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T-Mobile G2 – Initial Impressions

January 23rd, 2011 No comments
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series T-Mobile G2

I recently announced that I retired my venerable Dash 3G phone from T-Mobile and upgraded to a new G2.I’ve had the new phone for several weeks now, and I’ve even taken it to Europe for a week. And I really like this phone. Here are my impressions after the first few weeks.

Hardware

You can find the official specs on the official G2 site. The phone is made my HTC and has all of the main features that I was looking for, including a decent display (doesn’t have to be iPhone 4, Retina quality), a slide-out keyboard, and reasonable speed. I also like the idea of removable memory cards so I can expand the memory as needed. The phone has a decent camera and the touch-screen is sensitive and smooth.

The slide-out keyboard is an interesting design. Rather than a traditional slide mechanism, this keyboard flips out using a “Z-hinge” design (this phone is also known as the ‘HTC Desire Z in other markets). This hinge has received a lot of bad early press because it tends to come from the factory very loose or quickly loosens once the phone is used. Just go to YouTube and search “G2 hinge” to see more than you want to, but here’s a representative video:

Based on my use, I don’t have a problem with the hinge. Is it loose? Yes. But I don’t wear the phone on a belt clip or type while lying on my back, so I don’t experience the problems that some people report. But I advise anyone thinking about this phone to take the issue into consideration just in case it will bother you.

One downside to this phone: it’s heavy. This is not a super-thin iPhone 4. Compared to an iPhone it feels like a brick, and it’s not easy to pocket. It definitely doesn’t fit easily in a pocket inside a suit jacket, and it can be a pain to carry in a pants pocket too. But I’ve eventually gotten used to it. If you are looking for something sleek though, this isn’t it.

The keyboard is great. I admit I love HTC phones, and this is my third in a row. I started with my beloved T-Mobile Wing (also known as the HTC Herald) and replaced that with my Dash 3G (also known as an HTC Maple).  And HTC keyboards have always been great. The keys are nicely domed so my fingers can find them easily, and they have a nice ‘clicky’ feel. As far as smartphones go, this is a great keyboard to type on.

The GPS is solid and the camera is decent. I am so happy to have a decent GPS because the GPS on my Dash 3G was perhaps the worst GPS implementation in the world.

So, for my uses, this is a solid device for daily use.

Software

The phone ships with a lightly customized Android 2.2 (Froyo) OS that implements most of the native features. When the phone originally shipped late last summer it did nit implement one key 2.2 feature, Wi-Fi tethering (portable hotspot functions). However, T-Mobile did make these features available in a November OTA (Over The Air) update, and my phone downloaded and enabled this within hours of activation.

A good and quick review of the 2.2 features is available at the Android Developers website.

T-Mobile has largely left this OS unadulterated. If you are interested in an experience that is as close to native Android as possible, as opposed to something like Motorola phones running ‘MotoBlur‘ then this is a good choice. In its raw form, I thin Android is an excellent, if slightly less polished alternative to the iPhone’s IOS. In fact, I prefer Android in many ways (more below). And the G2 implementation is solid and quick. No lags or performance issues in my version anyway.

And as always with Android, the OS integrates perfectly with Google services. My domain (havasy.net) runs e-mail and calendar on a Google Apps account. So the mail and calendar integration built into Android works fantastically.

Network

T-Mobile get a lot of shit for being a third class network, even behind Sprint in most people’s eyes. I have no idea why. I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for over 9 years now, from right after the Voicestream acquisition. I have never considered switching. Do I have fewer bars than my Verizon-owning friends? Yes. But I also pay a lot less for service and have many fewer restrictions. Case-in-point: T-Mobile still sells unlimited data plans and allows tethering for only an extra $15.00 per month on . That means that I pay $45.00 per month for unlimited data and unlimited tethering. Seriously. And legitimately. No cheating required. On Verizon, an equivalent plan isn’t possible. The best you can legitimately do is $70 per month for a 2GB smartphone cap and a 10GB mobile broadband cap. Pathetic.

For where I use my phone the most, the T-Mobile network works fine. And tethering is important to me. I commute by train for 3 hours every day, and tethering allows me to use my laptop during that time for things like graduate school classes.

And, on the G2, T-Mobile has released their version of Wi-Fi calling. Which allows the phone to connect to an available Wi-Fi network if the cell signal is low and make calls over Wi-Fi. This is not true VOIP like Skype, since T-Mobile still charges plan minutes at the normal rate, but can be useful in certain situations. Like if you live somewhere that has spotty coverage. Or, and this is critical for me, if you travel a lot. I took the G2 to Brussels, Belgium for 5 days on business and was able to use my hotel’s Wi-Fi connection to make and receive calls with no international roaming rates. That’s right. After being afraid to turn on my phone because of horror stories about thousand dollar bills from roaming charges, I set it to Wi-Fi only and it worked perfectly. Imagine that – a world-band phone that finally allows worldwide phone calling. Unbelievable. I love T-Mobile more and more all the time because of features like this.

Overall

I am extremely pleased with my G2. It’s fast, solid, and versatile. In fact, after several weeks I like it so much more than my iPhone 3GS, even with the new iOS 4 update.

Why I Like the G2 More Than my iPhone

  • Hardware
  1. Replaceable battery. I think it’s criminal that Apple requires you to have the phone repaired to get a new battery.
  2. Physical keyboard. I’ve had my iPhone for more than a year and I still hate typing on it.
  3. Dedicated camera button. Sometimes you want to take a quick picture.
  4. Expandable memory. Want an extra 32 GB? Just pop in a new microSDHC card.
  • Software
  1. Widgets. Not everything should be forced into a tiny icon. Android lets you add display widgets right to your homescreen if you want. Weather forecast? Twitter stream? Sports scores? No problem. All displayed right there with no need to click into an app.
  2. Tethering!
  3. AppStore not policed by arbitrary policies. No need to wait for Apple to approve an app before downloading it.
  4. Real multi-tasking with background processes. That means real notifications from apps for Facebook updates, Twitter updates, etc.
  5. Integration with Google services. I get push e-mail without Exchange. For free. No Apple (Mobile Me) subscriptions required.
  6. Wi-Fi calling. Worked great in Europe.
  7. Real app integration. Like the way Skype integrates with your dialer so you don’t have to launch apps to use additional calling features.

Conclusion

So – if you’re in the market for an iPhone alternative that allows real data usage, I say you can’t go wrong with the G2. Both my wife and I have them and we simply love them. And despite its perception, I think of T-Mobile as a top-teir international carrier who I have nothing but praise for.

There will be more to come I’m sure as I have the phone for a while, but right now I highly recommend the G2.

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