The HTC G1 was the Android device that started it all. With a full QWERTY keyboard and "always on" connectivity, it was the ultimate Google Phone at the time. Fast forward to late 2010 and Google, HTC, and T-Mobile are at it again with the T-Mobile G2, the true successor to the G1. While the design and software version are dramatically different, the G2 maintains the stock Android experience, physical QWERTY keyboard, and T-Mobile carrier partnership. On paper, it's a high-end device that's ideal for those that want a vanilla Android experience, but does it deliver?
Design & Features
Design-wise, the G2 is gorgeous and is a departure from the original device, with teflon-coated plastic, brushed metal accents around the screen, a new optical trackpad in lieu of a trackball, and a brushed metal battery door. Design preferences are obviously subjective, but in my book, it looks much better than the original. As you would expect, it's a hefty device - 6.5 ounces, to be exact. It's thinner than other QWERTY devices like the Samsung Epic 4G, but it's large in comparison to touchscreen-only devices like the iPhone 4.
In the box, you get the device, battery, headphones, an AC adapter module, USB cable (which doubles up as the charging cord), an 8 GB microSD card, and instruction manuals. The left side of the G2 houses the microUSB charging port and volume rocker, while the camera shortcut button is on the right side. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top along with the power button, and the back contains the 5.0-megapixel camera, flash, and speaker. In a neat little design feature, HTC added a switch to pop off the battery door.
The G2 sports HTC's new "Z" hinge. Instead of sliding up, the display pops up and over. I didn't think I would like it at first, but after using it for a week and a half, I was pleasantly surprised. I have some concerns about long-term longevity, but I can't see it being any worse than the typical slider devices on the market. That said, my G2 suffers from the "loose hinge," if you can really call it suffering. Simply put, if you hold the device upside down and wiggle it, the display piece falls out of place. It may be an issue for those that text message in bed, but I don't see it as a huge issue.
Usability & Performance
Powered by an 800 MHz next-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the T-Mobile G2 is fast. Applications loaded fast, and overall, it handled everything I was able to throw at it with ease. The unit is running a near-stock version of Android 2.2, save for a few T-Mobile applications like My Account, My Device, and web2go. It comes pre-loaded with nearly every Google application ever made, including Earth, Finance, Maps, Latitude, Places, Sky Map, Translate, Voice, and Voice Search. It's not the fact that they're pre-installed on the device that's frustrating (I would download most or all of them), it's the fact that they can't be removed. T-Mobile offers a dedicated app tab in the Android Market, which I'd recommend taking a look at. My personal favorite? Visual Voicemail, which is a free T-Mobile feature but not installed out of the box.
Though the G2 offers 4 GB of internal memory, roughly 2.5 GB is eaten by Android 2.2 and related processes, leaving approximately 1.20 GB available for use. While it's a minor frustration, I would be far more concerned if the G2 was running Android 2.1, as 2.2 allows you to save applications to the SD card instead of the built-in memory. As I said before, T-Mobile packages an 8 GB microSD card with the unit, and the slot can handle up to 32 GB cards.
The G2 packs a physical QWERTY keyboard, and in a word, it's awesome. It's easily one of the best physical boards I've ever used on a mobile device, and within minutes, I was typing with ease. They're island keys, which I don't typically care for, but the rubberized feel and general layout are absolutely fantastic. I was impressed with the "Quick Keys," three physical buttons on the keyboard that can be customized to instantly open the application of your liking.
The on-screen keyboard is another story. The G2 ships with Swype and the standard Android keyboard, and while the standard keyboard is decent, the lack of multitouch makes it frustrating for those that type quickly. There are keyboard replacements in the Android Market, but even so, I found the experience to be less positive than competitors like the multitouch-equipped Motorola DROID X.
