December 22, 2014

Review: T-Mobile G2

More than two years have gone by since Google, HTC and T-Mobile gave us the world’s first Android phone, the G1. Tucked behind the 3.2inch display and 5-row keyboard was an infant OS with exponential potential. Now the same team has come together again. The G2 gains a modern design and HSPA+ support, while retaining the G1’s landscape qwerty keyboard. Evolution or just a spec bump? Will it stand as a great device even with all of the new dual-core phones? Read along to find out.

Hardware

The G2’s hardware is tough, premium, and gorgeous. The stainless steel and grey casing make the phone seem a cousin of the Nexus One. The unlock switch/latch for the battery door is convenient and it features a dedicated camera key. HTC kept an extra navigation option by upgrading the G1’s trackball to an optical trackpad, which works well.

Then comes the shining star of the device: the keyboard. The buttons are larger than the G1’s, and they are raised enough to give tactile feedback. Unlike the G1, you can feel and hear the “pop” of each button press.

There are two unique features about this keyboard: the Quick Keys and Z-Hinge. Three “Quick Keys” along the bottom row the keyboard can be mapped to custom apps or shortcuts. I set the Quick Keys for people I contact the most, so instead of using my contacts list to find them, I can use a Quick Key to call them from anywhere in the OS.

The other unique feature is the Z-Hinge. Instead of the keyboard sliding like a normal landscape qwerty, the top part of the device lifts and moves in an arc to reveal the keyboard. It simply feels right when opening and closing the keyboard.

The device comes equipped with a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and 720p video recording. The camera software is stock Froyo camera software, so don’t expect too many options. The G2’s camera is a double-edged sword: still shots are above average, and the two-step camera key helps keep shots focused. On the flip-side, video quality isn’t too great. It cannot pick up fast motion well, and the audio quality is poor. Don’t expect to get a great video of a concert, but it does get the job done.

The G2’s battery life is great. During a specific test, I unplugged my phone at 7 a.m. and plugged it back in at midnight with 15% charge left. I used Twitter, Facebook, and email throughout that day, used GPS navigation for 15 minutes, made a couple of calls, and played games for about 30 minutes. A full charge  of this 1300mAh battery will definitely get though a normal day, so no worries here.

The hardware/design of G2 does have a couple of minor flaws. First, there is no front-facing camera, nearly a standard feature as we look at 2011’s devices. The other flaw is the widely reported loose Z-Hinge. This does happen on my G2, but it doesn’t bother me. It might bother other users, though.

Taken with the G2's camera

Software

The G2’s processor is the Qualcomm MSM7230 Snapdragon clocked at 800mhz. Before you gasp at the thought of a “next-gen” Android device running below 1ghz, let me tell you that because it’s part of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series, it out-performs 1ghz Snapdragons.

I loaded on a few of Gameloft’s HD games, such as Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus, and they performed excellently, with no lag. Web browsing is very fast, even in an area without T-Mobile’s HSPA+ coverage. I had no problem loading up Flash-intensive sites, but I did experience some lag when pinching to zoom on a page with many Flash elements.

So don’t count this phone out from a processor standpoint. You can always root the handset and overclock if you absolutely need 1ghz or more.

The G2’s best software feature is the very-close-to-stock Android 2.2 Froyo. The only added apps are a few Google apps, the Quick Keys app, and a couple of T-Mobile apps including WiFi Calling. This is a mostly a huge win. WiFi Calling worked well, and is one of my favorite features. Being able to call with any WiFi network can be a life saver, and it even seems to produce clearer call quality than traditional calling. Wifi Hotspot (works with HSPA+ too!) is also included, but you have to pay for an additional hotspot plan if you intend to use it.

The only flaws of the software are with the included apps. While I do use many Google apps, there are some pre-installed, like My Tracks and Finance, that I do not care for, and they are impossible to remove without rooting the device. It’s not a deal-breaker, though, since the G2 comes with over 1gb of app storage (not to mention Froyo’s apps-to-SD support). Overall, this is second to only the Nexus S if you want a stock Android experience.

Wrap-Up

The G1’s replacement, the G2, is a fantastic handset that continues the legacy of its predecessor, with unique hardware elements like the Z-Hinge and new features like HSPA+ and WiFi Calling. But with dual-core handsets being released, is it worth skipping the G2 and waiting for a better device on T-Mobile? Maybe so, if you don’t mind waiting several months for a dual-core qwerty Android, but the G2 will still be a great device even then. This is currently the only high-end choice on T-Mobile with a physical keyboard, and in my opinion, the best device on the carrier right now. The G2 is a superb Android device that offers the stock Android experience and can do almost anything you throw at it.



  • http://robert.aitchison.org Robert Aitchison

    I’m a happy G2 user but there are a number of shortcomings that were not mentioned or glossed over:
    1. The four row keyboard is MUCH less useful than the five row keyboard on the G1, typing anything with numbers or special characters is much more cumbersome. As it turns out that Swype is good enough that I rarely use the hardware keyboard anyways but whenever I do I’m reminded how much it sucks compared to the G1 version, smaller buttons and all.

