About a week ago, I got a new T-Mobile G2 phone. After writing about “my initial thoughts”:http://dzine-studios.com/2011/03/30/obtained-a-g2/ on it, I’ll be writing my full review of it today. As of now, I’ve had the phone for a bit over a week, which I believe is long enough to really get a feel for things like build quality and battery life. See the rest of the review after the jump.
h4. Build Quality
One of the first things I look for in any electronic is build quality, and the G2 delivers quite well. It’s a subdued gray plastic/aluminum design, which looks classy and high-end. The plastic is nicely rubberized which helps with grip, but it’s not excessively clingy so it slides into my pocket easily. The minimal bezel around the screen is black, rimmed by brushed aluminum, which helps with both aesthetics and durability. The battery cover is aluminum as well. The hinge mechanism which reveals the keyboard is quite sturdy so far, and flicks open and closes easily. No complaints so far about it, but I’ll see how that holds up over time.
The G2 has several ways to navigate, such as the optical trackpad (think Blackberry scroll ball but without the ball), capacitive multitouch touchscreen, and keyboard. The optical trackpad doesn’t get a whole lot of use thanks to the very responsive screen, but I have found it to be quite useful for navigating text and forms. The standard volume rocker is fairly long and works well, so no complaints there. I especially love the camera button when you hold the phone horizontally. It has a two-stage mechanism— press it lightly and the camera will focus, press it harder to actually take the picture. I find this to be a nice little feature, makes it feel more like a real camera. Plus having a physical button is quite useful for self-portraits and such. The power/sleep button up top is fairly standard, and works fairly well. Having had an iPhone 4 before, having the sleep button in the same place is quite nice, no re-learning needed. The four capacitive buttons for home, menu, back, and search are located right below the screen on the black bezel. They are illuminated and work quite well for not being real buttons. I’ve haven’t had any problems with them so far.
This has its own section, as it’s a fairly big selling point for the G2, and one of the main reasons why I bought it. I’m happy to say that overall, the keyboard is very good. Even after only a couple of days’ use, people remarked how fast I was typing on it. The keys themselves are hard plastic, and they have fairly satisfying clicks to them without requiring a whole lot of force to depress. The space bar is well-sized, and the alt button makes it easy to type in pretty much any characters. My only complaint is about the three shortcut keys. They’re not very useful for me, and hitting them leads to a “set up shortcut keys” menu, which can be annoying. I would have just preferred it if HTC ditched the shortcut keys and made the spacebar bigger. I do like the inclusion of a menu button, as well as the “.com” and “@” buttons. Everything is generally well-spaced, and this has definitely got to be one of the best phone keyboards out on the market right now.
Being a smartphone, having a good display is quite important. However, I’m happy to report that the G2’s display is quite good. It’s not that newfangled AMOLED stuff, but honestly I don’t care about what acronym the display is, I just care about the quality. Colors and blacks look quite good on the G2’s display, even at a fairly low brightness. The viewing angles are absolutely superb, a far cry from the early LCD’s I grew up with. The display is very responsive and multitouch works flawlessly. The resolution is quite good, and while pixels aren’t quite as invisible as on the iPhone 4’s display, the G2 display is still impressive. Text is rendered very well, and the default Android font is fairly pleasing to the eye. The only drawback is that a lot of Android apps are still made for lower-res displays, but developers will eventually get on the high-res bandwagon and release updates.
Don’t be fooled by the seemingly-low-powered 800 MHz processor, it’s quite powerful. Swiping and navigating is completely smooth and lag-free, and Flash videos play at a good framerate. Even with a lot of apps in the background, there is no lag. This phone can handle nearly everything you throw at it. Oh, and don’t worry about upgrading to Gingerbread, there is no actual clock-speed requirement (that was simply a rumor), I’m more than 100% sure this phone will get the upgrade, and sooner than other phones, due to its nearly-stock installation of Android (more on that in the next section).
