The official sequel to the first Googlephone, the T-Mobile G2 is a long time coming. In a market where carriers molest the open OS anew every time a new handset drops, this is the Android phone for the Android nerd.
AU: The G2 is a variant of the HTC Desire Z – it runs the vanilla Android interface instead of Sense. -EH
Every slider phone comes with trade-offs. Namely, bulk. It’s just physics. The G2 has been nipped and tucked so it’s just a hair thicker than the HTC Evo, which is impressive, until you realise the entire iPhone 4 is thinner than the G2’s lower half. But the heft mostly works for it, adding to the sense you’re rolling like a serious nerd, particularly when you’re pounding out text with the giganto keyboard.
The 5MP camera, while it’s not quite iPhone 4-level, appears to be better than the HTC Evo, in both stills and 720p video. (Check out full samples here.)
See our Android 2.2 review for more details on the software, but it’s worth noting that it’s still striking (in a good way) how utterly, constantly connected you feel on Android with Google Talk, Latitude, push Gmail, integrated Twitter and Facebook, versus the iPhone. Apple’s is a far more siloed experience. The downside of that iron-grip tether to the internet is that it makes you more wary about battery life, particularly when you roam somewhere with a less-than-great T-Mobile signal, like outside of its urban strongholds. (Inside the city, with HSPA+, T-Mobile is impressively quick.)
Everything that we love about Android 2.2 applies here: It’s fast, polished, has a mature app store experience and the best interface of any Android phone. Period. The keyboard is serious, a boon for road warriors with a serious email jones.
The hinge for the G2’s presto! keyboard! action is gimpy. It doesn’t feel robust enough to withstand thousands of snaps open and closed. There’s also no good place to put your thumbs to push the screen up, so sometimes you’ll inadvertently press keys on the keyboard or touch the screen when you open the phone. I pinched myself a couple of times when I closed it. It’s kind of a disconcerting piece of engineering when the whole phone’s literally designed around it.
The speakerphone sounds like garbage. It’s harsh and tinny. Worse, the speaker’s on the back of the phone, so if you place it on a desk it gets even more muffled. The trackpad is kind of pointless, and because of the way it’s recessed into the body, not very responsive.
The big show-stopping flaw? The NAND lock is a bit more aggressive than the one in previous HTC phones, designed to prevent people from tinkering with the software – something that’s against the original spirit of Android. T-Mobile says it’s a security feature, but whatever the rationale, it keeps people from modding the G2’s software until they get around it. And it’s even lamer to see it on the G2, which is trying invoke those roots as a sequel to the G1. Oh, and there’s some minor crapware built in, like a pestering Photobucket app you can’t delete. Who is Android open for, exactly?
In the end, everything that’s good about the G2 outweighs the bad, especially if you’re not planning on diving into the code yourself. If you’ve got a broken down G1 waiting to be replaced, or just want a clean Android experience, this is still probably your phone.