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Overview

What's good: *extremely* customizable - both inside and out, sleek design, excellent touch screen, the "with Google" brand means that it's open and ready for modification.

What's bad: no multi-touch, stock Google keyboard not as good as third-party replacements, no camera flash, a little more power would be nice, major software problem out of the gate, the "with Google" brand means this phone will never see HTC's Sense UI.

Introduction

Originally codenamed Sapphire, the phone we Americans know as myTouch was released as Magic in the UK and Canada, and was given away at the 2009 Google I/O conference christened the Ion. It's an appropriate follow-up to the G1, doing away with the hardware keyboard and sporting some much needed, more refined lines. With double the ROM, 50% more RAM, and a stronger battery, the device feels like a nice bump from the old G1 Experience. However, with Hero on the horizon, some feel the myTouch is too little too late. I still think it's a great handset, but my time with myTouch was not without problems. (cont.)

T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google
(The Vodaphone Magic - same hardware as the MT3G)


Design & Features

The first thing you're likely to notice when handling the myTouch - especially if you have used the G1 - is how smooth it feels. A rounded face and curved edges let it fit very comfortably in the hand and pocket. Everything is right where it should be, including the seven primary hardware controls on the front of the unit: trackball (action), home, menu, back, search, send and end. There is also a volume rocker on the left side of the phone.

The flash-less 3.2 MP cam takes decent still and moving images in bright light but low light shots leave a lot to be desired. Despite a handy dongle that makes corded hands-free calls a breeze, many will be wishing for a 3.5 mm headphone jack. It's not a huge deal for me, but that is one extra piece of equipment you need to keep track of.

As for Android 1.5 - the operating system myTouch sips with - the experience is great. The software is coming along quickly, and while still very young, important advancements have been made in the last year. The Android Market is still lacking but is improving rapidly. It offers a wide selection of homescreen and keyboard replacements, but no multi-touch means a mediocre keyboard, which is a considerable dent in the MT3G's armor. (cont.)

T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google

Usability & Performance

The number one concern I have about a phone that relies almost entirely on the touch screen for input is the virtual keyboard. I am not fond of Google's solution, and replaced my G1's "Cupcake QWERTY" with HTC's Sense keyboard from the Hero. This is a simple but unsupported procedure, and does not require that your phone be hacked to complete. However, without hacking the G1 or myTouch, you are left without multi-touch, and the Hero keyboard is therefore rendered nearly impotent.

I cannot recommend as part of a review that someone tweak a brand new device at the risk of destroying it, so when it comes to keyboards, I just have to say that the myTouch needs improvement badly. The best solution I have found (that doesn't require hacking) is an application in the Market called Better Keyboard. The Hero theme is lovely, and while you won't get multi-touch or many of the other features that make the Hero keyboard so lust-worthy, you will get a cleaner layout and a glossier interface. So if you have a myTouch, I'd recommend installing Better Keyboard ASAP. Anything to get away from Google's bland and squished-together keys.

Despite me not complaining about the Hero's processing power - which is the same, save a subtle processor variation, as that of the myTouch - I have to say that I was very anxious to hack the MT3G because of a little sluggishness. I wanted to over-clock it (crank up the processor speed) and maybe put swap space on my SD card. There are lots of little tricks and tweaks that one can perform on a hacked Android phone. But I never got the chance. Just as I started to read of progress in the myTouch hacking world, my phone died - without a single hacker tweak.

After spending a considerable amount of time getting the myTouch almost exactly how I wanted it, to a state I would have been happy with for the next year or so of mobile computing, the phone got stuck in a boot loop. It would not go beyond the start up splash screen. I reluctantly performed a factory reset on the device, but to no avail; the phone was clearly broken.

I searched the web and sent out a few feelers via Twitter, and to my dismay, I found that the problem was fairly common. Users reported that they became stuck in the boot loop after an OTA update to COC10. My phone shipped with COC10. I spoke with people who were on their third and fourth exchanges because T-Mobile kept sending "like new" devices that were already stuck in a boot loop when unboxed.

I have experienced problems with T-Mobile's exchange process before, and am well aware of what sometimes passes for "like new" in their National Exchange Center. I had hoped the logistical issue had been resolved since my faulty G1 debacle. I was still within the 14 day return period for the myTouch, meaning that I could exchange for a brand new unit or simply return it. After the 14 days, you get a "like new" replacement. I didn't want to risk getting stuck with a broken unit outside of the 14 day period, so I returned mine; no exchange.

I'm already missing the MT3G. It's stronger and sexier than the G1, and I'm sure future updates will resolve my primary complaints. Maybe I'll get another one later, once this whole boot loop issue has been resolved. If I do, I'll probably flash a cooked ROM to avoid problems in the future.

Conclusion

If you are looking to get into Android but are a a little weary of the complicated options it presents, the myTouch 3G may be just the phone you're looking for. T-Mobile has bundled some apps together to make the transition easier and more fun. You can also get lots of cool accessories that can be customized with your own images. One welcome accessory is a functional and interesting extended battery that connects to the base of the phone - not requiring an extra-deep battery cover like the third-party solutions available for the G1.

The MT3G is slimmer, cuter, and less prone to creaks and squeaks than the G1. Removing the hardware QWERTY eliminated all of the major problems I had with the G1 hardware. The MT3G is not a perfect phone, but it is great on the web, good for messaging, and capable of email - though multi-touch (hopefully coming soon) is required to round out the experience. It works well as a music player and gives you a plethora of methods for personalizing the user experience - as well as the external appearance of the phone. Android and the MT3G are very young, and I expect both to grow (via updates) in the coming months.

Thumbs up, but I'm waiting for some bumps to be ironed out before I would consider making it my personal phone.


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