The G2 has a 5.0-megapixel camera, and it's mostly average. It's perfect for those taking occasional pictures here and there, or when there's a perfect amount of light (like during the day), but was a bit grainy in other situations. Editing options include zoom, white balance (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, cloudy), focus mode, picture quality, color effect, exposure, and more. You can shoot video in six different modes, including 720p HD videos. In my testing (see below), video quality was decent, but not spectacular. If you're shooting HD video on a regular basis, you'll want to opt for a camcorder.
I tested the G2's call quality in the San Francisco and Charlotte markets, and was mostly pleased. Overall, signal strength was strong in both markets, and call quality was good. The earpiece is loud to the point that I had to turn it down (which is a good thing). In call tests, I was able to hear my callers without issue, and they reported identical results. One caller told me that our call sounded "better than a landline call." I took the G2 to a T-Mobile fringe area in Charlotte, and was able to connect a call despite severe choppiness. Speakerphone is decent, but not great. When in a loud coffee shop, I had to walk outside to hear my caller. As usual, I paired two Bluetooth headsets to the G2, and experienced no problems while doing so.
That said, both the data and general wireless connection dropped way too often. At one point while testing the G2, I counted five "drops" within a one hour period. It's frustrating, unpredictable, and often interrupted whatever data-centric task I was performing at the time. I can understand this happening when I'm in a fringe area, but it happened while I was sitting in my office staring at the T-Mobile cell site right outside of my window.
On a similar note, data speeds were surprisingly inconsistent, and not what I expected them to be. I found the G2 to fluctuate between HSPA (3G) and HSPA+ ("4G like" speeds) regularly, even when I was in a solid T-Mobile HSPA+ area. I picked up the following speeds in testing, all of which were recorded while the phone was on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network:
- 10/14/2010, 10:50 AM: 3,297 Kbps download / 1,329 Kbps upload
- 10/14/2010, 9:42 AM: 2,487 Kbps download / 1,314 Kbps upload
- 10/13/2010, 8:07 PM: 4,222 Kbps download / 1,339 Kbps upload
- 10/13/2010, 8:05 PM: 2,008 Kbps download / 1,048 Kbps upload
To obtain the numbers above, I tested the G2 in different parts of the Charlotte area at different times. I'm still working with the numbers and will update them after additional testing, but the inconistency was irritating, and the speeds were well below what I would expect from a technology that can reach 21 Mbps.
In a world of Android devices that are powered by 1,500 mAh batteries, the T-Mobile G2's 1,300 mAh performs surprisingly well. With moderate use that included calling, text messaging, browsing the web, downloading apps from the Android Market, use of Google Voice, and navigation via Google Maps, I was able to make it into the evening before the device powered down. It's not as good as the iPhone 4's battery life, but it beats the DROID X, HTC EVO 4G, and other competitors to be one of the better Android battery experiences out there.
Overall, the T-Mobile G2 is a well-equipped Android device, and offers vanilla Android fans something outside of the Nexus One. It's fast, with an exceptional keyboard and a design that appeals to youngsters and businesspeople alike. I'm a bit troubled by the connectivity issues and poor data speeds, but I have a feeling at least part of it will be addressed in the weeks to come by a software update.
Carriers aside, the Android market is so saturated at this point that you have to determine the features that are most important to you. Are you looking for a device with an awesome physical QWERTY, fast "4G-like" data speeds (in theory, at least)? Take a look at the G2. Awesome on-screen keyboard, lots of available internal memory, and a perfect data connection? Look elsewhere.
The T-Mobile G2 is available from T-Mobile for $199.99 after rebate, or $499.99 if you're on an Even More Plus plan. Check out the gallery for additional pictures!
The Good: Fast processor, awesome QWERTY keyboard, and a near vanilla Android 2.2 experience.
The Bad: Data speeds are inconsistent, loose "Z" hinge may irritate some, and a large chunk of the internal memory is consumed by Android.
The Verdict: Though there are some quirks, the T-Mobile G2 is the current go-to device for Android nerds seeking a vanilla Android experience, and is the best T-Mobile smartphone to date.