The G2 is perhaps best known for its nearly-stock installation of Android. This is almost pure 2.2, with minor modifications by T-Mobile. A bunch of apps are included right out of the box. Which can be either good or bad, depending on if you use them or not. In my case, I don’t need Amazon mp3 and several other apps. Unfortunately, you cannot remove these apps normally. To remove them, you have to root your G2 and use a command-line method to disable these apps, because some of them always run in the background and suck up battery life. Fortunately, this is not hard, and if you temporarily root your G2, is very low-risk. Just follow “this guide”:http://android.modaco.com/content/software/320350/19-nov-r14-visionary-one-click-root/ to temp-root your G2, and “this guide”:http://android.modaco.com/content/t-mobile-g2-g2-modaco-com/320412/disabling-stock-apps-on-the-g2-and-other-nand-locked-devices/ to disable the apps. Took me about 15 minutes to do all that, so the unremovable apps weren’t such a problem for me. Other than that, the Android experience is pretty much stock. I don’t mind not having the HTC Sense UI, the default Android UI is well-designed and aesthetically pleasing in its own right.
h4. Battery Life
The battery here is removable and replaceable, which is a very good thing, as I plan to have this phone for a while, and being able to put in a larger-capacity battery or simply a new battery, is quite a good thing for future-proofing. The battery capacity is fairly good, I can easily make it through a long 8am to 1am day and still have some battery life to spare. And that’s with 4G enabled, under medium to heavy use (I’m a Facebook/Twitter/Wikipedia addict). Two days would probably be pushing it, so I just charge it at night, which works out just fine. When the phone is in standby mode with the display off, it sips battery at a very slow pace. When I use it as an mp3 player, the battery lasts pretty long too. The battery is on par, or even better than that of the iPhone 4.
The G2 has 4gb of internal memory, with an 8gb microSD card included in the box. The internal memory is more than enough for apps, and a lot of apps these days can be moved to the SD card, so I’m not worried about running out of room. Another great plus of the G2 (and most Android phones) is the removable memory. In the future, when 32gb microSD cards get cheaper (they’re like $70 now), I’ll upgrade.
The phone speaker is adequately loud, much better than that of my old Blackberry’s, and almost the same as the iPhone 4’s. The speakerphone speaker on the back has often been panned by many reviewers, but I find it to be rather good-sounding for a phone. C’mon guys, it’s a phone, not a speaker set. It lacks bass and is a bit trebly when playing music, but it’s not all that much worse than the iPhone 4’s speaker. The call quality is very good, I can hear the other person easily and they can hear me well too. Plus I can actually make calls on the G2, unlike on the iPhone (sorry Apple, I just had to).
The default Android camera app isn’t nearly as miserable as everyone makes it out to be. It’s functional, and works well. The aforementioned two-stage camera button makes picture-taking quite easy, and the onscreen controls work well too. I’ll admit, the camera isn’t as good as the iPhone 4’s, but does it really need to be? It takes good shots in most lighting situations, and is more than adequate for a smartphone camera. The gallery is pretty cool though, the pictures tilt slightly based on the phone’s gyroscope. I’m a sucker for niceties like that. Also, if you’re using an Android phone with a decent camera, check out Google Goggles. It’s literally a visual Google search. You take a picture of a bar code, and it links you to the product. Any barcode really. It worked well on most of the stuff in the fridge. I can definitely see this coming in useful for comparison-shopping. It even reads text and can do translations. How cool is that?
The 4G works well and gives pretty amazing speeds. YouTube videos load with almost no buffering, and so do almost all Flash videos as well. The default Android browser is Webkit-based, meaning it renders everything perfectly. It’s clean and functional, no complaints there.
Overall, this is an amazing phone, and worth every penny I paid for it. It does everything I need it to, and more. If you have T-Mobile and need a capable smartphone, this is your phone. Apple may not realize it (or refuses to realize it), but Android phones are posing some serious competition to their iPhone. Having used the G2 and Android for a bit over week, I’m not looking back. Goodbye iOS, and hello, Android.