    2. There is a surprising amount of bloatware considering this is a “Google Experience” phone. In addition to the Google and T-Mobile branded apps there is PhotoBucket (which runs automatically when the phone boots whether you use it or not), Twitter, Facebook, QuickOffice and more. Also many of the Google apps are included that are downloadable from the market (for example: finance) and are even out of date as soon as you get the phone so you have to download the newest version of the app from the market anyways even if you don’t use that app to keep your phone from harassing you to update the app.

    3. Lack of physical buttons for Home, Send, Back, End & Menu make using the phone more difficult in low light and also mean you have to awkwardly move your hand to the top of the phone to wake it up rather than press one of the physical buttons.

  • Troy

    I too liked the 5 row Keyboard better, the physical buttons being gone don’t bother me as much as I thought they would. Rooting gets rid of the “Boatware”, and I have my trackpad set to wake which is similar to the Menu button location on the G1. One thing that I personally like is the fact the G2 fits nicely in the G1 sleeve to keep it protected, I don’t know why they didn’t include a sleeve with the G2. After about a month and a half with the G2 I love it and use it more and more all the time.

    • RAdamsBig8

      Troy,

      What setting did you change to allow wake from trackpad?

  • http://www.digitalconstruction.com Mark

    The sound quality on the unit I had was terrible, either by the internal speaker or by 3.5mm cable to high fidelity audio equipment. Some users consider playing music from their phone a major feature and this should be mentioned in the review. Especially with rumors of Google music cloud services. Also you mention this in the same sentence as 2011 phones, just to be clear this phone came out in 2010.

    I agree with everything else in the review, solid phone, good battery, great software for T-Mobile device.

    If music is important to you and you want this phone, demo its audio output is my advice.

  • http://www.dolphinfree.net tenkely

    The G2 really is a great phone, best available from T-Mobile (in stores) at the moment, in my opinion.

  • Mark S

    The sound quality on my G2 is fantastic. I wonder if you have a bad unit? I am listening to SiriusXM through a line in connection on my old ipod dock and it sounds great.

  • Rob H

    Everything about the phone is better than the G1 except the keyboard! I need and sorely miss my dedicated number keys on my G1 (which I still use). They are spaced too far apart and the dang backlight still goes off all the time. Somebody needs to smack the idiot engineer that decided to make the alt characters more visible than the main characters when the backlight is off. Its a pain to use when theyre not lit up. IMHO, the keyboard is a total fail. If I hadn’t got it for free, I woulda returned it.

  • BQ

    The only two android phones I have ever owned are the G1 and the G2. I waited and waited for a dual core device to be release by t-mobile but I had to go ahead and get the G2 because my G1 died on me. The sound produced by apps like Iheartradio is great, but when playing back recorded video, not so good. I was cautious about the “hinge” action for the keyboard because I watched videos of it broken, but those people must be using it as a football. I love that they went with the new optical trackpad, it works great. I hardly ever used the trackball on the G1; it seemed too retro or loose.

    The G2’s performance rating on any benchmark app is awesome. I have not had any app incompatibility issues with the G2 at all.

    The only problem I ran into with the G2 is a auto sync issue. My Gmail would not auto sync. I read a blog saying to disable sync through the setting menu, turn off the phone then back on. Turn sync back on through the settings menu and all should be working. This only worked temporarily. After 3 or 4 days of turning off sync and restarting my phone, I was fet up with it. Then I thought about the sync widget “power control” widget. That controls the sync too. So I turned sync off through the settings menu, turned off my phone, then back on. This time I enable sync through the “power control” widget. It has been working fine for over a month now.

    Want the BODYGLOVE case for your G2, go to http://www.igonemobile.com

    I got the BODYGLOVE case, a AC charger, DC charger, and PC cable for only $25.99

    Unreal, I know!

    Here is the product bundle description from my receipt.

    “HTC T-Mobile G2 Car Charger Wall Charger USB Cable and OEM Body Glove Snap-On Cover Case – 26531 $25.99″

  • Scott

    5 row keyboard has my vote!

  • rev2redlineguy

    I’ve had my G2 for over a month after replacing it with my flawed Vibrant and I have to say I simply LOVE my G2! It’s fast, performs well, fits great in my hands, looks beautiful, is very sturdy, and is simply my most favorite owned that I’ve purchased within my 3 years with TMO. A few weeks ago I upgraded the software on my old Vibrant to Froyo and compared the both and hands-down the G2 was simply the best. I bought an OtterBox case for my G2 and it’s beautiful on it. So yeah, there might be a few little flaws but that compensates for the many great features I love on my G2. The best phone on TMO so far.

  • Moose

    Upgraded from G1 a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to upgrade to this phone, but unfortunately my G1 died and this was free. The EVOshift looks to essentially be the same phone with a true slider and a DPAD. Is TMO HTC’s dumping ground for their prototypes?

    I Like:
    1. Fast Browsing
    2. Fast Multi-tasking

    Shortcomings:
    1. Keyboard – 5 rows of keys is far superior. Swype’s ok, but still prefer 5 rows like other HTC phones.
    2. Z-Hinge – hanging apart gets worse with a protective cover, unless you get a cover that locks.
    3. Bloatware – need to be able to completely remove or turn off unwanted software.

