Motorola ATRIX 4G vs Apple iPhone 4

Introduction and Design

In an epic battle between two heavyweights, we finally have an Android powered smartphone that’s worthy enough to challenge the iPhone 4 as the premier device on AT&T’s lineup. As we’ve seen in our Motorola ATRIX 4G Review, it didn’t back down in bringing forth an experience that delivers strongly in many aspects thanks to its high-end specs and innovative functionality. And even though we’re over 8 months into its existence, the Apple iPhone 4 continues to shine ever so brightly while sitting prettily on its pedestal. However, it should have some concerns since the Motorola ATRIX 4G isn’t any other ordinary device looking for a mere challenge, instead, it’s looking to supplant it.


If there was one physical trait that we didn’t like with the ATRIX 4G, it has to be none other than its plastic construction – which is the reason why the iPhone 4 looks and feels like the more premium device. Even though it’s slightly more compact in size versus the ATRIX 4G, the iPhone 4 is noticeably heavier due to its premium choice of materials. However, it’s arguable to say that it wouldn’t fare well in the event that it’s dropped – but then again, the plastic exterior of the ATRIX 4G is a bit more susceptible to scratching. Whatever way you look at it, there’s no denying that the iPhone 4 is both the better looking and feeling device between the two.

When comparing the two screens, the Motorola ATRIX 4G boasts the larger of the two with a 4” qHD display and packs a mighty resolution of 540 x 960 pixels. Albeit, it still doesn’t come close to offering the higher pixel density count found with the 3.5” IPS display of the iPhone 4 with its resolution of 640 x 960 pixels. Sure the Retina Display packs a whole lot of pixels on its surface, but honestly, they both exhibit similar characteristics with their detailed and brilliant displays. However, we find color production to be a little bit more natural looking with the iPhone 4 since darker colors, such as black, have a smoky appearance with the ATRIX 4G. Moreover, colors better retain their vibrancy at various angles on the Retina Display. Luckily though, we find both to be extremely responsive to the touch.

To this day, we never have any problems activating the springy feel of the iPhone 4’s recognizable home button. Conversely, since it relies on the customary set of capacitive buttons, we still find ourselves accidentally pressing them on the Motorola ATRIX 4G since they’re placed close to the edge of the handset.

Fortunately, we find the volume rockers of both handsets to be sufficient in size without any hassles in pressing them down thanks to their responsive feel.  However, the addition of the vibrate switch with the iPhone 4 is appreciated since it offers quick access in silencing it.

Thanks mostly to their traditional nature, as opposed to the proprietary 30-pin connection port with the iPhone 4, we adore the microUSB and microHDMI ports found with the ATRIX 4G – which are used in conjunction with the handset’s innovative sharing qualities.

Taking a peek at the top edges of both smartphones, we’re greeted with their 3.5mm headset jacks and dedicated power buttons. With the iPhone 4, its placement is fitting and provides that solid tactile response when pressed. On the contrary, the placement with the ATRIX 4G might seem awkward at first, but it’s still nonetheless roomy in size and doubles as a finger print reader – which is definitely something you don’t see that often.

Motorola ATRIX 4G 360-degree View:

Apple iPhone 4 360-degree View:

Interface and Functionality:

Apple’s A4 processor does wonders in making the platform experience on the iPhone 4 exhilarating since it consistently keeps in mind speed and responsiveness. Meanwhile, we’re ushering a new era in the smartphone world as the Motorola ATRIX 4G is one of the first smartphones on the market to employ a 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. Now in our comparison, the iPhone 4 overall has a smoother response over the ATRIX 4G when it comes to navigating around the platform, but then again, it doesn’t have all the graphical eye candy present with Android’s interface. Regardless, we find the speed of the ATRIX 4G satisfying seeing that it’s definitely up there in terms of responsiveness versus other Android devices, however, the fluid nature of the iPhone 4 is eye catching in its own terms.

Depending on your taste, either platform experience will suit your needs, but it ultimately comes down to simplicity versus personalization – which is the common battle we continually see in our comparisons. Between the two, iOS is the easier platform to learn since it’s rather straightforward in its approach without being complicated in any way. To put it lightly, we haven’t seen a drastic departure with the iPhone’s interface at all – especially when its homescreen still looks the same as it did at its inception. However, if personalization is more your kind of thing, then MOTOBLUR running on top of Android 2.2 Froyo on the ATRIX 4G is right in your alley. Thanks to its vast mix of useful widgets, live wallpapers, and shortcuts, you can have a ball rearranging the look of the ATRIX 4G to tastefully complement your personality.

