For the last several days I’ve had the opportunity to review T-Mobile’s latest HSPA+ phone (which they’re billing as 4G): the myTouch 4G. I haven’t been particularly impressed with the older siblings in the myTouch family, and brought that scepticism with me. To my delight, the myTouch 4G has completely redeemed the family name! Let’s take a closer look at the myTouch 4G and see why it’s earned my respect.
Calling opening the myTouch 4G an “unboxing” isn’t really accurate, the phone doesn’t come in a box, it comes in a zippered carrying case wrapped in a cardboard sleeve. So, after you slide off the sleeve, what’s inside the carrying case? In addition to the cool carrying case (did I mention the carrying case?), you also get a white wall-wort and white microUSB cable for charging, white headphones which double as a wired headset, the obligatory manuals and paperwork, a postage-paid mailing label with which you can recycle your old phone, and the phone itself. Inside the phone you’ll find a 8GB Samsung-branded Class 2 microSDHC card and a 1400mAh battery — which is a bit bigger than the T-Mobile G2’s 1300mAh battery.
The phone itself sports a 3.8-inch widescreen WVGA screen that T-Mobile calls “brilliant”, and, indeed, it is very nice, bright, and represents colors very well. Though not as big as that on the Desire HD, the myTouch display is very usable without being overly “hugetastic”. Once inside the shell you’ll find a second generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running at 1GHz (MSM8255). The buttons on the bottom of the phone are actual, real, pushable buttons — not capacative areas below the screen like so many other modern phones are getting. Many of you will stop reading this article and head out to a T-Mobile store near you to pick up your very own myTouch 4G just because of those hardware-buttons. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
For the rest of you, on the top you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone/headset jack and the power button on the left. On the right side is a silver camera button (we’ll talk more about the camera a little later on). On the bottom is a microphone hole. The left side features an ergonomic volume-rocker, microUSB port, and three little gold dots reminiscint of those on the Nexus One — perhaps for some accessory docks? On the back is a metal battery cover sporting both the T-Mobile and HTC logos. Above those are the camera, LED flash, and rear speaker. The front has a speaker with some ntofication LEDs hidng behind the grill, light sensor, front-facing-camera, that “brilliant” screen, home, menu, back, and “Genius” buttons, and a track-pad.
What can you expect the first time you start up the myTouch 4G? Lucky for you, there’s a video for that. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from any other Android-powered phone running HTC Sense, though the flavor of Sense UI that comes with the myTouch 4G is a special, T-Mobile variant.
As with most carrier-branded phones, the myTouch 4G comes pre-loaded with a bunch of bloatware that you don’t really need, but are good at showing off the features and power of the phone. Heading to the app drawer and going alphabetically, you’ve got the Amazon MP3 store app; Asphalt 5, a demo version of a pretty cool car racing game; Barcode Scanner by ZXing; Demo Video, which is a commercial for why you should buy the phone that you just bought; Flashlight, I’m still trying to figure that one out; Friendstream, a social network stream aggregator; Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger; Media Room, which collects your music and videos, your FM Radio, and Slacker internet radio; a demo version of Monopoly, the classic board game; T-Mobile’s My Account, to give you information about your cellular bill; My Device, which helps you select ringtones, wallpapers, provides quick access to common settings, and provides some Tips & Tricks; myModes, a way to quickly make your personal phone a lot more “professional” when you’re at work; Google Maps Navigation; News, an RSS reader; PDF Viewer; Quickoffice; a demo of Rock Band containing three songs that you can drum, strum, or sing to, and is easily one of my favorite games; Twonky Screen Share, an app to share what’s on your screen with a DNLA-compliant device; Stocks; T-mobile TV, basically Mobi TV with T-Mobile branding; Google Talk; Qik Video Chat; Wi-Fi Calling; Wi-Fi Hotspot; YouTube; and the standard Android apps.
The camera on the myTouch 4G can shoot 720p HD video and takes 5MP photos. Focusing is automatic and you’ve got the traditional digital zoom. Images look good, and the video is very nice though audio is a bit distant and pales in comparision to that from the Samsung Epic 4G.
Click on any of the thumbnails below to see what the actual, un-retouched photos look like.
So, just how fast is the myTouch 4G? Well, there are a couple ways to test speed: how fast is the device, and how fast can it access data over the air. Quadrant is the defacto standard benchmarking app that we use to measure various speeds of the device (CPU, GPU, file access, etc.). The myTouch scores above 1700 points, a little better than the G2, and about the same as the Desire HD.
In daily use, the myTouch 4G is a very, very responsive device. Other than loading the pre-packaged games I was never left waiting on the phone. It was fast, very fast.
