T-Mobile G2 Review

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Around two years ago T-Mobile signed on to a grand experiment: Android. Not long after the G1 arrived. It was a smartphone with a physical keyboard, a fair amount of speed and storage — and a lot of potential.

Many devices and several revisions to the operating system later and the G2 has finally arrived!

Some would argue that the G2 is incorrectly named, and should be the “G3” — an Android phone named the “G2” was previously released by T-Mobile’s European cousin. Naming aside, let’s dig right in!

Specifications

The G2 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7230 processor running at a respectable 800MHz. This was a major turn-off for many potential customers who were expecting the G2 to be the successor to the Google Nexus One (which is clocked at 1000MHz). Many of us in the media called for patience while we waited to see what the G2 was capable of, preaching that megahertz aren’t everything. We were right.

Running the benchmarking app Quadrant, the Nexus One (running Froyo) scores around 1,300. The G2? 1,560 — with a “slower” processor.

about

Topping off the processor is 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, and an included 8GB class 2 microsdhc card (32GB capable). The screen is a beautiful 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 capacitive touchscreen (S-TFT) display. Though not as bright or vibrant (if you’ll pardon the pun) as the Samsung Galaxy S series phones, the screen on the G2 is very nice, and very sharp — though not as easy to read in direct sunlight.

On the back is a metal battery cover (embossed with the HTC and G2 logos) and a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, capable of shooting 720p HD video.

Powering the phone is a 1300mAh battery, which sounds small, but the new Qualcomm chip powering it is super efficient. I’ve seen better battery life on the G2 than the Nexus One — and significantly longer life from the G2 than the Epic 4G.

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HSPA+

Wireless is where this device has potential. Sure, it’s got the standard Bluetooth 2.1, aGPS, and WiFi (including 802.11n), but it’s also T-Mobile’s first HSPA+ capable phone.

T-Mobile is married to GSM and hasn’t mentioned any plans to go the LTE or WiMax route like some of their competitors. While some may see folly in the decision, at a maximum theoretical speed of 21mbps HSPA+ should give WiMax a run for its money. Of course you’re not likely going to have HSPA+ available in your neighborhood right away, but the deployment is already underway.

Those who have already gotten an HSPA+ umbrella are reporting download speeds in the 6-7mbps range — much faster than the 4-5mbps that I experienced with Sprint’s 4G. If 7mbps speeds turns out to be the norm, I’m confident T-Mobile’s HSPA+ gamble will pay off.

Unfortunately, T-Mobile didn’t include a front-facing camera, so video calling over HSPA+ (or even HSPA or WiFi) isn’t an option.

First Impressions

What’s inside the box? The phone, obviously, which is covered in several protective covers to prevent scratches during shipping. The phone feels very solid and “high-quality”, but not too heavy (6.5 ounces). The keyboard mechanism is spring-assisted, opening and closing fluidly. It’s not a true “slider” as the screen “lifts” away from the keyboard, then folds flat to allow easy typing. Many people have voiced concern about the hinges, but to them I’d like to note the G1’s opening mechanism wasn’t “traditional” at all — and I don’t recall anyone reporting issues with it.

The keys are offset, which helps you type faster (much nicer than the Epic 4G’s grid-aligned keyboard). There are four rows of keys and three programmable “quick keys” that you can assign to launch any app or shortcut. Also included is a “web” button that has “www.” and “.com” on it, for faster URL input. Missing are the “Android” buttons present on the Epic 4G’s keyboard (Home, Back, and Menu), which aren’t necessary, but I do miss their convenience.

keyboard

They keyboard does add some thickness to the device, totaling 0.58-inches. When put in context with the length and width (4.68-inches by 2.38-inches), the dimensions work very well together.

Gone is the trackball that decorated the front of the Nexus One (with it’s glowing, pulsating, multi-color notification LED that could light up a room). It’s been replaced with a very functional track-pad. Not wanting to do away with the notification LED entirely, the “frame” around the trackpad “pulses” with white light when you have a notification (unfortunately, it’s not multicolor as far as I can tell).

bottom

The capacitive Android buttons on the bottom of the screen don’t have any of the problems that I experienced with the Epic 4G. These were fast and responsive, and have never required multiple presses to invoke the intended action.

