Review: T-Mobile’s G2 Is Tops for T-Mobile’s Network

Has it really been two years since the original G1 handset launched on T-Mobile’s network, beginning Google’s (s goog) entry into the smartphone race? Indeed it has, and now a successor is born in the $199 G2, which improves in every conceivable way over the G1. Like its predecessor, the HTC-built G2 provides a full, QWERTY keyboard, but also brings the remaining hardware up to par, or better, than most Android devices of today. The Super-LCD display is usable in the sunlight; the phone runs Android 2.2; the camera supports high-definition video recording; and the handset can use T-Mobile’s speedy HSPA+ network for fast mobile broadband.

Unlike many competing Android handsets, the G2 uses a standard Android interface, which has plusses and minuses. The native interface of Android 2.2 is quite usable, and the lack of any customization could mean future operating system upgrades will appear quicker.

However, some smartphone owners like myself enjoy modifying Android with custom ROMs and interfaces such as HTC’s own Sense interface. For the moment, that’s not an option on the G2, as it contains hardware that restores the original settings if the phone is rooted. For most, however, the stock Android interface and seven home screens on the G2 will more than suffice.


Stock software. Although generally considered a “stock” interface, T-Mobile opted to pre-install many Google apps on the G2. Goggles, Finance, Listen, Sky and several other apps come with the device and can’t be removed. It’s a minor issue, as the device’s 4 GB of internal memory still leaves plenty of room for application installs, and shortcuts to these apps can be deleted from the home screens.

Google Voice is also pre-installed and, as one of the main draws of Android, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Additionally, Google Voice configuration is part of the device’s initial setup process, something I’d like to see included in future Android devices. Given the relative non-customized approach of the G2, there’s nothing terribly new in terms of software or user interface. However, the fact that the G2 ships with Froyo is a potential advantage over older devices that may still be waiting for the latest update of Android.

From a hardware perspective, the G2 has several stand-out features: high-definition video recording with the 5-megapixel camera, a new Qualcomm (s qcom) processor, support for T-Mobile’s upgraded 3G network and a unique sliding mechanism that reveals a full hardware keyboard.

Not a perfect picture. Still pictures with the G2 are acceptable, but not stellar. The camera software supports autofocus and a few basic user-configurable settings, but doesn’t offer advanced options. On occasion, I had to take multiple shots with the G2 because the white balance was skewed due to bright light. There’s no option to tap the display and assist the camera in such a situation. The 720p video recording is good, but not up to par with what I’ve seen on other devices currently available. The inclusion of a dedicated camera button is nice, however, and will start the camera software.

Peppy performance. Although the CPU is rated at 800 MHz, the G2 performs at least as well as my Nexus One, which uses a 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU. That’s likely due to an improved graphics chip in the G2, as well a next-generation CPU. The G2 offers a fluid experience with little to no lag, even when running several applications simultaneously. My take is that Qualcomm is offering a nice trade-off with this new CPU; it’s as fast as the original Snapdragon but may help in the battery life department. Indeed, I found that the G2, with its removable 1300 mAh battery, lasts longer than my Nexus One handset without sacrificing performance.

Voice and data: clear and fast. Speaking of performance, the G2’s radio package excels. Voice quality and signal strength are solid and if you use the G2 in an HSPA+ coverage area, you gain a nice bonus in the form of faster mobile broadband. I traveled just within the confines of an HSPA+ area near my home and ran several speed tests. In a best-case scenario, the G2 offered a download speed of 6.4 Mbps, upload speed of 1.3 Mbps and latency of 96 milliseconds. T-Mobile tells me that had I traveled deeper into the faster coverage zone, I likely would have experienced downloads in the 7 to 9 Mbps range.

[inline-pro-content]Those numbers compare favorably with WiMAX speeds and the expected performance of Verizon’s (s vz) coming-soon LTE network. Note that there are no extra charges for such speeds on T-Mobile’s network. Unfortunately, T-Mobile has removed Froyo’s Wi-Fi hotspot feature from the G2, so the device currently can’t be used to share data with other devices.

Amazing keyboard. While the original G1’s keyboard was lacking, the G2 makes up for it in a big way. The keys are well spaced, large enough for most fingers, backlit as needed and a joy to use. In addition to the standard QWERTY layout, the G2 has dedicated keys for the menu, search and a “.com / .www” button to help with web addresses. Three Quick Keys are also available on the bottom row, which can be customized to open an app. When using the hardware keyboard, the G2 automatically rotates the display into landscape mode, and that includes the home screens. I found that even with only a week of use, I can type faster with the hardware keyboard in landscape than the software input method in portrait. The sliding mechanism for the keyboard may be the best I’ve seen yet; have a look at it in the video overview above. An optical joypad and capacitive touch buttons complement the keyboard and touchscreen display.

Aside from a few minor annoyances, the G2 is a top-notch choice for T-Mobile customers seeking an Android handset. The support for faster mobile broadband speeds coupled with a peppy processor and fantastic keyboard make the G2 well worth the look, especially if you’re still toting the original G2 from two years ago. As I mention in the video overview, had I not paid $529 for my Nexus One in January, I’d likely be adding the G2 to my personal collection of handsets. I’ll have the review unit in-house for a few days yet, so if you have specific questions about the G2, drop them in the comments.

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