T-Mobile G2: Like An N97 With Android

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Back in July, I was desperately shopping for a replacement for my Nokia N97. I knew I wanted an Android-powered smartphone, but I also wanted a hardware keyboard and a dedicated camera button, and the phone had to support SIM cards. At the time, my only real option was to import a Motorola Milestone from Canada for use on AT&T’s network, or switch to T-Mobile for the MyTouch Slide. Neither of these offered me the speed of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon processor.

At the time, I chose to go with an HTC Nexus One, and that’s been an awesome choice – I’ve had a ton of fun with the Nexus, and learned plenty about Android in general. Unfortunately, AT&T’s network hasn’t been as much fun. I’ve been an AT&T customer since 2000, when it was still SouthwesternBellWireless. Since then, I’ve seen my data speeds become disturbingly unreliable and voice calls drop like rain. So, when T-Mobile announced the HTC G2, along with their 4G network (yes I realize it’s not really 4G), I was definitely interested.

The HTC G2 has everything I originally wanted – a hardware QWERTY keyboard, dedicated camera button, and the power of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. While I wasn’t totally convinced of T-Mobile’s network, I figured it couldn’t be worse than AT&T’s, so this weekend I took the plunge and switched Christina and me over. Christina took the MyTouch 4G, but I was focused on the G2.

After only a few days, it’s a mixed bag. The G2 is everything I expected it to be. Even underclocked to 800MHz, it’s lightning quick, and the keyboard and camera button already have me feeling at home again. Since HTC also offers the Desire Z – basically a G2 with Sense UI – it should be super easy to put HTC’s Sense UI on the G2, for the superior camera application.

The G2 is built well, with solid materials that feel high quality, rather than cheap plastic. The screen is awesome and easily read in sunlight, and the underclocked processor means I get a few extra hours out of the battery. The keyboard is a bit stiff, but totally awesome to have, with everything laid out nicely and plenty of extra shortcuts. In fact, I typed this entire post on the G2’s keyboard in about 30 minutes with no desktop editing afterwards.

T-Mobile’s network, thus far, is….different. On the one hand, I have worse 3G coverage than I did with AT&T. While at my parents’ house in Woodway, TX this weekend, I actually saw a G on my phone – signifying that I wasn’t even on EDGE, but GPRS. However, I’ve seen that T-Mobile’s network is more truthful and reliable than AT&T. When T-Mobile shows 3G, I actually get 3G speeds, whereas AT&T might show full 3G but only deliver GPRS speeds. Given the choice, I’d rather have an accurate representation of my signal.

Overall, though I had to dump ten years of loyalty to AT&T, I’m happy with the decision. AT&T has continued to release crappy lackluster Android phones, leaving me with no other option, since I don’t want to buy into their fruity ‘Jesus Phone’. With several phones on the US market and an increased focus on the camera experience of their smartphones, HTC is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the mobile industry. If they keep building phones like the G2, they’ll keep me on board.

Disclaimer: I currently work at RadioShack, Inc., on their mobility team. However, I purchased my G2 with my own funds on my own personally-liable account.

Photo from Engadget

Published by rcadden

Just a dude with a phone.

23 thoughts on “T-Mobile G2: Like An N97 With Android

  1. Well, that’s a shocker. You didn’t dig into why its so similar to the N97, but that part I’m sure will come out over time. Will be nice to hear how you do long term with the carrier switch – isn’t UMA coming for the G2 and myTouch models? That will make for some interesting usage too.

    1. Yes, I know I didn’t really go into depth on how it’s similar – it’s basically the exact same form factor and basic specs (3.7-inch display, 5mp cam, tilt-up display, qwerty keyboard, gps, wifi, etc etc) only without the suckage that the N97 had.

      UMA is here for the G2, sort of. It’s not a seamless transfer like they have on other phones, but it works (I used it at work today, actually, just for kicks). It’s kinda stupid, IMO, as it still uses your minutes and since it doesn’t seamlessly transfer from WiFi to Cellular, you have to stay put the whole time.

      1. Not seamless with UMA? that sucks; and uses minutes (that’s stupid and worth all kinds of rants). Thanks for the feedback, will be paying attention (as usual).

        I hope you hold onto this one a bit and then get a chance to review/extended play with the E7. Am wondering myself on that comparison, but think that you’ll add a good bit to that as well.

      2. Yeah, you can see why it’s not really all that enticing to setup and use the WiFi Calling – I mean, if I didn’t get coverage at my house, it might be one thing, but I do.

  2. You’ve taken a plunge I’ve been considering for years. T-Mobile continues to be the most forward-thinking carrier in terms of plans and pricing, but their comparatively small cellular footprint leaves me with cold feet. I’m glad you’re digging the G2; it looks like a killer phone.

    1. Yeah, the G2 is really quiet the sleeper hit – awesome battery life (thanks to the underclocked processor), really nice keyboard, it’s just exactly what I’ve been wanting.

      T-Mobile isn’t really that bad in terms of coverage – just their 3G coverage isn’t as impressive as AT&T’s (though, as mentioned, it’s more reliable). T-Mobile also has more spectrum to upgrade (I believe) and not as many iPhone users hogging all the bandwidth.

    1. It’s slightly crappier than the N97, and obviously nowhere near the N86 or the N8. I’d say it’s about on par with the other 5MP cams on the market.

      It should be noted that the stock Android camera app (which ships on the G2) is really, REALLY boring. Very few basic features, just….a freakin bore. However, if you permroot your G2 (easier than it sounds) and install the Desire Z firmware (basically the same phone, but with HTC’s SENSE UI, you get a MUCH AWESOMER camera, with a much nicer interface, TONS more features, and lots of little extras.