What else is in the box? Basically what you’d expect: headphones with in-line microphone, microUSB cable, a very slim wall-wort power supply, the requisite manuals, a new SIM, and even a pre-paid mailing label so you can recycle your old phone.

When booting up the phone for the first time you’ll see the HTC logo followed by a T-Mobile G2 screen. Nothing as in your face at the Droid “eye”, or the Spring “blocks”, instead the G2’s boot sequence is simple and elegant.

boot

On the right side of the phone is a camera button (which for some reason only serves to take pictures, it doesn’t open the Camera app if you want to use the button to launch the camera app you press-and-hold for 4-5 seconds, or you can launch it via the icon in the app drawer) and the battery release clasp. The power button is situated on the right side of the top of the device — the opposite side from the Nexus One, which I find annoying, but am become accustomed to. Also on top is a 3.5mm headphone/headset jack. On the left side is a volume up/down rocker and an uncovered microUSB port. On the back is the 5-megapixel camera, LED flash, and the beautiful brushed metal battery cover.

back

Audio Quality

In addition to the standard call features, T-Mobile decided to include Google Voice, Google’s universal text message and voicemail inbox. Calls made and received via either method were nothing short of perfect. Calls were crisp, clear, loud enough to be heard, but not overly loud.

Using a Bluetooth or wired headset for phone calls were equally as good. Bluetooth pairing also seems to happen faster with the G2 than with other phones. Some have reported “tinniness” when using the speaker phone on the G2 — I didn’t notice this and was generally impressed.

Music, on the other hand, can be heard via on the onboard speaker, but I wasn’t impressed with the sound quality. Plugging in a good pair of ear buds or noise-cancelling headphones was the universal solution, and music was clear with a full sound spectrum.

Camera

I’ve mentioned it before, it it’s worth mentioning again: pressing the shutter button on the phone doesn’t launch the camera all. That’s just silly — and frustrating. Pressing and holding the dedicated camera button for 4-5 seconds will launch the camera app. This seems a bit long, and it’s just long enough to make you think that it can’t open the app, which is a little frustrating.

Once in the camera app both still pictures and videos are reasonable. 5-megapixel and 720p video recording makes this phone’s camera on-par with most of today’s point-and-click digital cameras. What’s nice is that it’s on your phone — you don’t have to tote around a high-end camera to get quality results. Obviously this is a phone first and a camera after-the-fact, but it still produces very good looking images and nice video (although artifacts from the codec aren’t uncommon).

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Software

The ROM on the G2 is pretty much as “stock” to the original Android source code as you can get. There is no Motoblur, Sense UI, Touch Wiz, or any other UI overlay, just the regular Android as far as the eye can see. This is a VERY welcome feature!

Notice I said “pretty much” stock? There are some differences.

First, T-Mobile has decided to remove the ability to tether or hot-spot your phone (both are included in the stock Android code). This is a major disappointment — one I’m sure the folks over at XDA are already working on.

Next, T-Mobile has included virtually every app made by Google. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the phone certainly has the internal storage to hold them all, but these apps can’t be easily removed — and in the case of Google Goggles, can’t be updated either. As far as “bloatware” goes, there’s not much. Just a couple apps that nag you once in a great while: Web2Go, and Photobucket.

Last, the launcher comes default with seven home screens (up from the five that we’re used to).

Conclusion

The T-Mobile G2 is not just a worthy successor to the G1, it’s also a wonderfully fast and sleek replacement for the now-discontinued Nexus One. The phone is extremely well built, fast in every sense of the word, and the best implementation of the Android OS to-date.

Pros

+ FAST! Everything about this phone screams speed

+ Extremely well built and high-quality (as we’ve come to expect from HTC)

+ Clean implementation of the Android OS (no unnecessary UI overlays)

+ Beautiful: from the outside to the UI, everything is polished and elegant

Cons

– No front-facing camera

– HSPA+ network is still being built

– “Rootkit” locking to “prevent” loading custom ROMs

– No built-in tethering/hot-spot support

Rating

4.5 out of 5

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.