The myTouch 3G Slide wasn’t designed to go head-to-head against big-screen superphones like the HTC Droid Incredible or Evo 4G. But what it lacks in visual real estate and sheer horsepower, T-Mobile’s latest Android device makes up for in intelligence. This slider helps you keep in touch with your favorite people (and see their latest social networking updates), and you can literally change the phone’s personality from work to play mode based on your location or time of day. Plus, a Genius button makes it easy to search the web, dial out, and find local businesses with your voice. Throw in one of the better physical keyboards we’ve used and you have a solid Android phone.
Available in black, white, and red, the myTouch 3G Slide cuts a silhouette similar to the myTouch 3G, but its long edges are straighter, lending its 4.6 x 2.4 x 0.6-inch shape a more rectangular appearance than its ellipsoidal predecessor. At 5.8 ounces, it’s 0.2 ounces heavier than the LG Ally yet lighter than the 6-ounce Motorola Droid. Thanks to the thickness of its QWERTY keyboard (more than twice the girth of the display), we immediately felt some heft when we palmed the handset, but it never affected the phone’s balance in our hands or weighed down our pockets.
Below the 3.4-inch display is an optical trackpad flanked by the standard Android Home, Menu, and Back hardware buttons. The Search button that’s also standard on all Android phones is called the Genius Button on the myTouch 3G Slide, and it replaces the icon of a magnifying glass with a green lower-case G (more on its function later). Though the trackpad’s area is much smaller than that of the Motorola Cliq, it was highly responsive, and we could use longer strokes to scroll farther despite its size.
The myTouch 3G Slide has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top rim, a feature the original myTouch 3G conspicuously lacked. About an inch to the left rests an on/off/sleep/wake button and down the left side is a volume rocker. Along the right is a dedicated camera button, and the bottom edge contains a microUSB port. On the top edge of the back face is a 5-megapixel camera with LED-flash and a tiny but somewhat powerful speaker.
A pair of earphones (your choice of rubber or foam covers), a microUSB cord, an 8GB SD Card, and a charging adapter are also included in the box.
Touchscreen and Display
The myTouch 3G Slide’s 3.4-inch display is 0.2 inches bigger than both the original myTouch 3G and the LG Ally, but at 480 x 320 pixels, it delivers less detail than the 800 x 480-pixel Ally. Even so, the included wallpapers looked lush on the screen; Google Maps popped with color, while street name lettering was crisp and clear.
The response of the capacitive touch-enabled display felt laser accurate. Multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom worked smoothly in the web browser, Google Maps, and on the home screen (which you can pinch to see all your home screens at once). Clicking even the tiniest of links while zoomed out in the web browser worked on the first try.
When you name a phone after its slide-out keyboard, said input should be a standout feature. Luckily, the myTouch 3G Slide hits the sweet spot. The keyboard is divided into four luxuriously-spaced horizontal rows and, though the sliding mechanism sounds a bit rough and stutters when it hits full close and open, we think it’s sturdy and comfortable. Unlike the LG Ally, also an Android QWERTY slider, it packs a dedicated @ sign, dual Shift and Function keys, and alternatives to the standard Android Home, Search, Menu, and Back buttons.
The raised keys have slightly rounded surfaces and a firm click that makes for confident and rapid tapping. Unlike the Motorola Droid, where our thumbs jutted into the bottom edge of the display whenever we pressed buttons along the top row, the Slide offers plenty of extra room to maneuver.
There’s still room for improvement: the Menu and Search keys are on the bottom left, but the Home button is positioned as an ESC key in the top-left, and the Back button is along the bottom right. We’d prefer that these buttons be closer together. In other cases, the labels are plum confusing: numbers are alternative keys along the keyboard’s top row, but they’re printed as large as the letters, so the last two buttons along the row are labeled “O 9” and “P 0”. We often hit P to get an O and 9 to get a 0.
The hard keyboard is still superior to the on-screen option. Though the touch response was accurate keys are too small and close together in portrait mode. In landscape mode, the space bar is shoved to the bottom right of the layout, which is awkward. The silver lining is that T-Mobile and HTC are shipping the myTouch 3G Slide with an option to use Swype, a touch keyboard that works by dragging your finger across the keyboard rather than lifting them to press each button. It worked fine when we traced “weather” to enter “www.weather.com” but returned “computing” when we swiped laptopmag.
