The myTouch 3G, the second Android phone in the U.S. market, is well suited for T-Mobile users who like the idea of owning a chic touchscreen phone with a good browser and plenty of apps. Designed by HTC, the $199 myTouch 3G ditches the T-Mobile G1’s physical QWERTY keyboard for a sleeker profile. With its greater emphasis on customization, search, and battery life, it’s our current Android phone of choice, but there are a few features that could be improved.
Where the G1 was sometimes unfavorably compared to a brick, the myTouch 3G is a much more elegant and pocket-friendly device. Measuring 4.4 x 2.2 x 0.6 inches, it’s 0.2 inches shorter than the G1 but its edges are more rounded, making it seem even smaller. The biggest difference, however, is its weight: at 4.1 ounces, the myTouch 3G is 1.5 ounces lighter than the G1. The smart phone is available in black, white, and a deep merlot.
To help personalize your device, you can purchase customized shells from SkinIt ($14 each), and the myTouch 3G comes with a 25 percent-off coupon. T-Mobile also offers several other accessories for this handset, including the myTouch Music speaker ($39.99).
The myTouch 3G has a minimalist facade that sports a 3.2-inch, 480 x 320 resolution display, the same as on the G1. Just below the screen are four buttons for Home, Menu, Return, and Search. Below those buttons are Send/End keys, and in the middle of them all is a trackball that’s similar to the one you’d find on a BlackBerry or Sidekick.
On the left of the phone is a volume button; a proprietary USB/charging port is on the bottom of the phone. We wish there was a 3.5mm headphone jack, but appreciate that HTC includes a set of headphones with the phone as well as a 3.5mm adapter. The glossy back of the myTouch features a 3.2-MP camera, which lacks a flash.
When you purchase the phone, it comes inside a nice zippered travel case that holds the device and all of its accessories: headphones, a charging cable, and a small micro-fiber pouch for keeping the screen clean.
Unlike the G1, the myTouch 3G lacks a physical keyboard; users must rely on the virtual keyboard that was introduced with version 1.5 of the Android operating system (known as “Cupcake”). As was our experience on the G1, the keyboard takes some getting used to; in portrait mode, the keys are too close together, making it easy to accidentally click the wrong letter.
In landscape mode, the keyboard was much roomier and easier to type on. After a few days of use, we were able to type with a high level of accuracy. While the myTouch 3G’s auto-correction is good, it sometimes auto-corrected words that we didn’t intend it to; in Google Maps whenever we typed “East” in an address field, it auto-corrected to “Easy.”
Being that its operating system was designed by Google, it’s only natural that search has a prominent place on the myTouch 3G. A physical Search button (with an icon of a magnifying glass) lets you quickly look for information inside various applications; for example, you can use it to search for a contact while the phone dialer is open, or a Web address when using the browser.
The home screen prominently features a Google search widget at the top; you can either type in a search term, or use Google’s voice search by clicking the small microphone. After saying “Laptop Magazine,” the myTouch 3G returned the Google results within 7 seconds. You can also place a call by searching your address book by voice. To do this, simply hold down the Call button for two seconds; the phone will buzz, and then you can speak a number or name.
The myTouch 3G sports the Google Android operating system “with Google,” which means it doesn’t have any of HTC’s fancier overlays such as HTC Sense, which you’ll find on the HTC Hero phone (launching later this year in the U.S.). However, you have three customizable home screens that you can switch between with a swipe of your finger. At least for now, the myTouch 3G doesn’t have multitouch functionality like the iPhone, so zooming in on maps, pictures, and Web sites requires the tap of the zoom button, which is a little less convenient.
Touching the tab on the bottom main screen with your finger and sliding it up reveals a list of applications in a drawer-like fashion. If you want quicker access to any of these apps, just press and hold it, and you’ll be able to place that icon on the main screen along with the four default icons (Dialer, Contacts, Browser, and Maps). Or, if you want to keep the main screen uncluttered, you can move an icon to a secondary screen.
