The myTouch 4G joins the T-Mobile G2 as the second Android phone in the carrier's lineup to boast 4G-like data speeds, but in almost every other way they're different. While the G2 is all about Google's services and features a physical keyboard, the myTouch 4G aims to be a softer, gentler superphone with a bunch of fun color options and an extensive setup wizard to help get users started. This is also the first handset in T-Mobile's lineup to feature a mobile hotspot app and a front-facing camera, designed to attract family members that want to keep in touch. But is the 4G part of this device's name all that it's cracked up to be, and how does the device stack up to the Samsung Vibrant? Our full review reveals all.
If you think most smart phones look the same--and you're right--you'll be psyched to get a myTouch 4G in your hands. This device comes in black as well as plum, red, and white. Our white unit had a black front with solid-feeling glossy white plastic around the edges. This treatment continues on the back, where you'll also find a sturdy aluminum battery cover with a subtle dotted pattern that complements the white well. Although the 5-ounce myTouch 4G is heavier than the Samsung Vibrant (4.2 ounces), this device feels more like a premium smart phone, and we didn't mind the extra heft. However, you give up a little screen real estate (3.8 inches vs 4 inches).
The front of the myTouch 4G features four physical buttons--home, menu, back, and a Genius button for voice commands. These buttons are narrow but provide satisfying feedback. However, some may lament the lack of a dedicated search button. There's also a mostly useless trackpad on the front if you don't feel like navigating with the touchscreen.
The top of the phone has a sleep/power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the left side has a volume rocker and a microUSB/charging port. The right side has a camera button.
The myTouch 4G sports a 3.8-inch WVGA screen that displays pictures, text, and video clearly and accurately at a moderate brightness. It's quite good, but not as stunning as Samsung Vibrant's 4-inch Super AMOLED display, which really pops unlike any other T-Mobile smart phone.
The myTouch 4G has three virtual keyboards--stock Android, Dragon Dictation (pictured), and Swype.
Typing with all three on the myTouch's capacitive screen provided quick and mostly accurate input. The stock Android keyboard works fine and offers the best text prediction, but we wish the layout had shortcut keys for things such as ".com". Swype is good for people who like sliding their thumb around the screen to make words, and can be very fast for input once you know how to use it.
The Dragon Dictation keyboard has a full keyboard and a button under it so the user can tap to speak words. The keyboard looks much like the standard Android one, but it takes up more room because of the long "Tap to speak" button at the bottom. The dictation was accurate, and very little needed to be changed in order to send messages.
The myTouch 4G runs Android 2.2 with a customized, super-friendly interface. Some might call it dumbed-down Android, but if HTC and T-Mobile's intent is to make the experience simple and accessible, they've done it. The main home screen has a silver bar that has access to the dialer, a pop-up for all applications, and Faves, which are designated contacts who you want to be able to send messages or call quickly.
By default, there are only five home screens to play with, but you can opt for seven by changing the Personalize settings. Plus, you get helpful HTC widgets right out of the box, including FriendStream for keeping tabs on social networking updates, a Mail widget for seeing your inbox at a glance, and an agenda widget (pictured).
Also in line with simplicity, T-Mobile touts Dragon Dictation as a major feature on this phone.
Users can hold down the genius button on the front of the device at any time to say a command. You can call a person, send a text or e-mail, perform a web search, or find a local business. When you launch a text message or e-mail by using your voice, you can use Dragon Dictation on that screen.
Specs and Performance
With its 1-GHz Snapdragon processor and 768MB of RAM, the myTouch 4G offers great performance for everyday tasks and processing large amounts of data. The interface moved fluidly with little slowdown, and apps started with little or no delay. The phone comes with an 8GB microSD card, expandable to 32GB.
The myTouch 4G beat the T-Mobile G2 in every single benchmark test we ran. However, it's not quite as speedy as the Samsung Vibrant, which offered better graphics performance.
Web and HSPA+ Data
When using HSPA+, which T-Mobile brands as 4G, websites loaded quickly. At an optimal testing site picked by T-Mobile (41st Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan), we saw consistent 1.5 Mbps downloads and 1.3 Mbps upload speeds using the Speedtest.net app. That's better than many smart phones and comparable to the HSPA+-enabled T-Mobile G2, which saw download speeds from 1.8 to 3.1 Mbps and uploads in the 1.3 Mbps range.
While testing at this same site, Laptopmag.com's full desktop site loaded in 13 seconds, while the CNN.com and NYTimes.com mobile sites both loaded in 5 seconds. By comparison, the T-Mobile G2 loaded Laptopmag.com in 8 seconds and CNN.com in 4 seconds.
Unfortunately, T-Mobile's 4G coverage was spotty at times. For example, the phone got stuck on the carrier's slower EDGE network in our midtown Manhattan office and on sections of the NJ Turnpike. In these locations, mobile sites took 20 seconds or longer to load.