Mainly because of their lightning quick processors and fine screen real estate, the messaging experience with both smartphones is gratifying since speed typing is no issue at all. The portrait keyboards of both might be a little bit cramped, though a bit more manageable with the ATRIX 4G’s larger display, but the landscape options provide the most comfort in typing. Even to this day, we adore the iPhone’s near perfect predictive text function, but the inclusion of the Swype keyboard on the ATRIX 4G is equally appreciated. Either way, we find ourselves typing at a moderate rate with few mistakes after some time practicing with their keyboards.

Since it’s powered by Google’s mobile operating system, the Gmail experience with the ATRIX 4G is the more favorable one because it carries over most of the functions you’d come to expect from the desktop version. It’s not to say that the iPhone 4’s email app is bad, which it isn’t, since it features things like threaded conversations. However, we find ourselves being a little bit more productive in organizing our emails with the ATRIX 4G. Either way, adding different accounts on both smartphones is a painless process that normally requires your email address and password for automatic set up.

Internet and Connectivity:

Voice calling in any part of the world is no problem between these two quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) GSM phones, but the iPhone 4 has a tiny advantage because of its quad-band (850/900/1900/2100 MHz) UMTS support versus the tri-band (850/1900/2100 MHz) connection of the ATRIX 4G. However, in theory though, Motorola’s bundle of joy should obtain faster data speeds since it’s an HSPA+ enabled device. Sadly, it doesn’t beat out the iPhone 4’s performance running on AT&T’s network right now – which can partly be blamed for its lack for HSUPA+ support; the upload component of HSPA+. To prove the vast difference, we performed a quick test and the results are staggering with the iPhone 4 getting 2,500kbps down & 1,667kps up speeds, while the ATRIX 4G tallied in at the average of 1,400kbps down & 170kbps up. Luckily, both handsets feature 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi in the event a cellular connection is unavailable. Furthermore, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR is also on board with both to allow various wireless peripherals to connect with them.

As we mentioned already, data speeds seem to be faster on the iPhone 4, and with that in mind, it didn’t surprise us to see it fully render complex web sites like ours first. Not only do we find it beating the ATRIX 4G in that department, but we see mobile Safari offering the more fluid movements with kinetic scrolling and pinch zooming. It’s not to say that the experience is bad with the ATRIX 4G, which is also great, mainly due to its support for Flash Player 10.1. Both clearly have their own unique advantages, though in the end, the two high caliber handsets provide a resounding web browsing experience.

Indeed it’s a nice thing to see the Motorola ATRIX 4G having Wi-Fi- tethering support out of the box, but we’re not too convinced that it’ll be beneficial since the data speeds of the handset aren’t that fast enough to handle multiple consumption with other devices. Nonetheless, it’s still a welcomed addition that’s missing on the iPhone 4 – albeit, it might come down the road with some software update.

Camera and Multimedia:

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After reviewing the Motorola ATRIX 4G, we were ecstatic about its photo taking prowess since it rivaled the quality we found with the iPhone 4. But now that we’ve got the two hand in hand, we can better meticulously compare them to see which one captures the better looking images. After taking a few samples both indoors and outdoors, it might look as though the two are equal in output, however, we soon realized that the iPhone 4’s shots were slightly better. Overall, we find sharper looking details with the iPhone 4 which are tastefully complemented by its juicier looking color production. Indoors in low lighting conditions, the iPhone 4 still produces the lovelier looking images since its contrast is better equipped at lighting up the scenery; thus exposing some details that are otherwise missing with the ATRIX 4G’s production. And finally, the LED flash of the iPhone 4 is blatantly the stronger of the two as it supplies more light with subjects that are more than 5 feet away.

The iPhone 4 might have the leg up with taking photos, but when it comes to shooting high definition videos, the quality is pretty much identical with both smartphones. Moving along at the respectable speed of 29 frames per second with the two, there is no hint of any choppiness with their recordings. Finding that smooth rate is nice indeed, but we’re equally content to see plenty of sharp visuals with their recordings. In addition, audio recording sounds particularly clear and noise free for the most part – which just rounds out their beautiful performance.

