Review: NEC Terrain for AT&T
The Terrain runs a fairly clean version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. It's a bit of a bummer that it's not on Jelly Bean. Aside from the presence of a few NEC-designed widgets, the Terrain's user interface is close to stock Android 4.0.
The lock screen offers only two shortcuts: one to unlock and one to jump to the camera. You can still open the camera if you use a screen lock, but you'll need to unlock the Terrain before you can go from the camera to any other part of the user interface. The notification tray is accessible from the lock screen, but only if there's no lock code.
The Terrain has three home screen panels out of the box, but you can add/delete home screens at will. There are a handful of NEC widgets spread across the home screens, but obviously users can rearrange these however they like. The main app menu is arranged in grids with four by four apps on each screen. Aside from dropping apps into folders, there's no other way to view the main app menu. You're stuck with the grid. You can't even hide apps.
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As expected, the notification tray provides access to toggle controls for the wireless radios in addition to notifications. I miss the interactive notifications available in Android 4.1.
In terms of performance, I didn't have any trouble with the Terrain. The smaller, lower-resolution screen helps keep processor requirements to a minimum, which leaves it free to handle transitions and multitasking with power to spare. I found it to be quick and light on its feet.
The phone and contact applications work exactly as they do on other stock Android 4.0 devices. The phone is dead simple to use and the contact application includes useful widgets and tons of data about your friends, family, and colleagues. It also meshes well with social networks.
One of the more important features on the Terrain is AT&T's Enhanced PTT service. It has a dedicated button on the left side of the phone that can be used to launch the app and make PTT calls.
The application itself is somewhat easy to use, but often frustrating. For example, it doesn't natively sync with the on-device contact app. You can pull contacts from the main contact app to the ePTT app, but it is done one at a time rather than en masse.
There are two different ways to reach out to people. The app supports presence, so you know when someone's phone is able to accept PTT calls. You can send an alert, which basically wakes up the other person's phone and lets them know you want to talk, or you can just fire off a PTT call directly without sending an alert. Either way, the PTT button can be used as normal (just like a walkie-talkie) for controlling the conversation. The app also includes a huge software button in the middle of the screen. The button is green when you are talking and red when the other person is talking. You can press this software button instead of the physical PTT button if you so desire.
The calls connect in a blink; definitely in less than a second. The quality of PTT calls is very good. Any PTT session can be converted to a regular phone call with the press of an on-screen button.
As expected, the Terrain offers the stock Gmail, email, SMS/MMS, Hangouts, Google+, and Google+ Messenger apps. Together with their associated widgets, they make an impressive arsenal for reaching out to and connecting with your friends, family, and colleagues.
Neither Twitter nor Facebook is preloaded. You have to download them yourself.
The Terrain marks the first handset NEC has offered to the U.S. market in close to 10 years.
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