Call Quality/Network Speed
Call quality is somewhat difficult to measure. Regular voice calls we great, crisp and clear. Voice calls over Google Voice were equally as good. Since this phone has WiFi calling which kicks in automatically once its set up and you’re under a WiFi umbrella, measuring call quality in these situations becomes a bit trickier.
The phone has 802.11b, g, and n onboard. While connected to my home 802.11n network I didn’t have any problems at all with call quality. Each end of the call as every bit as clear as over the cellular voice network. When on an 802.11g network my results were a little spotty, sometimes with one end not being able to hear the other, other times with garbled voice, and often with dropped calls; granted, these calls were generally when signal strength was low, or the network was running over with attached devices (such as you’d find in at a public hotspot). 802.11b? Yeah, you don’t want to know.
This phone also features video chat with both Qik and Yahoo! Messenger. How did that work out? I’ll let you know in an upcoming video. For now, suffice it to say that video calling with Qik isn’t as easy as it should be. After several hours or work, I still can’t see any of my Qik connected friends in my dialer — oh, and the dialer that I’m talking about isn’t the stock Android dialer, it’s the one inside the Qik application itself. There is surprisingly little integration between Qik and the Android OS, which is unfortunate.
This is, of course, what T-Mobile is calling a 4G phone. Tests using SpeedTest.net from various locations around Northern Utah showed speeds regularly above 2MBbps down and 1Mbps up, with 4Mbps/2Mbps commonplace. I even saw several tests well above 5Mbps down. Ping times were almost always low. Comparing this to Sprint’s 4G WiMax network shows that T-Mobile still has a ways to go to catch up, but beats Sprint easily in ping speeds — which are very important in the context of communications like VoIP and video chat.
Battery life isn’t an easy thing to measure on the myTouch 4G either. With your Wi-Fi off, the phone will give you a full day of typical use, but not much more — but that’s the tricky part. You see, this phone wants to be in Wi-Fi calling mode, so when you connect to your Wi-Fi hotspot the Wi-Fi calling setup process is activated to and basically encourages you to use it. That’s fine, and I’m an advocate of using Wi-Fi rather than cellular data whenever possible, which typically can save your battery life, since Wi-Fi generally uses less power than cellular data. This is called the “Wi-Fi sleep policy” and can be found by going to Settings, Wireless & networks, Wi-Fi settings, then pressing the menu button, Advanced, and Wi-Fi sleep policy. Still with me?
Put simply, you don’t need your Wi-Fi on when your screen is off, so Android let’s you automatically turn your Wi-Fi off after a predetermined time once your screen is turned off. Alternately you can tell Android to keep your Wi-Fi on when your screen is off but you’re plugged in to power (like when you’re charging at night and pulling in your podcasts, news, and RSS feeds). After all, you’re not surfing the web, watching videos, or doing anything else that’s bandwidth intensive.
There’s another setting, however, and it’s the one that can suck your battery dry: never sleep. In other words, never turn the Wi-Fi off — which sounds pretty silly. Silly, that is, until you put Wi-Fi calling into the mix. After all, you can’t receive a call over Wi-Fi if your Wi-Fi is off. Due to that fact, the myTouch 4G defaults to having its Wi-Fi never sleep, which can drain your battery rather quickly, especially if your Wi-Fi signal strength is low.
The upside? In places where your cellular signal is low, you may very well have a strong Wi-Fi signal, which may make up for the reduced battery life.
Purchasing and Availability
The T-Mobile 4G is available now for US$199 after a $50 mail-in-rebate and when signing up for a qualifying 2-year contract. You can order yours through T-Mobile’s website, but it can also be found online for as low as $50 or so from distibutors like Amazon.com.
+ Spectacularly fast in everyday use
+ Front-facing camera for use with various video calling apps
+ HSPA+ capability with low ping times on T-Mobile’s network make most web activities very, very fast
– Wi-Fi calling isn’t practical over 802.11b or “crowded” hotspots
– Video chat using Qik is overly complex and not integrated with the OS well
– Battery life is shorter than expected due to default Wi-Fi sleep policy
It’s worth mentioning again, I haven’t been impressed with T-Mobile’s myTouch family of phones. This one completely redeems any shortcomings its older siblings had. It’s fast, it’s sleek, it feels good in the hand. I completely enjoyed using this phone as my daily driver for a little over a week and I’m sad to have to send it back.
I’d also like to thank T-Mobile for providing pocketnow with this review unit and service for the span of the review period. They also want me to note that the opinions expressed in this review are those of myself, and not those of T-Mobile, which is what I hope pocketnow readers have come to expect.