Unlike other T-Mobile smart phones, the myTouch 4G can also be used to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, good for those who want to connect their laptops or other devices. T-Mobile charges $15 for the service. In our tests in both New York City and New Jersey, we saw a download average of 2.3 Mbps and 1.2 uploads. Download speeds reached as high as 5.2 Mbps in other locations. When humming along on HSPA+, our laptop downloaded full desktop versions of ESPN.com, Laptopmag.com, and NYTimes.com in 7 to 8 seconds. That's fast.
T-Mobile bundles two apps to take advantage of the myTouch 4G's front-facing VGA camera, Qik and Yahoo Messenger. We tested Qik by making a call from one myTouch 4G to another over Wi-Fi, but the video was choppy and the volume was often too low. Qik says an update to the service that will improve connections (and include interoperability between the myTouch 4G, Evo 4G, and Epic 4G) will be available Nov. 3.
Next we tried Yahoo Messenger (pictured above). We couldn't see a way to video-call our contact, but we were able to accept a video call from her. However, over Wi-Fi the picture was very pixilated and the audio was out of sync with the video. We also tried to use Fring video chat, but the app wouldn't recognize the front-facing camera.
Overall, it's nice that the myTouch 4G has a front-facing camera, but right now the quality pales in comparison to Apple's FaceTime.
As the myTouch 4G is made by HTC, it comes with excellent HTC widgets such as Calendar, Clock, Weather, and more. Also onboard is T-Mobile's myModes, an interesting app that turns on and off certain features depending on where you're using the phone. For example, the KidZone mode disables messaging, the dialer, and e-mail notifications to "let the kids play" and a Home mode turns e-mail notifications off to "help you focus on family."
T-Mobile TV, which is basically MobiTV, costs $9.99 a month but streams live and on demand content from Disney, ESPN, and others. T-Mobile also includes demos for Asphalt 5, Monopoly, and Rock Band.
T-Mobile has worked with Twonky to develop a DLNA client for the myTouch 4G that allows users to stream photos, music, and videos from the myTouch 4G to a compatible TV or set-top box over Wi-Fi. During a demo, the carrier showed us how simple it was to connect to a nearby HDTV to share an HD video captured with the phone. You can even stream YouTube videos. Unfortunately, only newer TVs have built-in Wi-Fi connections.
E-mail and Messaging
It's best to have a Gmail account to get the most out of the myTouch 4G, but it does support Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, Yahoo, or any other POP3/IMAP account. E-mails and texts are threaded for easy organization, and having the virtual Faves button on the main home screen makes it super easy to send a text or e-mail to close family members or friends.
Camera and Camcorder
The myTouch offers a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash on the back and a front-facing VGA camera. The 5-megapixel shooter delivered satisfying outdoor shots, but had trouble in dimly lit conditions. An outdoor shot of a fruit stand on a cloudy day captured nice color and depth.
The phone's camera can also shoot high-def video at resolutions up to 720p (1280 x 720). HD videos generally looked a little jerky but had good detail.
Music and Media
The myTouch 4G is a fine media device, and we like that the Media Room app combines music, videos, T-Mobile TV, FM Radio, and Slacker under one umbrella. Music sounded good through a pair of standard headphones. But like other Android phones, there isn't an easy way out of the box to sync media on your computer. Our recommendation is to download the doubleTwist app from the Android Market and the corresponding program for your PC or Mac for easy syncing of music, videos, and photos.
Call Quality and Battery Life
When using the myTouch 4G to make calls, recipients sounded full, if a bit fuzzy. People on the other end said we sounded almost as if we were in the same room. However, voice calls through the speaker were poor--voices sounded like they were coming from an AM radio transmission.
The myTouch 4G offers the ability to make calls over Wi-Fi networks, which comes in handy when making calls at home, in the office, or another location where cell reception might be weak.
Battery life on the myTouch was fairly strong. The device lasted a full work day on a charge, starting at 8 a.m. and letting up around 8 p.m. with moderate web use, talking, checking Tweetdeck, and playing Angry Birds.
Pricing and Value
T-Mobile currently offers two tiers of data plans. For $10 per month, you get 200MB of data, while the unlimited plan costs $30 per month. (T-Mobile claims it starts throttling data speeds once you go past 5GB.) The Wi-Fi Sharing service plan, which enables the myTouch 4G to serve as a wireless modem, costs an additional $15 per month.
T-Mobile has just made it harder for its customers to choose a new smart phone--in a good way. Not only does the T-Mobile 4G offer a slick (albeit hefty) design, but it has fast HSPA+ speeds and strong overall performance. Users looking for a lighter device and a brighter display should pick up the Samsung Vibrant, although it lacks 4G speeds, while those who prefer a physical keyboard should opt for the G2. However, neither of those devices feature a front-facing camera or hotspot capability. We'd like to see the quality of Qik and Yahoo video chats improve, but overall the myTouch 4G is an excellent smart phone.