Thursday, July 23, 2009

New ‘Google’ phone an impressive upgrade

Saying “T-Mobile G1” isn’t too bad, but “T-Mobile myTouch 3G with Google” is a mouthful. Once you get past the name, the phone itself is an impressive follow-up to the first Android phone that was released last fall. The “myTouch 3G” is due out Aug. 5, and after initial testing of the phone, I find it’s a winning alternative to the iPhone, BlackBerry and the Palm Pre for those aren’t enamored with those choices.

The phone betters its older sibling in looks — sleeker and lighter — and performance with better battery life. Those improvements are mainly because the myTouch is a touchscreen-only phone; the G1 is touchscreen but also includes a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, which adds weight and drains energy, T-Mobile says. The myTouch weighs 4.1 ounces and has a rated talk-time battery life of up to six hours; the G1 is a heftier 5.6 ounces with a rated battery life of up to five hours, although it often didn’t last that long.

Battery life is a big issue with smartphones, with Wi-Fi and GPS radio use, Web surfing and downloads and e-mail all draining the power. T-Mobile says the battery in the myTouch is physically larger than the G1’s and also has better radio performance and power management, in large part because it doesn’t have a physical keyboard.

After eight hours of running the myTouch, including a few hours on standby, the battery meter said it was at 52 percent; and after 12 hours, it was at 29 percent. That said, I was running the phone through different paces, sometimes using Wi-Fi, which drains the battery more quickly, because I could not get 3G, or faster wireless, network service in my area.

The phone’s 3.2-inch display is the same size as the G1’s and both phones, made by HTC, use the same Qualcomm 528-MHz processor. The myTouch is 4.45 inches high, 2.19 inches wide and .58 of an inch thick, compared to its predecessor, which is 4.6 inches high, 2.1 inches wide and .62 of an inch thick. It feels good in hand, just the right size, and is narrower than the iPhone, which is 2.4 inches wide.

The myTouch comes with 512 megabytes of internal memory, double the internal memory of the G1, and a pre-installed 4GB removable microSD card.

Less bulk is definitely welcome. But the sleeker profile comes with some tradeoffs. The seven buttons, including a trackball, on the front of the device feel a little crowded and too close together for comfort, unlike the buttons on the G1.

The myTouch's on-screen menus also can be a little dicey, especially when dealing with e-mail. It's a little too easy to hit the wrong key. On-screen buttons for "reply," "reply all" and "delete" are positioned at the bottom of the screen close to the hardware buttons.

The "delete" button in particular is near the physical "back" button, and several times I thought I hit that button, but found I had inadvertently hit "delete," and away went my e-mail.

The touchscreen itself is very responsive, and as with the G1, users touch, tap, swipe and scroll, and have use of on-screen menus, as well as a trackball to navigate. The accelerometer, the motion sensor that switches the screen from portrait to landscape mode, is also quite nimble.


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