Look, I love phones like the DROID RAZR and Galaxy S II as much as the next person. If you want the best of the best, then you have some amazing options right now. But I'm also a realist and I know that not everyone wants to pay $200-300 for a phone that's going to be considered "outdated" in two months. For those people, there are also some great options out there. The problem is, unlike these high-end "superphones" on the market that are pretty much sure-fire hits as soon they're released, not all mid-range devices are worth your time. The challenge for consumers is to find a device that is affordable but won't drive them crazy with performance issues. Even if the phone is inexpensive, you don't want to be stuck with one for two years that can't handle simple tasks, right? Right.
So here we have the T-Mobile myTouch by LG. The myTouch line of phones have been around for a few years now and have always been excellent devices. However, with the new myTouch phones, T-Moible has veered off the path a bit, going with a new hardware partner and toning down the spec-sheet. The price is more affordable, but did T-Mobile and LG have to make too many sacrifices in performance? Is the myTouch one mid-range device that will surprise you or disappoint you?
Design & Features
The first thing you'll notice about the myTouch is its 3.8-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 480 x 800. This display offers a clear and bright picture with rich and vibrant colors. Appropriately, the phone itself is also beautifully designed. The balance of hard edges, slightly rounded corners, and angled ends give the phone a sleek, sexy feel. The phone is also incredibly light, weighing only 3.7 ounces. Even after using it for days, I still can't believe how lightweight it is every time I pick it up. The myTouch is slender and feels comfortable in the hand. It measures 4.82-inches tall, 2.46-inches wide, and .39-inches thick.
Despite having Genius Button functionality, the myTouch does not have a dedicated button for this app as previous myTouch phones did. Rather, the only hardware buttons you have below the display are Menu, Home, and Back. These are capacitive buttons, not physical buttons. Adding to the slender nature of the phone is the minimalistic placement of other hardware buttons and ports. The left side of the phone is where you'll find the volume rocker buttons, but the bottom and right side are both empty. The microUSB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Power button are all on the top of the phone. There is a front-facing camera located on the left side of the caller speaker grill.
The myTouch has 2GB of internal storage and ships with a microSD card with an additional 2GB of memory. The microSD card slot is located underneath the battery cover, though it is not necessary to remove the battery in order to access it. The phone supports up to 32GB of additional memory with a card which will be useful since the full 2GB of internal memory is not available to the user but is instead taken up by preinstalled apps from T-Mobile and LG that cannot be uninstalled.
Usability & Performance
The myTouch ships with Android version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) along with a customized version of LG's UI made for these myTouch phones. (The myTouch phones have mostly shipped with a special User Interface that was made specifically for the phones. This UI is intended to make the phones more consumer-friendly.) This UI still incorporates a lot of visual features of the stock Android Gingerbread experience including the dark color scheme with light blue accents. I'm glad LG decided to not change these aspects since darker colors look better on AMOLED displays. Some of the features that LG has added are a shortcut dock at the bottom of the homescreen, toggles in the notification panel, a categorized app drawer, and a few additions to the Messaging and Phone interface. The shortcut dock at the bottom of the homescreen can be customized with different shortcuts and the categorized app drawer can be changed to Page view or List view. Along with these customizations, LG and T-Mobile have included some custom widgets like Application Manager, Battery, E-mail, Genius Button, MobileLife Calendar and Shopping List, Richnote, Sticky note, and T-Mobile TV.
Underneath the hood of the myTouch is a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor along with 512MB of RAM. The processor scored a 1,140 on the Quadrant Standard test and 29.676 MFLOPS in 2.82 seconds on the Linpack Benchmark. Simple, everyday tasks were handled by the processor with no problems. However, once multiple apps were running and I began performing more processor-intense functions, I noticed a significant amount of lag. The areas where the lag was most notable were the web browser and Gallery, though it was not isolated to these two apps. There were several times when opening or loading an app would take several seconds or when the web browser was so slow to respond that I became frustrated with the device. Even after making certain compromises in my expectations because of the caliber of the device, I was still disappointed by the phone's overall performance.
Other than delivering inconsistent performance, the rest of the device was a joy to use. The 3.8-inch display may be too small to type on for some, but I had very few problems with it. The myTouch ships with the Android Gingerbread virtual keyboard and Swype. The autocorrect worked great and I could type rapidly with few errors. If the keyboard is too cramped while in portrait mode, rotating the phone to landscape mode should solve these problems.
The myTouch is marketed as a 4G device and uses T-Mobile's 14.4 Mbps HSPA+ network. While testing the phone in the Dallas area, I recorded excellent data speeds. Average download speeds were 5 Mbps. I recorded a low of 2.3 Mbps and a high of 7.7 Mbps. Keep in mind that data speeds will vary depending on several factors including coverage in your area. The phone can also act as a mobile hotspot for up to eight devices. I had no trouble turning on this feature and connecting several devices to the network.
Pictures taken with the myTouch's 5-megapixel autofocus camera had good color saturation and decent detail. Colors were not extremely bright and vibrant, but the lens captured them well enough to offer appropriate results for a mid-range device. The phone lacks a flash, but pictures taken in mildly low-light settings still came out well. Sample shots can be seen in the video review of the myTouch. The myTouch's camera also captures 720p HD video. The quality is nothing to brag about. The video is severely lacking in detail and audio quality was poor, to say the least. We have uploaded a sample HD video that you can view for your own examination. The VGA front-facing camera on the myTouch can be used for video chatting. The phone comes with the Qik Video Chat app.
One special feature that the myTouch comes with is the Genius Button. This app allows you to make calls, send texts, do a web search, and get directions by simply using voice controls. This is useful in everyday contexts, but even more so while driving. In testing, this functionality worked great and I had few problems. It's certainly not as advanced as other software out there, Siri comes to mind, but it understood most commands and is easy to use.
Powering the phone is a 1540 mAh Li-Ion battery. With normal use including web browsing, social networking, downloading apps, and using the keyboard along with two widgets and several notifications running in the background, I was able to get through almost a full 12-hour day. Being a 4G device, battery performance will not be as good as a 3G device, especially given the myTouch's small battery. You will have the charge the battery every night and you may want to carry around a charger just to be safe.
The myTouch by LG is certainly a feature-packed device. An AMOLED display, HD video capture, a front-facing camera, and 4G are things that you can get with all mid-range devices. However, overall performance was somewhat disappointing. Though I generally make concessions for mid-range devices since it's unreasonable and unrealistic to expect perfection from a device like this, I still found myself frustrated at times. For the price, I'd say that you get what you pay for: a phone with some great features but not the best performance.
The Good: AMOLED display; Genius Button; good camera quality; excellent hardware design; 4G.
The Bad: Inconsistent performance; poor battery life; terrible video capture quality.
The Verdict: If you're on a budget and are willing to make sacrifices in performance, the myTouch is a good option. I wish performance was better but at a price like this it's hard to complain.