Review: T-Mobile’s latest phone with Google’s Android software is better, but far from perfect
Less than a year after T-Mobile and HTC released the first smart phone using Google’s Android operating system, the wireless operator and the handset maker are back with a sleeker device that takes advantage of recent software updates.
The myTouch 3G has plenty of hardware and software kinks — and a $200 price tag that’s $50 higher than the predecessor, the G1, both with a two-year contract. But advances to the operating system may draw a smattering of cheers.
The myTouch, which goes on sale Aug. 5, looks similar to the G1, but replaces the bulk of its predecessor’s slide-out keyboard with a slimmer, lighter frame that sports a touch-screen keyboard like that of the iPhone. Its face is still dominated by a long screen, but it has a few more buttons below the screen, including one that offers a shortcut to Google’s search engine.
Besides being lighter, the myTouch has better battery life than the G1. It’s rated for up to seven hours of talk time, two more than the older phone, and it had no trouble lasting through a day of use that included talking, listening to music, surfing the Web and checking e-mail.
It is also zippier overall thanks to the Android 1.5 software, which T-Mobile began rolling out to G1 users as well in May.
Taking photos on the G1 using the first iteration of Android was often sluggish and painful, as you never knew when the shutter would finally click. It’s faster on the myTouch, though still slower than it should be.
You can also take videos now, something I could do on the G1 before the software update with a less-than-impressive third-party application, and there’s a quick link for budding auteurs to upload them to Google’s video-sharing site YouTube.
One helpful new feature specific to the myTouch is the ability to check work e-mail through Microsoft Exchange. This could make the handset more attractive to business users who want round-the-clock access to both their personal and work e-mail accounts on the same device.
I liked Google’s voice search, accessible by holding down myTouch’s search button or by swiping the touch screen to the left to reveal a virtual button. It worked impressively well when I commanded it to find sites on “bacon salt” and “best tacos in San Francisco.” The only time it slipped up was when I tried something silly — “alligator french fries” — and it thought I was looking for eBay.
There are numerous issues with the software though, the biggest of which concerns the touch-screen keyboard, a new feature in Android 1.5 that made me wish the myTouch had a slim slide-out bottom keyboard like Palm’s Pre.
When holding the phone upright, the myTouch keyboard felt too cramped, even for my somewhat-small digits. And when holding it sideways, I still frequently hit incorrect keys. It also seemed to take me much longer to tap out an instant message or e-mail than it does when I use a smart phone keyboard with real keys.
Like most handsets, the myTouch can suggest words and correct common typing errors, but these didn’t speed me up. Rather, I sent out a few silly messages to friends without realizing it — apparently the myTouch was “correcting” some of my slang — then had to resend the words I’d meant to express.