Hands-on first impressions of the T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide
T-Mobile was first out of the Android gate with the G1 and now we see the second HTC Android device with a QWERTY slide keyboard. The myTouch 3G Slide may be a good phone for those moving from a Sidekick, but isn't perfect either.
When I first heard about the T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide I didn't give it much thought. I then realized it was the first HTC Android device with a QWERTY keyboard since the T-Mobile G1 so I took a second look at it. I liked what I heard about the new phone and actually placed it in the number 7 out of 10 spots in my top 10 smartphones of 2010 article. If the device lived up to the promise I was seriously thinking about picking one up because I do like a good QWERTY keyboard, but after three days of usage, I have decided this is not the device for me. I do think there is a group of people who this device will appeal to though and it is a nice option for T-Mobile customers. Check out some T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide photos and screenshots in my image gallery, the video walk through below, and some more of my initial impressions.
Image Gallery: Check out product images and screenshots of the myTouch 3G Slide from T-Mobile.
In the box and first impressions
If you check out the photos in the myTouch 3G article I wrote last year you will see that T-Mobile wrapped the device in some pretty unique and high quality packaging. Well, they did it again with the myTouch 3G Slide that comes in a cool hard plastic box similar to a mini-Pelican case or something. You can probably find some good alternative uses for this sturdy plastic box if you don't want to keep your accessories inside. After opening the box you will find foam cutouts containing the myTouch 3G Slide (referred to as the Slide from here on out), A/C USB charging adapter, USB cable, stereo headphones, and some pamphlets and manuals. The Slide comes in Black, Red, and White and the review unit that T-Mobile sent to me for a couple weeks is black.
When I first pulled the Slide from the case I was immediately impressed with the solid feel of the device. It reminded me of the myTouch 3G and I honestly didn't think a keyboard was present since it is so close to the look and feel of the myTouch 3G. I like the tactile feel of the bottom hardware buttons and the heavy plastic feel of the casing. I then slid out the keyboard to check it out and found the slide mechanism to be a bit crude with the display wobbling pretty easily with light pressure. These slider keyboards are tough to engineer properly and by sliding out the display you can tell this is more of a mid-level smartphone rather than a high end device. I really did not like the QWERTY keyboard labeling at all and found the strange number and alternate character designations confusing. They are all white backlit and the numbers and alternate characters are the same size as the main characters. For example the Q and 1 are on the same key in the same size so it looks like Q1.
Specifications for the T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide include the following:
Android 2.1 with customized HTC Sense experience
600 MHz processor
5 megapixel camera with flash
3.4 inch HVGA (480x320) capacitive touch display
Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
3.5 mm headset jack
microSD card slot with included 8GB card
Friend Stream for unified Flickr, Facebook and Twitter updates
Leap view for quick access to all seven home screen panels
Faves Gallery, myModes, and Genius button unique Slide features
Swype soft input keyboard
Dimensions: 4.55 x 2.37 x 0.6 inches and 5.8 ounces
As you can see above, the list of specifications for the myTouch 3G Slide are pretty impressive and appear to push the Slide into the high end smartphone category. However, after using WVGA 480x800 resolution devices for the last several months a HVGA display looks too outdated to appeal to me. There are very few hardware QWERTY Google Android devices though so this may be a major purchasing factor for the Slide.
Walk around the hardware
The 3.4 inch HVGA display on the front is fine, but like I mentioned I am used to the higher resolution display on most of my devices and just cannot go back to this resolution on a larger display. My Pre Plus has this resolution display on a 3.1 inch sized screen so it seems a bit crisper, but even that display has fonts that appear to be a bit fuzzy to me. Below the display you will find four flush hardware keys that have good tactile feel with an optical trackpad centered between the buttons. These buttons are for Home, Menu, Back, and Genius Button activation. The Genius Button replaces the search button found on most all other Google Android devices and allows you to speak your search term, text message recipient and content, email content, and place calls. It may seem like a good idea in many cases, but I found it a bit of an issue at times. For one, within the email application there is no way to search emails without opening up the keyboard and pressing the magnifying glass icon. The indicator light, proximity sensor, and headset speaker are located above the display.
I did like seeing the camera button on the right since it allows you to easily launch the camera and take photos. The camera is an autofocus camera with face recognition capability. The volume rocker is on the left side and the microUSB port is on the bottom. A 3.5mm headset jack and power button are found on the top.
