34. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

"Newer stuff appeals to me as a power hungry user, but so long as there is root and jailbreak I'll sit on the sidelines knowing every other idiot out there doesn't know what the term "ol' faithful" means anymore" And I'll sit on the sidelines knowing every other idiot out there doesn't know what the term "new and improved" means anymore. ;-)

38. dragonhart66505

Posts: 8; Member since: Aug 06, 2016

Oh I'm aware of what I'm missing out on. Battery life, performance gains, screen density, camera features, better multitasking. I just don't need all that stuff. New and improved is all good, but I don't care and never have. Sure I upgraded from low-end tech like the HTC Desire 626s and LG Leon to what I've got now and I can feel the difference for sure...but I'm not doing anything different on my Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5s that I wasn't already doing. I've still got the others as well and could happily switch back if something happened to my DD's. Like I said, with what mods I have on my crappy phones I don't really notice the difference. And yes I'm aware that having had modded the phones to get a similar experience to the updated units proves what potential they lacked out of the box, but unlocking that potential is what I live for

17. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

Phonearena almost blames Motorola for shifting the fingerprint tech behind, but in truth they just bought whatever was available back then and two years later the tech had improved.

30. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Fun fact, the company that produced the "horrible" fingerprint scanner on the Atrix was the same company who would supply the FPSs on the iPhone. It's not that the concept was bad, it's that the technology wasn't there yet. That happens with most technology, but you have to start somewhere.

44. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3163; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Phonearena blames Motorola out of sheer ignorance. Maybe it was the Android system that sucked. Motorola had fingerprint scanners on WinMo devices well before Android (ES400 Enterprise Digital Assistant) and they worked perfectly. I owned them and owned an Atrix with the Lapdock too and Android's crappiness manifested there as well. See, I had a Celio Redfly on WinMo and BlackBerry OS a few years before the Atrix came out and it worked flawlessly when attached to a HD2. Naturally, I was interested to see how far technology had come and got the aforementioned Atrix combo. Not even close. Note to PA, do your research. This isn't the first time I've called you out on historically inaccurate reporting.

47. Alan01

Posts: 638; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

Where does it say that Motorola was to blame? All I wrote was that the fingerprint scanner worked so poorly that it set the technology back two years. If you disagree with that statement, do the intelligent thing and refute it by using some evidence instead of Trumpishly opening your mouth and saying nothing. Regards, Alan F.

19. mahima

Posts: 743; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

we come a long way....except for iPhone battery

22. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

This phones ad is sick tho. Its even better anything lg or htc has ever put out till this day. Those M7/M8/M9 ads were so depressing that It could cause nausea, infact, They where so bad that htc forgot all about ads for the M10 altogether. While the g5's ad with jason statham still make me cringe anytime it flashes my mind to this day. Anyway as for the phone, let's all admit it, it was so sick for its time. Its funny how obsolete a phone can be in a few years time. Phones have really hit a peak now as you rarely see any innovation or anything exciting these days aside refinement and minor upgrades here and there. Phone manufacturers should release phone flagships every 2 years imo. To give them enough time to innovate, to make us spend less, and to make an upgrade actually worth it.

25. tacarat

Posts: 854; Member since: Apr 22, 2013

I loved this phone. I did well with the fingerprint scanner. The only thing that made it a problem were heavy cases that didn't allow a good swiping angle. I think I went up to ICS or JB with custom ROMs. After tons of fiddling I got it up to three days on a single charge. It's a pity juice defender threw in the towel.

27. ebilcake

Posts: 1231; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Exynos 4210 was better, good times in 2011 with Chainfire 3D, could emulate most of the Tegra games and still get better performance, you could also force FSAA, which we still can't reliability do today. Tegra 2 wasn't bad but it had so many issues with video formats, it was a pain.

28. Bankz

Posts: 2550; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Wait, did I just see qHD in the ad? :D

31. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Yeah, a bit confusing. QHD is quad HD, qHD is quarter HD. QHD resolution is 2,560x1,440, qHD resolution is 960x540. To be fair, QHD is another name for WQHD (Wide Quad HD), if they used that, it would probably be less confusing.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.