Where the G1 was boxy and a tad clunky, the MyTouch offers a sleek profile and a glossy skin in white, black, or merlot. You can attribute the slimmer shape to the lack of a physical keyboard, but whatever the reason, the MyTouch is an appealing device and we're glad to see an Android phone that actually looks cutting edge. At 4.65 inches tall by 2.19 inches wide by 0.65 inch deep and weighing 4.09 ounces, the MyTouch has a sturdy, comfortable feel, and it slips cleanly into a pocket or bag for easy traveling.
The 3.2-inch touch-screen's color support tops out at 262,000 hues, but thanks to a high resolution (480x320 pixels), the HVGA display shows colors, graphics, and photos beautifully. You can personalize the screen with a selection of wallpaper, and you can adjust the brightness setting and backlighting time. The user interface is standard Android.
The home screen is made of three panels side by side, which you can move between by swiping your finger across the display. And of course, you can populate the screen with any number of shortcut icons that give instant access to the related applications. The MyTouch comes with a number of default shortcuts, but you can delete them if you wish or organize them into folders. The Cupcake update also introduces a home-screen widget bundle of an analog clock, calendar, music player, picture frame, and search. Such customization and ease of use makes for one of the best cell phone UI's around. On the whole, the touch interface is responsive. We could move through long lists easily by flicking our finger (to go quickly) or by dragging it up and down the screen (to go slower). Just be advised that, like the G1, the MyTouch doesn't have an iPhone-like multitouch interface that lets you zoom in by pinching your fingers. Also, given the MyTouch's capacitive touch screen, you must use your finger; a stylus or your fingernail won't work. Fortunately, the MyTouch has an accelerometer, but it doesn't work in every feature (see below). The display offers haptic feedback, but only for certain actions. For example, a quick tap to open an application won't offer any feedback, but you will feel a very slight vibration if you press and hold (aka a "long press").
You use a long press for several actions, most of which are related to customizing the home screens. A long press on any portion of the home screen will open a menu for customizing shortcuts, widgets, folders, and wallpaper. On the other hand, a long press on a shortcut icon will allow you to move the icon around the screen. It's all very user-friendly. As on the G1, a tab at the bottom of the display will pull up the main menu, with the full set of features and application icons. It's an easy-to-use and attractive arrangement that's free of burdensome animation or graphics. You can scroll up and down by dragging your finger. Unlike with the iPhone, you do have to crawl though a few menu pages to find some applications, but that's not a concern for us.
To add a shortcut to the home screen for any icon, just use a long press. To delete the shortcut or any icon, just use a long press and drag it back to the menu tab (it doubles as a trash). At the top of the home screen is a dedicated Google Search bar. Pressing it once will open a full keyboard, though it's available only in vertical mode. Next to the search bar is a small microphone that opens a voice search feature. It's a nifty feature, even if the search keyboard doesn't work in horizontal mode (more on that later). Below the display are the MyTouch's only physical controls. They offer improvements over the G1 not only because there are more of them, but also because they have a sturdier feel. And though the keys are crammed into a relatively small area, they didn't feel too cramped. We also like that the navigation trackball is larger and has more space around its perimeter. Pressing the trackball will select icons and menu options. Besides the trackball you'll find Talk and End/power keys, a Home button, a Google Search shortcut key, a back button and the Menu control.
The latter control is a welcome addition. Besides opening a small menu for accessing wallpapers and settings, reading notifications and customizing home screen icons, it also unlocks the phone and opens pertinent commands for the features for app that you're accessing. What's more, it offers another way to access the Google Search feature. The home button will (of course) return you to the home screen from any app, and a quick tap of the End button locks the display. The phone dialer interface is simple and intuitive. To reach it, you can press the Call button or go through the main menu. Round onscreen buttons show both numbers and the related letters.