The 5 megapixel camera and flash are centered towards the top of the back. The microSD card is under the back cover on the lower left side of the back.
When you slide the display to the right you will find the QWERTY keyboard with 4 full rows of characters. As I mentioned earlier I do not like how all the keys have white backlight and how the alternate keys appear to the right of the main key in the same size. There are lights indicating when the Caps and Fn keys have been activated. There are left and right Fn and Shift keys on the keyboard. There are keys for @, Menu, Search, Home, Back, Sym, and more so you can access many of the keys without having to press the Fn key first. One of the main reasons that the T-Mobile G1 keyboard was fantastic was the ability to enable key presses to launch apps and perform functions and unfortunately none of that capability is present on the Slide keyboard. Pressing keys simply initiates searches and there are no settings for optimizing usage of the keyboard.
I did find the tactile feedback, spacing, and key size to be quite good and imagine a person can get pretty quick with the large keyboard.
Walk through the software
A modified version of HTC Sense 2.5 is included on the Slide so you get 5 Home screen panels, Exchange support (email, contacts & calendar), HTC widgets, and more. You will not find support for Live Wallpapers and from what I understand this is due to the processor. HTC Sense includes Scenes, but these have been changed to myModes on the Slide with slightly different functionality. myModes lets you select and name the mode, choose a theme, wallpaper, appearance, ringtone, and notification sound. By default there are home and away modes, but you can add others if you like. You can switch the modes manually or enable automatic mode switch that is based on a specific time of day or specific location. This is a pretty cool functionality that I think will be useful. I know I rarely ever change scenes manually, but if they were mode to change automatically I think I may use them more often on other HTC Sense devices.
Another new software functionality on the Slide is the Faves Gallery. When I read about this in the announcement press release I thought it sounded like the Kin Loop and it seemed that the feature would be slick. In actual practice though I found it to really be just a slightly glorified speed dial function. You can quickly initiate a call, text, email, and view the last update from your contact. You can also choose to share a photo or video with the contact. Tapping on the person's photo opens up their contact info similar to what you see on other HTC Android devices. You will get notifications if someone in your Faves Gallery posts an update or sends you a communication though so you may find it useful.
I briefly mentioned the Genius button above and honestly did not find it to work very well. If the application is not running and you start it up it will spend time looking through your contact list. I thought it might perform this index once, but it does it every single time you cold start the application. You are supposed to be able to say things like, "Text Matt, How are things going?" or "Find Pizza Hut in Tacoma". In reality, I found the Genius button to be more hype than substance and was never satisfied with any results. I would rather have the Google Search button back myself.
A few other apps that T-Mobile included on the Slide are Barcode scanner, Amazon MP3 Store, My Account, Peep Twitter app, Quickoffice viewer, Stocks, and Weather. All the typical Google Android apps are included (Google Maps Navigation, YouTube, etc.) or available via the Android Market.
I was pleased to see the Swype text input keyboard included and find it to be a fantastic text entry keyboard on the Google Android platform. You can use this keyboard only while in portrait orientation since every text input field defaults to the physical QWERTY keyboard in landscape.
Pricing and availability
The T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide will be available on 2 June for $179.99 with a data plan and 2-year contract. I have not yet found out what the no contract/Even More Plus price will be, but the myTouch Fender Edition with an Even More price of $179.99 has an Even More Plus price of $449.99.
Experiences with the myTouch 3G Slide
I was surprised by the higher quality of the hardware than I anticipated, but I was a bit disappointed in the character labeling on the keyboard and in the performance of the Genius button. I was disappointed with the capability of the QWERTY keyboard compared to the awesomeness of the T-Mobile G1. I could never personally go back to a device with this resolution after using the Google Nexus One, even if it does have a physical QWERTY keyboard. The $179.99 seems a bit high to me compared to all the other high end smartphones launching at $199.99 and a more reasonable price would be $139.99 or something along those lines. Compared to feature phones with this form factor and price though it is a very good alternative with all the great capability (Google Maps Navigation is awesome) and 3rd party application support.
Even though the myTouch 3G Slide has a 600 MHz processor, compared to all the new 1GHz processors, I found it performed quite well and was very speedy. There is a lot of functionality in the device with the customized HTC Sense, but I thought the Faves Gallery was a bit gimmicky. The new myModes automatic switching is handy and can be useful. I liked seeing Swype on the Slide and think it is one great soft input keyboard. .