    Using HandCent instead of installed messaging makes picture sending easier.

    I’ll probably upgrade as soon as I see something I like better.

  • DFord

    I love my G2 as well. I rooted mine and got rid of all the bloatware. I also put a custom rom on it and couldnt love it more.

  • Gary

    I love my G2, but the reviews are right.
    It is SO CLOSE to being a perfect phone.

    1. number row on keypad
    2. trackball is superior to trackpad
    3. remove bloatware. it made updating the translate app very difficult.
    4. improve sound quality.

    but they are minor gripes of an awesome phone.
    months after release it’s still lightning fast, HSPA+ still blows me away, and almost-stock android is a beautiful experience.

    I feel like I should be a hardware designers. A couple tweaks and everybody would be happy.

  • Hawon

    I’ve been using this phone since October 4th, 2010… Review of the phone after four months, isn’t it little too late?

    I have rooted G2 and overclocked to 1.5ghz which, took care of most of the complains what people have such as bloatware and under-clocked CPU. The phone is breezing fast, faster than many other android options out there.

    some people complaining about 4-row qwerty but i’m perfectly fine with that. Yeah G1 had better keyboard but the size was much bigger. I think it was necessary sacrifice. Coming from G1->iphone->nexus one->to G2 (yeah i had palm pre, black berry bold, curve, and even galaxy s in between) having physical qwerty just makes me happy.

    good review. I believe this is the best android phone T-Mobile offers even now.

  • McParty

    Great Review, Especially for those of us that have yet to upgrade from the G1. LOL

  • http://www.androidsupportforum.com AndroidGuy

    I would disagree about the battery life. If you actually use the phone you’d better carry a charger or extra battery. I leave GPS off until I need it, but I still find the battery causing me to not use it in fear of running it dead. Otherwise a great phone.

  • OIL

    I really enjoy my G2. Although I have the same gripes as everyone else, I believe they are very small and easy to live with for an almost pure android phone.

    Hopefully we get gingerbread right after N1.

    Does anyone know which clock/weather widget is shown in the G2 pictured above?

    • Andrew Gomez

      Fancy Widget

  • 4G or Not To 4G

    I own the G2 and for the most part have been very satisfied with it. T-Mobile fell short by not adding the FFC. I believe if they would have added the FFC, this phone would be moving off the shelves in-spite of all the fancy new dual core phones coming out. As the average customer (especially who do not read AndroidGuys) don’t know of all the different options available to them, they just want a smartphone that does the majority of things they want to do. In this day and age video chat is high on everybody’s mind…with that said, if T-Mobile would have added the FFC, this phone would be a good contender well into 2011.

  • Lee Nightingale

    Isn’t this just a desire z?

  • Stan

    I have recently had the Samsun Vibrant but lost it. :( After talking with the insurance people that informed me that they were out of Vibrants and the next best phone they could ship was the G2. After a little hesitation I told them to send it because I didn’t want to keep waiting for a Vibrant to show up.

    I have read other people reviews and their issues with the phone and the only real complaint I have about the SOFTWARE is all the added apps that I would probably never use and can’t get rid off.

    The hardware of the phone is solid and it seems fairly fast in my few days of toying around with it.

    For the users who are a little peeved that it don’t have a “dedicated” row for numbers. All you have to do is double tap the alt key and it will transform the top row of the keyboard to a dedicated “5th” row so that is no issue at all. How long does it take to double tap alt? Not even a second.

    As far as the phone not having a FFC. I really don’t understand where I would face chat with people out in public that I can’t do with my laptop with my quickcam pro camera that is far superior then a 1.3 megapixel cam. FFC has not been working to sufficiently for android or iphone users so I will wait until they work all the kinks out of that before I worry about face chatting on a cell phone.

    So far I am very pleased that I got this phone over the Vibrant. The only thing I miss about the Vibrant is of course the Super Amoled screen and the 16 gigs of internal memory, but the G2 seems to trump the Vibrant in all other categories. Great phone for tmobile.

  • Jesslyn

    I’m coming as a disillusioned ex-iPhone 3G/3Gs user. I simply love the G2 and android. Now can I get a tablet to match so I can get off the iPad?

  • Bob

    This phone was amazing for the first 4 months. Since then its been nothing but a piece of shit paperwieght. They have replaced mine 4 times now and everyone of them has had sd mounting issues as well as freezing and dropping calls constantly. And now with the 4th one its been a week and it has no service …. EVER. stay away from it it doesnt last!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1421228703 Anjie Cai

      how did it happen?

  • Lcali19

    Well I had the G2 since it first came out, before it was the G1, I loved the phone @ first, still do in a way, but since I’m on my 3rd one and still have some same issues like freezing, its getting worser,and when I’m doing something on the phone,it freezes,erases some things in my phone,this thing has erased my musicand other stuff soooooo many times, I love this phone cause I can do soo much, but now its starting to piss me off with the issues, I’m tired of replacing this thing, so much potentialin this phone.