They were sufficiently large, but haptic feedback would be nice. Curiously, the virtual keyboard differs according to which feature you're using. For example, the Google Search keyboard is available only in the phone's vertical mode. Though it should be fine for quick taps, the arrangement is rather crowded when banging out long search terms. Indeed, we made quite a few mistakes when tapping. Fortunately, the messaging, e-mail, and browser applications offer a landscape keyboard with a lot more room. We could comfortably type messages without making mistakes and the phone felt comfortable in our hands. We also liked the new predictive text, which is sufficiently accurate. You can switch between alphabetic and numeric/symbol keyboards with a single tap. To change between portrait and landscape keyboards, just tip the phone to the left and the MyTouch's accelerometer will kick in.
It takes a second or two, but it gets there. You won't get the same effect when tipping the phone to the right, but that's a quirk we can overlook. The accelerometer also works across all the phone's applications, though not in the main menu and the home screens. Each contact in the MyTouch's phone book holds eight phone numbers, four e-mail addresses, an IM handle, a postal address, a company/organization name, and notes. You can save callers to groups and assign a photo and one of 55 polyphonic ringtones (including one called "Romancing the Tone"--ack). You can store an additional 250 names on the SIM card and sync your Gmail contacts with the phone. The MyTouch 3G also supports T-Mobile's MyFaves service gives you unlimited calls to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Individual plans for MyFaves start at $29.99 a month. The MyTouch offers many of the same features as the G1. Essentials include a calculator, an alarm clock, and a calendar with Gmail calendar syncing.
A few more organizer apps like a world clock, a notepad, and a to-do list would be nice, but they should be available as apps. Beyond the basics you'll have Wi-Fi, USB mass storage, stereo Bluetooth, PC syncing, and speaker-independent voice dialing. Unfortunately the MyTouch doesn't offer a file manager for moving files between the phone and the data card. The GPS with Google Maps feature, which is similar to that on the G1, works relatively well. You can search for points of interest and switch between the standard, satellite, and traffic views. Tap any point to access Street View and the innovative compass feature, which changes view as you move the phone around. You also get turn-by-turn directions, though it's important to remember that Google Maps directions consist of a simple list of instructions. To get real-time directions, you'll need to download a third-party app. The locator function wasn't terribly accurate; the majority of the time it missed our real location by a city block. Also, it could take a few seconds to find our position, even though Cupcake was supposed to speed up the locater feature. In addition to the standard text and multimedia messaging, the MyTouch 3G supports a variety of POP3 e-mail services. Gmail, of course, is the star attraction. When you turn on the phone the first time, you'll be prompted to sync your existing Gmail account or create a new one right on the phone. We tried the latter, but the connection timed out after accepting the terms of service so we created an account on our PC instead. You also can sync accounts for other services like Yahoo and Hotmail; we linked a personal Yahoo account and got our mail within seconds. Instant messengers can use Google Talk, AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo. The experience varies a bit between Google talk and the latter three, but all did their job. With Google Talk, however, you can see your friends' status in the app and your address book.
The MyTouch supports threaded text and you can keep your instant-messaging conversation in the background while working on other apps. As we've already mentioned, we very much welcome the addition of Microsoft Exchange server support. That was a serious omission on the G1, and its absence kept Android from being a truly work-friendly device. The setup experience is similar to that on the iPhone. We just entered our e-mail address, user name, server, and password. Just remember that your work e-mail will need to support Outlook Web Access (OWA). Yet, we're not happy that Google and HTC left out support for Outlook contacts and calendar syncing. You can sync with them using an export from Outlook to Google Contacts and Calendar, but that will involve a few extra steps. We may get direct support through a future third-party app, but until that time Android can't quite compete with work-savvy smartphones. Once we were set up, our work e-mail arrived with no delay.
The syncing process was pretty seamless--once we deleted a message on the phone, it disappeared from our computer only moments later. We could access folders, though the process was a bit convoluted. After tapping the in-box icon at the top of the screen, you'll see a list of your folders in no discernible order. We have a lot of folders, and it was rather painful to scroll through a long list that wasn't arranged alphabetically. We also didn't like that the MyTouch doesn't automatically refresh when you access a folder. We had other minor usability complaints. Perhaps we're viewing the MyTouch through the lens of the iPhone, but Android and the handset pale slightly in comparison. For example, with no "shake to update" feature, you must press the menu button and then click the "refresh" icon to see your new mail. No, it's not a deal-breaker, but at the very least we'd like to see a refresh control directly on the main e-mail screen. Deleting an e-mail also involves a couple of more steps than on the iPhone, though you can delete multiple e-mails at once. Moving e-mails, however, was no different from Apple's device. E-mail-attachment support isn't consistent. You can access (but not edit) Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents through Gmail, but you don't get the same luxury when using POP3 and Outlook mail. When using those services, you are offered the option of saving the attachment to the memory card, but without a file manager there's no way to access the memory card directly on the phone (you'll need to sync the phone with a computer).
