T-Mobile's G2: A Flawed Beauty
Monday, November 1, 2010; 12:19 AM
The HTC G2 is the successor to 2008's much ballyhooed HTC G1 (aka the "Google Phone"), the very first Android smartphone released in the United States. It's also the first T-Mobile phone built to take advantage of the carrier's new, faster HSPA+ 3.5G network; it can handle theoretical throughput speeds of up to 14.4 megabits per second. The G2 runs a newer version of Android (2.2, or Froyo), features a smart design with a pop-out physical QWERTY keyboard, has an 800MHz Snapdragon processor, and sports a larger and better-looking touchscreen. The phone has a lot going for it. A few key shortcomings can't be ignored, however.
HTC stuck with the raw Android operating system for the G2, which makes the phone feel less cluttered. For some users, such as hard-core social networkers, specialized "overlay" software (see Motorola Blur, for instance) can enhance a phone's utility. But the G2 is more of a general-purpose smartphone, so I believe that HTC and T-Mobile did well to let the device run on base Android 2.2.
(This review focuses mainly on the G2 phone itself, discussing its Android 2.2 mobile operating system where appropriate. For a thorough look at Android 2.2, see our full hands-on review of Froyo.)
When you push gently with your thumb on the top part of the left edge of the phone, the top half of the phone lifts up on three hinges and then sets back down in a new position that exposes the keyboard. After you rotate the phone into landscape orientation, the keyboard is just below the touchscreen, and you can text and e-mail comfortably. I was a bit concerned about how far the two halves of the phone extend apart, but the hard plastic hinges connecting the two have very little give and seem generally sturdy. If you were to drop the phone on the ground, I doubt those hinges would be the first thing to break from the shock.
When you pop out the physical keyboard, the screen automatically enters landscape mode. Smartphone keyboards are a subjective thing: One may work great for someone else but be a nightmare for you, so it's a good idea to get a feel for a keyboard before you buy. Having said that, there's nothing extravagant or complex about the G2's keyboard. The keys (square, with rounded corners) seem well spaced (about 1.2mm apart), and their tops feel slightly beveled for easy locating. You also get three large shortcut keys, which you can program to go directly to messaging or navigation apps.
When you're text messaging or using maps, you might want to keep the physical keyboard hidden, at which time you'll have to rely on the on-screen keyboard. I found it very difficult to type accurately with the phone in portrait mode (which squeezes the keyboard into the narrow width of the screen), and not much easier with the phone in landscape mode. Thankfully you can use the Swype functionality to help in typing, dragging your finger from letter to letter without breaking contact with the screen. You can also touch the microphone icon and dictate your text.
The portion of the G2 at right pops out to reveal the physical keyboard.>A nice-looking brushed-metal frame covers most of the top part of the phone. The rest of the case has the hard, matte-black plastic seen on many HTC phones. The phone weighs 6.5 ounces and feels substantial, but not too heavy, in the hand. It measures 4.68 inches tall by 2.37 inches wide, and is 0.55 inch thick. On top are a power button and a standard 3mm headphone jack.
The right edge features a very helpful, dedicated button for operating the camera. Pushing and holding the button puts the phone in camera mode from any other mode. On the left edge of the G2, you'll find the volume rocker and a standard mini-USB port. On the back are the 5-megapixel camera lens (with flash) and a small grille covering the speaker. You'll find no second camera on the front of the phone for videoconferencing, however.