      1. Thanks.
        Strangely enough, if I think how many times I used the camera during last month I would say is not more than 3 times. However, for some reason I’m still reluctant to spend some money on a phone which produces pictures with the quality of an N95…

      2. I hear you. If you’d like to keep up, I upload most of my photos to Flickr with the ‘g2’ tag. Here’s a handy link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rcadden/tags/g2/

        There’s only 2 examples right now, but I’m sure over Thanksgiving I’ll take a ton, so you can get an idea of what to expect (and whether you think it’s better or worse). I don’t tinker with settings much when I take photos – I’m very much the point-and-shoot type photographer.

  3. Like an N97? Hopefully not nearly as buggy. :)Most people that I’ve talked to seem to be reasonably happy with their purchase and a permanent rooting method is available on the XDA forum. The only area for concern is the hinge and the slider. Otherwise, these things are great. You can overclock the CPU if needed for extra performance, although Android 2.2 is pretty snappy.Overall, HTC has the best build quality and is pretty good with Android updates. The only complaints are the poor cameras that they seem to equip their phones with, low internal storage (rectified with the SD card – get a class 6 and you’re good), and the poor battery life.If things go well, maybe you should start a dedicated Android blog, like “Symbian Guru”. (Android Guru is already taken by the way).

    1. It’s like an N97 in form factor only. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ve already perm-rooted my G2, overclocked it (just to 1.1GHz, playing it safe), and installed the Desire Z ROM, with the new HTC Sense. It’s pretty nice.

      The G2 overcomes the storage issue with 4GB of internal storage. Even after installing all my apps (I have 70+), I have over 800MB free. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I actually own http://www.theandroidguru.com. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. You are not alone then:http://androidguru.com/Also:http://androidguru.pl/How is battery life? I live in Canada, and I managed to import a Samsung Epic 4G for about $300 + $30 shipping (and then another $40 for customs taxes), which I am using as an “Android touch”. Battery will last a day, although not with heavy usage; I have overclocked my CPU from 1 to 1.6 GHz and am using a custom ROM.

      2. Yeah, I actually bought ‘theandroidguru.com’ on the day that the original G1 was announced – figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the domain in my back pocket, just in case. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve not done anything with it, though, nor do I currently intend to. Just kinda nice to have, you know?

        Battery life on Android phones is hit or miss, in my experience. I use a few different methods to keep it in check, starting with Locale for automatic situation-based profiles – automatically enable/disable wifi, turn the backlight down, etc. I also use SetCPU for overclocking with a few different profiles based on temperature, battery level, and a few other things. This lets me only really overclock the phone when I’m actually using it – all other times it slows the CPU down to save battery.

  4. awesome review. i found your site by accident. i want to add that as a long time android user, i’ve found the camera on most HTC phones to be lackluster with the exception of the HD2. if you want android phones with great cameras, it would be the samsung galaxy class phones and the higher end motorola droid devices.

  5. Great review, especially since I’m also considering the transition from Symbian to Android. Would love to hear your thoughts on a couple things:

    1) One month into using the G2, do you have any new observations? Any annoyances that have cropped up? Like maybe the infamous hinge (overrated issue or legitimate concern?). Or any other pleasant surprises? I’m really close to pulling the trigger on the G2, but…

    2) Were you at all tempted by the MyTouch 4G, especially with its video chat capability? Since your wife picked it up, has she had a good experience with the MT4G?

    3) And finally, how would you rate the G2 and MT4G compared to the new Nexus S? Or should I just hold out for the onslaught of dual-core phones coming next spring?

    Thanks again, I’m a big fan of the blog and love getting your take on all things mobile, especially Android!

    1. 1 – the hinge is a non-issue. It’s definitely not up to the same quality as the N97’s hinge assembly, but it doesn’t flop about, either.

      2. I was not tempted by the MyTouch 4G – when I was originally shopping for an Android phone, I really wanted one with a hardware keyboard and dedicated camera button. While the MT4G has the camera button, it doesn’t have a keyboard, and that’s a big factor for me. I also personally prefer the 3.7-inch screen for a day-to-day use. I also don’t care for the pseudo-Sense ROM that they have. It’s like a weird mix between stock Android and Sense, and I don’t like it. My wife loves the phone though – it’s fast and the screen is really bright and responsive.

      3. I personally think that both the G2 and the MT4G are superior to the Nexus S. For starters, I can’t stand Samsung phones – I think they’re built crappy. Second, they have essentially the same processor (my G2 is overclocked to 1.2GHz with no side-effects), but the Nexus S doesn’t have HSPA+, nor does it have removable storage.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! I wasn’t sure if you’d see my comment since this is a month-old post, haha.

        Glad to hear the hinge isn’t a problem. My phone criteria (Android, keyboard, fast processor, original Sense UI or stock, flash, trackpad, HSPA+) are pretty similar to yours, and I’m not a fan of the MyTouch Sense UI. But the MT4G’s front-facing camera is awfully tantalizing! Other than the FFC, spec-wise the G2 has everything I’m looking for.

        And I also have to agree on the Nexus S. The combined lack of SD-slot, HSPA+, LED, trackpad, plus the cheap plastic body makes it no-go in my book. I’m tempted to wait for dual-cores coming next spring, but the market seems to prefer high-end slates over QWERTYs, and the market history of stock Android QWERTYs (i.e. 2008: G1; 2009: original Droid; 2010: G2) means we probably won’t see a dual core devices with a QWERTY/stock combo for at least another year. Not sure if I can wait that long!

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