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Preview: Dell Aero smartphone

SmartphoneAT&T has begun teasing customers with photos and a few details on the Dell Aero smartphone, which has a 5Mp camera and a 3.5in HD display.

At the CTIA show, I got a chance to hold an Aero and get a feel for its build. The firm insisted that the smartphone isn't ready for hands-on testing, however, and I wasn't allowed to turn it on and use it. Based on such a quick look, all we can say is that it feels great, is lightweight and has a stylish silver accent on the side and back.

Other than that, AT&T is revealing only that the Aero will offer web browsing with Flash Lite support for audio and video content, and will connect to Wi-Fi hotspots. It also included an onboard GPS system that works while talking hands-free.

AT&T has said the Dell Aero will soon be available in the US. It's a cousin of Dell's Android-based Mini 3, which is sold in in Brazil and China, although AT&T wouldn't comment on any differences from the Mini 3.

Jeff Bradley, senior vice-president of devices at AT&T, offered me the Aero to hold and look at, but said I couldn't turn it on, explaining, "It isn't ready."

Windows Phone 7 prototype

I had a similar experience with another smartphone that isn't completely ready - Microsoft 's prototype of a Windows Phone 7 Series device.

Mike Chang, senior product manager, let me hold the prototype but said it is not the final hardware that Microsoft expects a number of manufacturers to build for the new OS. That's a good thing, because the hardware prototype is heavy and looks terrible, with a screen that seemed to have a scratch protector on top that kept the full colours from showing through.

Some of the specs of the hardware were shown to developers at the MIX conference a week ago, and a Microsoft official said the prototype was built on Asus hardware.

Most notable in the Windows Phone 7 Series specs is that it will rely on capacitative touch with four or more contact points possible simultaneously which is good for gaming, Chang said.

Chang wouldn't divulge the speed of the prototype's processor, but a slide at the MIX conference described the processor as an ARM version 7 Cortex/ Scorpion "or better".

I played with the prototype briefly, but couldn't say whether the touch response was all that quick because I often have problems getting touchscreens to respond. Chang said that with the prototype, the touch sensitivity isn't final.

The start screen on the Windows Phone 7 prototype was depicted mainly with blue colours, which looked faint to me, not at all as vibrant as iPhone users are accustomed to seeing. Chang said Microsoft has chosen to give users a choice of mainly blue, green, red or yellow as the theme colours for the start screen.

All in all, I'm intrigued by what Microsoft is planning for its Windows Phone 7 Series, but it's far too early to judge the device without the actual hardware in place. By comparison, the Dell Aero hardware looks like a cool device, although it too is unfinished, and I need the chance to put the software through its paces.

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