Budget Android phones are a dime a dozen these days, which means it takes a lot for a budget-friendly Android phone to stand out from the crowd. T-Mobile's myTouch is attempting to do just that, thanks to its 4G speeds and easy-on-the-wallet $49.99 price tag. But with a 1.4-GHz single-core processor and aging Google Android Gingerbread operating system, you barely get what you pay for.
Unlike its bulky keyboard-equipped sibling, the myTouch Q, the myTouch is a relatively svelte budget phone. At 4.8 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches and weighing 4.9 ounces, the myTouch drastically undercuts the bulky myTouch Q (4.9 x 2.5 x 0.6 inches and 6.8 ounces), measuring up nicely with the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G (4.8 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches and 4.4 ounces).
Keyboard notwithstanding, the myTouch is a dead-ringer for the larger myTouch Q.
Both phones share the same 4-inch display surrounded by a glossy black bezel that is offset by a gray chin piece and edges. Sandwiched between the myTouch's stylish silver earpiece sits T-Mobile's gray "myTouch" logo. To the right, you'll notice the phone's 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera, a new addition to the myTouch Q line. Below the display is a full complement of capacitive Android buttons, as well as the myTouch's signature Genius voice-control button.
On the right side of the phone is its physical camera button, a welcome element that many manufacturers eschew in favor of a virtual button. The left side features the myTouch's volume rocker, while its bottom edge plays host to the phone's microUSB port. Along the top edge you'll find both the myTouch's power button and 3.5mm jack. Around back, the myTouch is covered in a rubberized soft-touch material. At the top of the myTouch's back panel is its 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, to the left is its external speaker cover.
The myTouch's 4-inch 800 x 480 WVGA display proved exceptionally bright at 327 lux. That's higher than the category average of 297 lux, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G's 231 lux rating. Brightness, however, doesn't translate into a sharp image. While watching a 1080p trailer for "Looper," we noticed objects become pixilated. Night shots also looked muddled, with colors blending together. Websites such as ESPN, NYTimes.com and laptopmag.com offered clear, easy to read text; however, the edges of many images were pixilated.
Audio from the myTouch's speaker was loud enough to fill a small room, and most music we listened to sounded clear. We did, however, notice that bass hits were imperceptible, especially when listening to French Montana's "Pop That." We also noted a significant amount of distortion when we cranked the volume up all the way.
In addition to the standard Android virtual keyboard, the myTouch comes loaded with the Swype keyboard . Both keyboards proved accurate; although Swype was the clear favorite due to its easy text input. Dragging our fingers across letters was simple and we rarely noticed an instance when the keyboard's predictive text feature was off. We did notice an occasional lag while typing, but those incidents were generally few and far between.
Software and Interface
The myTouch runs on Google's aging Android Gingerbread 2.3.6, which may be a turnoff for some potential customers. In general, the interface is fairly standard. You get the usual five home screens, as well as a host of on-screen widgets, including AccuWeather.com, T-Mobile Bonus Apps and T-Mobile Highlight, from which you can access RSS feeds from CNN, NBCNews, E! Online, check Facebook and Twitter and access your voicemail. The only major alteration made to this iteration of Android is its custom lock screen, which lets you swipe to unlock, open the camera app, check your call log or read text messages.
T-Mobile has loaded the myTouch with a slew of its own proprietary software, including T-Mobile TV, which lets you stream live TV and on-demand shows; More for Me, which gives you access to location-based deals, and T-Mobile Mall for downloading ring tones and apps. Feel like playing a game? Game Base by T-Mobile lets you access a huge amount of top games such as "The Sims 3," "Need for Speed" and "Plants vs. Zombies."
Third-party apps include the business-friendly Documents to Go, Monopoly Classic, NetFlix, Slacker Radio, TeleNav GPS Navigator, Facebook, Twitter, Zinio, Lookout Security, WildTangent and the ever popular Words with Friends.
The myTouch's standout feature is its Genius button. Powered by Dragon by Nuance, the Genius button allows users to take control of the phone's various features via voice command. Want to send a text message or open an app? Press the Genius button and tell the phone what you want it to do. The first time you open the app, you'll be greeted by a quick tutorial explaining how you should phrase your commands. If you want to search the Web for information on the Olympics, for example, you can say, "Search the Web for the Olympics," and Genius will go to work.
Search results are provided via a tabbed list of Web pages. When we searched for the Olympics, Genius brought up the Google search page for Olympics, as well as anything having to do with the games on Twitter, YouTube and Google News. Similarly, when we searched for a steakhouse, Genius immediately opened to Yelp or OpenTable where we could see restaurant reviews and make reservations.
With a 1.4-GHz single-core Qualcomm processor and 1GB of RAM, the T-Mobile myTouch is easily capable of handling everyday tasks and even some light gaming without issue. At one point we were listening to Spotify, while surfing the Web and downloading an app and didn't experience any slowdown. We did notice an occasional hiccup when changing between portrait and landscape orientation, but nothing that didn't clear up in a second.
On the CPU Benchmark, which measures a smartphone's CPU performance, the myTouch scored a 2,931. Surprisingly, that's better than the 2,576 scored by the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze, which features a 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM. The myTouch also buried the category average of 2,687.
On the An3DBench benchmark, which tests a systems graphics performance, the myTouch scored a 7,397, far ahead of the Galaxy S Blaze 4G's 7,017, as well as the category average of 7,141.
Web Browsing and 4G
The myTouch doesn't run on T-Mobile's top dog HSPA+42 network, but instead gets its Web access from the carrier's older and less speedy HSPA+21 network. When we put myTouch's Web speeds to the test on the Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of 5.61 Mbps and upload speeds of 1.24 Mbps. T-Mobile's theoretical download speeds are rated at 14.4 Mbps.
During our real-world tests it took ESPN's mobile site took an average of 7.7 seconds to load, while NYTimes.com's mobile site took 6.1 seconds. The image-heavy laptopmag.com desktop site took 12.8 seconds to load.
Camera and Camcorder
Photos we shot using the myTouch's 5-megapixel were clear and offered vivid colors. In a photo shot on the roof of our New York office, we could easily make out individual bricks on the side of a building off in the distance. The gentle color transition from white to gray of approaching rain clouds was clearly visible. Video shot with the rear-facing camera was also clean; although it wasn't too facile with capturing fast-moving objects.
On the LAPTOP Battery Test, which includes continuous Web surfing over 4G with the phone's display set to 40 percent, the myTouch and its 1500 mAh battery lasted a strong 6 hours and 26 minutes. That's longer than the category average of 5 hours and 59 minutes.
Interestingly, the myTouch also outlasted the bulkier myTouch Q, which ran for just 5 hours and 42 minutes. Still, the myTouch fell well short of the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G's epic time of 7 hours and 11 minutes.
Both cellphone and landline-based callers had difficulty hearing us when calling from the myTouch. One cellphone caller said the myTouch sounded muffled and slightly low.
During one particular call, the myTouch developed a harsh static feedback on our end of the line. We hung up on the caller and called them back to see if it was a problem with the connection, but the feedback was still there. Our calls didn't clear up until we restarted the phone.
T-Mobile's myTouch is a good deal at $49.99 with a two-year contract, and offers above-average performance coupled with an exceptional battery life. Unfortunately, the myTouch's aging operating system, weak display and awful call quality are flaws that can't be overlooked, particularly when you can get the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G with a two-year T-Mobile contract for free. Still, for just shy of $50, the myTouch is certainly worth your consideration.