HTC Sense/T-Mobile Tweaks
HTC Sense is a user interface skin that sits on top of the Android operating system, smoothing out some of the OS’s harsher corners. We like the updated version on the myTouch 3G Slide for a few reasons: First, it gives users more control. For instance, you can add two more home screens (for a total of 7) in the Personalize menu; if you want to see thumbnails of all your home screens at once, you can pinch to pull up that view. The notification area, a drop-down menu of email, text, call, and download alerts (pictured), now contains a list of recently opened apps. We also like that when connected to your PC via USB, the myTouch 3G allows you to choose between syncing media with auto-installable doubleTwist sync software, moving files between the computer and phone manually, powering up the battery faster by charging the device without sync distractions, or a combination of syncing and charging.
Like Motorola’s Motoblur UI for the Devour and Cliq phones, T-Mobile also has its own take on social networking. With the Faves Gallery app (pictured below) on the myTouch 3G Slide, we were able to add up to 20 contacts to a playful rotating 3D wall, where we could quickly see email, text, and Facebook status updates from them. Here you’ll also see icons to call, text, email, or send photos to contacts. Faves Gallery is convenient for connecting to your most contacted buddies and family, but it’s not as socially robust as Motoblur: it doesn’t support Twitter; you can’t view recent e-mails without launching the Gmail app; and you can’t respond to Facebook status updates or see a history of your contact’s updates.
HTC adds its own social networking app, too: Friendstream (pictured below) aggregates your friends’ updates from Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr and allows you to select status updates, or updates with photos or links. Posting your own updates is a cakewalk, but there’s no way to share photos. For that, you’ll need to install Twidord or the Facebook app.
Ultimately, both Faves Gallery and Friendstream work fairly well, but it would have been great to see HTC and T-Mobile combine them into a single app, more akin to Motoblur’s Happenings widget, which centralizes updates from even more social networks like Picasa, MySpace and Photobucket.
Vaguely reminiscent of the Nokia E71’s work and play profiles, T-Mobile’s MyModes (pictured below) lets you customize and save device settings, UI appearances, and home screen arrangements under different user-defined modes. In our “work” mode, we placed our favorite note-taking app, Note Everything, on the myTouch 3G Slide’s primary home screen and set our ring and notification alerts to vibrate. In “home” mode, we set the FriendStream widget front and center along with other fun apps like Shazam for ID’ing tunes and our favorite accelerometer-based Android game, World Attack. The MyTouch 3G can launch into a particular mode based on GPS locations or at scheduled times you specify. T-Mobile says this feature can support up to 10 profiles, but we created 22 modes without hitting the limit.
The green G button on the myTouch 3G Slide that replaces the standard Android search key launches voice recognition software powered by Dragon Dictation. This handy feature lets you search the web, find local businesses, navigate to an address, and call, e-mail or text your contacts by speaking into the phone. It’s fun to use, but not perfect.
To send a text message, you speak the words “Send a text,” followed by the contact’s name and the message. Once you’re finished speaking, the MyTouch 3G Slide displays the text of your spoken message, as best as it can translate. Saying the contact’s full name is absolutely necessary, and the app can’t parse your words for punctuation, so you’ll need to add periods to longer messages. Also, it’s not completely accurate—not by a long shot. Misheard words are fairly common: We jokingly called our friend a “jerk” in a text message and the phone interpreted it as “church.” So, proofreading is a must.
The Genius Button was also useful for searching the web and local businesses. We spoke “Find Subway restaurant” and 7 or 8 stores appeared near our location on 41st St. and 6th Ave. When we selected the closest franchise, a tabbed page displayed with options to view our destination in Google Maps, open up navigation directions to walk, drive, or take the bus, read business reviews, see important details, and view the storefront in Google Street View. We had our lunch of champions—a $5 Footlong—in no time.
The myTouch 3G Slide packs a 600-MHz ARM CPU, 512MB RAM, and 512MB ROM, much beefier than the slow-footed myTouch 3G’s 528-MHz CPU and diminutive 192MB of RAM. There was little to no interface lag as we swiped through home screens, launched the World Attacks game, downloaded new Gmail messages, refreshed Friendstream updates, or wandered Brooklyn with Google Maps. Pinch-zooming in the latter worked smoothly and paused only when our GPS connection dipped out.
T-Mobile helps cut through the clutter of the Android Market by recommending apps in the T-Mobile App Pack. Open this tool in the app menu and you’ll find suggested downloads sorted into categories like Fitness, Entertainment, and News. We liked that the music concert tracker Gigabox was included in the music category, but other selections, like the geography trivia game Brain Cafe found under News, were a little puzzling. Generally speaking, the App Pack is still a good introduction to the customization apps can bring to the device.