Sliding your finger from the top of the screen downward reveals any recent notifications, including unread e-mails and instant messages. To address that message, simply touch the icon and pull down on the top menu bar. A shade will come down alerting you, for example, of a missed call; you can click it to dial back, and slide it up again when you’re finished. We love that you can access this option from within any app.
Other welcome features include new widgets, such as a music player and a photo album, which means you can view your pictures or start rocking out right from the home screen.
The myTouch 3G has an accelerometer, so you can turn the phone horizontally in some applications, such as YouTube or the Web browser, for landscape viewing and typing. When switching, the screen blurs and darkens slightly before reorienting itself.
We noticed that, despite having twice the amount of memory as the T-Mobile G1 (512MB vs. 256MB ROM), the myTouch 3G was sluggish at times, specifically while digging through some menus and while launching the main menu. Sometimes the menu tab would flow up to the top of the screen without a hitch, and sometimes it stuttered. Both the G1 and myTouch 3G sport the same 528-MHz processor.
We compared the speed of the device head on with the G1 and measured how long it took both phones to open commonly used applications. We found that the myTouch 3G opened the Android Market and our contacts list a hair faster than the G1 most of the time. We also loaded our Google Talk buddy list about a second faster on the myTouch 3G than on the G1, and the same was true while opening the game Pop Pop Popcorn. Overall, though, the speed differences in opening these applications were mostly negligible.
E-mail and Messaging
If you purchase the myTouch 3G, signing up for a Gmail account will make your life much easier, as the device makes it a cinch to sign into and sync up your Google Calendar, Mail, and Talk accounts; once you’ve signed in to your Google accounts, content is pulled wirelessly down to the handset.
From the phone, you can archive, mark as read, star, delete, change labels, and report spam, much like you would from a Web browser on your PC. Also like the Web interface, chain e-mails are presented in tab mode, and at the top of each tab is a small green, red, or grey circle that informs you if the sender is on Google Chat.
If you don’t use Gmail, you can still add IMAP or POP3 e-mail accounts. The myTouch 3G also supports Microsoft Exchange e-mail accounts, but it won’t sync your contacts or calendar. Google Talk is preinstalled, but you can also sign into AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo Messenger accounts.
You can view Microsoft Office documents and PDF files inside a generic HTML viewer app, but like the T-Mobile G1, you can’t save them. You can search mail by pressing Menu and then entering your search terms. While you can’t specifically search by sender or subject, the search performed well for our test queries.
Like the G1, the myTouch 3G provides a very good Web browsing experience. Pages loaded quickly during our tests. Using T-Mobile’s 3G network, we were able to load m.CNN.com in 6 seconds, m.ESPN.com in 8 seconds, and Laptopmag.com in 30 seconds. With Wi-Fi enabled, we loaded the same sites in 5, 5, and 26 seconds, respectively.
Full HTML pages loaded accurately, and were easy to read and navigate. You can open up to eight different Web sites at once, and it’s a breeze to switch between open Web pages. If you click Menu > Windows, the phone shows you a thumbnail of every open window; you can click one to view it in full. Since the phone doesn’t support multitouch, you have to use on-screen zoom buttons to focus on specific areas of the page.
Flash 10 isn’t supported yet, but Adobe has announced that it will be bringing it to the Android operating system in the future.
Like Apple, RIM, and Palm, Google has its own application store, called the Android Market. You can download applications right from your handset, and then rate or write comments about them. Currently, there are over 6,000 applications available in the Android Market, and T-Mobile says that it will provide “App packs” that recommend applications to new myTouch 3G users. Some of our favorite Android applications include the Pop Pop Popcorn game, Last.FM (pictured), and Google Voice. (For more apps, check out our reviews.)
