Hands-on with the T-Mobile G2 with HSPA+

Summary:The T-Mobile G2 is the best Android device available on T-Mobile thanks to its FAST HSPA+ data support and slick QWERTY keyboard.

I wrote my most extensive review ever back when the T-Mobile G1 was launched in October of 2008. I was so excited about finally getting a good smartphone on T-Mobile that I even flew out to New York for a day trip for the launch event. I used the G1 for over a year and was quite happy with the device, but it was admittedly a fairly clunky device with a very good keyboard. T-Mobile set another first with the new T-Mobile G2 that has support for the new HSPA+ network providing speeds even faster than Sprint's 4G WiMAX network. I have been debating about buying one, but wanted to try it out first so I waited until T-Mobile sent out an evaluation unit to use for a couple of weeks. You can check out my image gallery that includes some device photos, my YouTube video, and my first impressions walk around below. I honestly wanted to run to the store and buy one as soon as I pulled it out of the box and by the time the veal unit goes back I may just have my own too.


Image Gallery: Check out photos of the G2 on T-Mobile.
Image Gallery: T-Mobile G2 retail box
Image Gallery: QWERTY keyboard revealed

In the box and first impressions

T-Mobile has some of the coolest, high quality packaging I have seen with their smartphones and the HTC T-Mobile G2 is very similar to the box used for the HD2. It is rather compact and made of extremely sturdy cardboard with a glossy image of the G2 on the front and list of features and included pieces on the back. When you take off the top cover you will see the G2 sitting in a bed of cardboard right on top. After you lift out the supporting structure for the G2 you will find the user manual and other pamphlets in the frame directly under where the G2 was resting. Under the frame assembly you will see a USB cable, USB A/C adapter, and wired stereo headset. An 8GB microSD card was included in the G2.

I opened up the box just as I was getting ready to record MoTR 222 and honestly almost ran to the store to buy my own G2 just after holding it for a few seconds. It is quite a heavy device at 6.5 ounces, but I like the heft and find it gives me a feeling of quality. The back of the G2 is very well designed and feels awesome in your hand. Everyone that has held the G2 has been pleased with the quality and construction of the phone.

Specifications

Specifications for the T-Mobile G2 include the following:
  • Android 2.2 with Google experience
  • Qualcomm MSM 7230 800 MHz processor
  • Quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G (1700/2100 MHz) with HSPA+ support
  • 3.7 inch WVGA (480x800) capacitive Super LCD touch display
  • Integrated 4GB flash memory, available 1.2 GB.
  • 512MB RAM and microSD card (8GB included)
  • 5 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Optical trackpad
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • 1300 mAh battery
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Dimensions: 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches and 6.5 ounces

As I mentioned in my intro, the HSPA+ radio is the real standout feature of the T-Mobile G2 and I have seen it performing quite well in my initial testing. The QWERTY keyboard and slick design is cool, but I am still not sure if I need to go back to a hardware QWERTY or not. It is actually a bit refreshing, like the Google Nexus One, to see a rather vanilla flavor of Android on the G2 since that may lead to faster updates in the future.

Walk around the hardware

The front of G2 is dominated by the 3.7 inch display that looks good inside and out in the sun. You will find the four bottom "buttons" are touch sensitive areas for the Home, Menu, Back, and Search functions. Centered below the display is a touch sensitive optical trackpad that has an indicator light around the outside frame. The display is framed with a brushed steel piece and soft touch material is found below this and around the trackpad.

There is a microphone on the bottom and the 3.5mm headset jack and power button on the top. The volume button and microUSB port are found on the left side. On the right side you will find the physical camera button (I love these) and switch to release the back battery cover.

There is a very cool battery cover on the back along with the 5 megapixel camera and flash. The metal back cover is slick with HTC and G2 embossed in it too.

The major defining external hardware feature is the landscape QWERTY keyboard. The hinge mechanism is slick and as you can see in my video above there really is no loose hinge issue that is real on the device. The hinge lifts up and over part of the display before resting back down on the device so it is almost flush with the rest of the device and sees no really change in thickness. The keys have good feel, feedback, and spacing in a four row design. There are shift and alt keys on both sides with a rather large space bar in the center. There are three customizable buttons that are great for quick access to email accounts. I don't know why people like BlackBerry keyboards so much with lack of dedicated buttons for standard punctuation. The G2 has dedicated buttons for @, com/www, period, comma, and question mark.

The HSPA+ network theoretical download speed is 14.4 Mbps. I am supposed to have HSPA+ in my area, but the fastest download speed I measured with the SpeedTest.net application was only around3.5 Mbps. I read of others seeing between 6 and 8.8 Mbps, which is a whole lot faster than the WiMAX seen on the HTC EVO 4G.

People were worried about the 800 MHz processor, but I have to say there is nothing to worry about here as the device flies around as fast as the 1 GHz models I have tested out. The slightly slower clock speed processor may actually lead to better battery life and so far I have seen good battery life on the G2.

Walk through the software

I was expecting to see HTC Sense on the G2 given that it is made by HTC and is a brand new device, but actually think having a fairly standard Google experience on the G2 may be better in the long term. There are seven home screens, the cool three lower icons (phone, menu, browser), and other standard Android 2.2 apps, utilities, and functionality.

The G2 is heavily loaded with Google apps out of the box, including Gmail, Gtalk, Google Search, Google Maps, the Android Market, YouTube, Google Goggles, Google Latitude, Google Voice, Google Translate, Google Earth, Google News, Listen, Android Finance, Amazon MP3 and more. These apps cannot be deleted, but you can hid the preloaded shortcuts if you want. You will also find Photobucket and web2go included, but otherwise there is no real T-Mobile crapware loaded on it while Google installations are present.

I understand that HTC has some kind of failsafe mechanism on the G2 so that if you attempt to root it the phone will reset back to factory defaults. I used to root my Google Nexus One, but haven't done anything with my EVO 4G and personally do not find this to be an issue.

Pricing and availability

The T-Mobile G2 is available on T-Mobile right now for $199.99 with a $50 mail-in rebate for those who want a 2-year contract or extension. The full Even More Plus (no contract) price is $499.99. If Windows Phone 7 wasn't coming out soon and I didn't already have an EVO 4G on Sprint I would not hesitate to buy the T-Mobile G2. If you are interested in buying an Android device for T-Mobile then I highly recommend the G2 and find it to be more polished and finished than the Samsung Vibrant.

My wife wants a Windows Phone 7 device so when we visit the store in November we may just end up with a G2 as well.

Other reviews

As I continue to check out the G2, I recommend you check out the following reviews for more information and thoughts on the device:

Topics: Mobility, Google, Hardware, HTC, Processors, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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