Motorola ATRIX 4G Sample Video:

Apple iPhone 4 Sample Video:

Although it might not be all that mainstream right now, it’s just nice to see that video chat is enabled thanks to their front facing cameras. FaceTime with the iPhone 4 is exquisite since audio and video quality is up there; despite the requirement of being connect to Wi-Fi. And surprisingly enough, we’re content with the video calling quality presented with the Fring app on the ATRIX 4G – which happens to work over 3G.

Cover Flow mode with the iPhone 4 is still one visually appealing interface that one-ups the standard looking Android music player found with the ATRIX 4G. Lacking the eye candy factor with its presentation, we find the choice of equalizer settings with the ATRIX 4G to be an appreciated thing that better fine tunes the audio quality based on the genre of music you’re playing. Thankfully, the speaker output of both devices are on-par with one another as they provide a decent wallop of sharp tunes from their respective speakers.

Playing high-definition videos is no problem with either handset since they produce smooth playback and plenty of rich details. Ultimately, it all comes down to whether you prefer watching something on a larger screen – which obviously goes to the 4” qHD display of the ATRIX 4G. Regardless of that, the iPhone 4’s 3.5” Retina Display is still more than agreeable to our needs.

Innovative is definitely one keyword that perfectly describes the Motorola ATRIX 4G because of the added functionality it has to offer with its HD Multimedia and Laptop Docks. Attempting to combine the best parts about being mobile with some regular computing aspects, Motorola’s webtop experience is something so refreshing which further shows the kind of ingenuity it’s packing that we don’t see implemented by other devices nowadays. And that’s one crucial part about the ATRIX 4G that we find so inspirational over the iPhone 4. Of course, it comes at a price, and unfortunately, in the case of the ATRIX 4G and its docks, it's quite a steep price.


While using the two YouTube apps on both phones, it’s visible that we prefer the one with Android partly because of its informative presentation and wealth of sharing functions. Moreover, it’s nice to be given the choice of being to play videos in either standard or high quality modes. Whereas on the iPhone 4, it’ll only play high quality videos when it’s connected to Wi-Fi.

And since we’re on the topic of some widely used mobile apps, it’s no wonder why we find the Google Maps experience with the Motorola ATRIX 4G to be the preferred choice. Mostly because of its free voice guided turn-by-turn directions and 3D maps view, the overall set of features offered with the ATRIX 4G easily bypasses the miniscule functionality presented with the iPhone 4. However, we shouldn't forget that users still have much more options with the iPhone 4, especially when it comes to entertainment.


Somewhat of a surprise, the earpieces on both emit the same strong levels of audio, while the calling quality on both handsets are marred with some prominent static noise evident in the background. When using the speakerphone, the two handsets are able to produce audible tones, but there is some distortion with the iPhone 4’s output, while static is once again prevalent with the ATRIX 4G.

Unlike the iPhone 4’s death grip issue, there is no major fluctuations problems with the Motorola ATRIX 4G’s signal strength. However, when both are sitting idle and not touched, signal strength appears to be the same in high coverage areas.

Finally, we’re blown away by the amount of battery life exhibited by the two always connected smartphones. In our testing, we managed to get by 1 ½ days on normal usage with the two handsets – which is up there in terms of today’s standards. Though, it’s nice knowing that you can easily and quickly replace the removable battery of the ATRIX 4G – rather than sending it back to Apple or somewhere else with the iPhone 4.


Whichever way you view it, these are unanimously the best two smartphones that are currently gracing AT&T’s lineup. Overlooking the two completely different platform experiences you’ll be greeted with, there are actually tons of commonalities in their performance. For starters, they have above average battery life, shoot stunning looking photos and videos, are enabled for video chat, and feature brilliant looking high-resolution displays. However, it always comes down to whether your prefer the easy to learn and simplistic experience with iOS, or the personalized functionality with Android 2.2 Froyo.  Of course, it helps that the Motorola ATRIX 4G boasts some innovative functionality with its optional docks, but at the cellular level, these two titans are equal in providing the best performance on any mobile device out there – especially when they’re priced at $199.99 with a contract.

Motorola ATRIX 4G vs Apple iPhone 4:

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