If you can explain that discrepancy, please let us know since we can't make heads or tails of it. On the upside, you can get full attachment support with the Documents To Go app. The Android Market, which lets you download free and paid apps, is unchanged. When browsing through lists searching for desired titles we found it to be quick and easy to use.
The range of available apps won't quite rival the iTunes App store and some apps can't quite compare with their iPhone counterparts. For example, the Facebook app is simply the mobile version of the social networking site, rather than a dedicated app with a full range of features. Patience is in order, however. As Android grows, we're sure that the quantity and quality of apps will increase. For more detail on the Android market, consult our G1 review. And for updates and reviews of available apps, visit our new Android Atlas blog. One quirk of the Android OS is that you can store applications on the internal shared memory only. On the MyTouch, that's limited to 512MG RAM so it's important that you track your available storage carefully. The handset's memory card slot--a 4GB MicroSD card came with our review model--is only for saving it for photos, music, and other attachment files (the slot can accommodate cards up to 32GB). Though some users have raised the red flag over this issue, it's something with which we can live. Yet, that doesn't mean that we're not encouraging Google to change this policy soon. We tested the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G in San Francisco using T-Mobile service.
The MyTouch is a quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone device that also supports T-Mobile's 3G network. Like with the HTC Magic, call quality was exceptional. We enjoyed crystal clear conversations and a strong signal. Voices sounded natural and we encountered no static or interference from other electronic devices. Here again the volume level could be louder--we had trouble hearing in noisy places unless the sound was turned all the way up--but it was fine for most situations. In all, we were quite pleased. On their end, callers were also pleased. In fact, some couldn't even tell we were using a cell phone. A couple people complained that they had trouble hearing us when we were in noisy environments, which makes sense considering we had a similar problem on our end, but the gripes ended there. Automated calling systems could understand us easily the majority of the time.
Speakerphone calls were decent. As with the G1, audio was a bit garbled and fuzzy. It wasn't worse than many other cell phones on the market, but it was a change from regular voice calls. The volume level remained a tad low, but we could hear callers without too much effort. We had to speak close to the phone if we wanted to be heard on the other end, though it wasn't a big deal. Bluetooth headset calls were fine and in another Cupcake update, the MyTouch added support for autopairing. When you're on a call, the MyTouch's display will darken and the phone will lock so that you don't hit an onscreen command accidentally. To unlock the screen, just press one of the physical controls. Alternatively, you can access the home screen by pressing the corresponding button. If you need the dialpad, there's a tab for it at the bottom of the display. Yet, it's a bit annoying that you have to physically drag the tab up rather than just pressing it once.
T-Mobile's 3G (AWS 1700/2100) connection was lightning fast under most circumstances. Particularly when using the browser, we noticed a positive change from the iPhone. T-Mobile 3G connection doesn't seem to penetrate as far into buildings as AT&T's does, but once you have it, you should be quite satisfied. As with the G1, the MyTouch's processor performed beautifully. The phone responded quickly to our commands when opening and closing applications and there was no lag time when navigating the menus. More importantly, we didn't experience any system freezes or crashes. Multimedia quality was variable. Music quality was fine, as long as you used a Bluetooth or wired headset. Tunes over the single external speaker were tinny, but that's to be expected on almost any cell phone. Video quality was just average. Clips that we recorded with the camcorder looked fairly washed out. Also, fast movements looked blurry. The MyTouch has a rated battery life of 6 hours talk time and up to 17.5 days standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the MyTouch has a digital SAR of 1.37 watts per kilogram.
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