Experienced Android fans will appreciate familiar pre-installed apps like QuickOffice for opening Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and the Amazon MP3 Store app for buying and downloading tunes. T-Mobile also bundles myTouch Music for streaming Top 100 music and the News app for reading the latest world happenings from CNN, ESPN, the BBC and more.
T-Mobile offers nationwide 3G service in the form of its 7.2 HSPA network, but it’s also rolling out faster HSPA+ technology, which as of May 2010 was active in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Long Island. While the myTouch 3G Slide doesn’t have built-in support for HSPA+, T-Mobile says that users will see increased speeds in these areas. We notched decent page load times in the Android browser. The mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 5 and 6 seconds, respectively. Laptopmag.com, a full website, loaded in 14 seconds, which is relatively good. Download times over Wi-Fi were faster: Laptopmag.com loaded in 7 seconds, and the full versions of the New York Times and ESPN.com loaded in 12 and 13 seconds. Using 3G in Bryant Park, we downloaded the 1.32MB Dolphin web browser from the Android Market in a speedy two seconds.
Too bad that level of connectivity wasn’t comprehensive. Signals inside our midtown office building always faded to T-Mobile’s older, slower EDGE network. We tested signal strength with an Android app developed by SpeedTest.Net and found that outdoor speeds ranged from 634 to 834 KBps on the download and 496 to 732 KBps while uploading, all comfortable results. When we tested the data connection in our office, the results were far less peppy: 37 to 152 Kbps for the download test and 4 to 21 KBps for the upload, in other words, painfully slow.
Google Navigation is included on this Android 2.1 phone, which features free turn-by-turn GPS voice directions. We used the app to travel between two coffee shops in Brooklyn; it placed us a few avenues off the mark at first, but activating the Slide’s GPS radio in the phone’s settings fixed our position exactly. It was so accurate the directional GPS cursor reflected our baby-step turns the moment we made them. It took just one or two seconds for Google Maps to display search results and offer walking, driving, or public transportation directions, listed the turn-by-turn instructions and overlaid the route on Google Maps.
Camera and Camcorder
The 5-MP camera on the myTouch 3G Slide comes with auto-focus, a bright LED flash, and ample settings for adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. Outdoor pictures of a basketball court we took on a cloudy day were hazy and way too bright. Then we decreased the exposure, and though the shot was still grainy and lacking in detail, it was no longer washed out. Our indoor shots of flowers also looked flat and bland. We’re not too impressed with the quality of the camera.
Video recorded at 640 x 480 resolution and 15 frames per second. The microphone picked up audio clearly, and the video was fairly smooth, but like the still images, the footage wasn’t crisp or vibrant.
Battery Life and Call Quality
Call quality on the myTouch 3G Slide was mostly clear. During tests, callers reported no problems in hearing our voice and we detected none in hearing them either. While loud, the speakerphone sounded a bit harsh.
The myTouch 3G Slide is rated for 7.5 hours talk time, and lasted 4 hours and 40 minutes on our LAPTOP battery test (continuous Web surfing via 3G with Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth turned off). That runtime is 1:10 longer than the LG Ally. Anecdotally, activating the GPS radio and surfing the web for a straight hour dropped the juice from 50 to 30 percent. But even when the battery was below 25 percent, it survived two 45-minute phone calls and intermittent web use before tanking.
The myTouch 3G Slide is available for $179 with a two-year contract, after a $50 mail-in rebate card. An Even More plan, which includes 500 minutes and unlimited text and web, costs $79.99 per month. T-Mobile also offers the device at full retail value, $429, if you purchase a contract-free Even More Plus plan. This option gives you the same amount of voice and data for $20 a month less than the contracted service plan, which would save you $220 over a two-year period.
Between myModes for task-based customization, social networking with Faves Gallery and Friendstream, and the handy Genius button, T-Mobile brings a lot of handy features to the table with the myTouch 3G Slide. While similarly priced phones, such as the Nexus One and the Evo 4G offer more power, the Slide makes Android phones more approachable. The Motorola Cliq with Motoblur ($149) does a better job integrating social networking, but it runs an older version of Android and isn’t as fast. If you’re in the market for an easy-to-use Android phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, the myTouch 3G Slide won’t disappoint.