Aside from the freebies, paid apps (most of which cost 99 cents to three dollars) are purchased using Google Checkout, which is linked to your Google Account. Google Checkout accepts Amex, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa. T-Mobile has also stated that it plans to allow direct-to-bill purchases for apps in the future. While the Android Market isn’t as easy to use as Apple’s App Store, the fact that Facebook will soon be coming to Android phones is a sign that the platform is gaining momentum.
The myTouch 3G can support microSD Cards up to 16GB (it comes with a 4GB microSD Card), so you’ll have plenty of room to store movies and music on the phone. You can insert the microSD Card by opening the back cover; we appreciated not having to remove the battery.
Android also comes with a preinstalled YouTube application for watching videos on the go. We streamed an Eric Church track and found the audio quality to be very good without any interruptions. Over the 3G network, a video of Tony Hawk performing a 900-degree spin in the X-Games streamed without a hitch; we appreciated that the YouTube application defaulted to landscape mode.
The myTouch 3G comes with its own set of headphones; while they’re not the most comfortable earbuds we’ve tested, they’re good enough for listening to tunes. You can use your own headphones with the included 3.5mm adapter.
GPS, Search, and Maps
The myTouch 3G comes preloaded with Google Maps; the app found our location in about 15 seconds and was able to route us to a destination on the other side of town in three seconds. While you can use it to find turn-by-turn directions and to identify traffic patterns, it doesn’t offer voice guidance for road trips.
If you want a more robust turn-by-turn experience, we recommend TeleNav for Android, which costs $9.99 per month and features a 10 million POI database, traffic updates, and speech recognition. Google also includes the Latitude feature, which you can use to pinpoint the location of your friends should they decide to make their location public.
Like the G1, the myTouch 3G has a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus. Day shots and photos taken around our office were good; pictures of skyscrapers showed nice contrast against a blue sky. Images weren’t very sharp, though, so text was hard to read on pictures taken of signs across the street. The myTouch 3G’s camera lacks a flash, so shots taken at night didn’t come out at all.
The myTouch 3G’s camera isn’t suited for spur-of-the-moment photography. There isn’t a dedicated camera button, so you have to unlock the phone, and then launch the app to take a picture; we weren’t able to map a button for the camera. Furthermore, the autofocus takes about 1 to 2 seconds to adjust, so the moment may have already passed by the time the myTouch 3G is ready to take a shot. You can’t turn off autofocus.
You can also record 640 x 480 resolution videos at 15 frames per second. Video quality was a little grainy and white colors were blown out, but the footage is YouTube worthy. Plus, you can use a cool application like Qik (an app you won’t find in Apple’s store) to stream video to the Web.
Call Quality and Battery Life
Reception during our tests wasn’t the best. In our New York City office we found that the myTouch 3G fluctuated between 0 and 3 bars where the G1 typically had a steady signal. Outdoors, our reception and call quality improved. We were able to hear our caller loud and clear, and they said we sounded excellent.
We also left a test voicemail message on a landline. We were able to make out our message perfectly, but we noticed that background noises came through with equal clarity. We could easily hear horns in the background, along with a light, passing breeze.
The myTouch 3G offered good battery life, thanks to a larger capacity battery than the T-Mobile G1 (1340 mAh vs. 1150 mAh). We were able to go through two days surfing the Web, making phone calls, chatting, and playing games during our commute before needing to recharge the phone. While you’ll want to bring your charger along for a weekend trip, the endurance is better than what the G1 offers.
The $199 myTouch 3G is a svelte and well-rounded smart phone, and it’s a very good choice for T-Mobile customers. However, while the virtual keyboard on the myTouch 3G is good, it’s not as easy to use as an iPhone. And although there are a lot more applications in the Android Market now, including some you won’t find in Apple’s storefront, the App Store still has ten times the selection. Nevertheless, if you’re choosing between the myTouch 3G and the G1, we think you’ll enjoy the sleeker design, personalization options, and longer battery life offered by the myTouch 3G.