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Summary:

Two years after the original G1 handset, T-Mobile’s G2 improves in every way: from the newest version of Google Android to a high resolution touchscreen and an extremely usable slide-out QWERTY keyboard. At $199 and with support for T-Mobile’s fast 3G network, the G2 is excellent.

G2-landscape-2

Has it really been two years since the original G1 handset launched on T-Mobile’s network, beginning Google’s entry into the smartphone race? Indeed it has, and now a successor is born in the $199 G2, which improves in every conceivable way over the G1. Like its predecessor, the HTC-built G2 provides a full, QWERTY keyboard, but also brings the remaining hardware up to par, or better, than most Android devices of today. The Super-LCD display is usable in the sunlight; the phone runs Android 2.2; the camera supports high-definition video recording; and the handset can use T-Mobile’s speedy HSPA+ network for fast mobile broadband.

Unlike many competing Android handsets, the G2 uses a standard Android interface, which has plusses and minuses. The native interface of Android 2.2 is quite usable, and the lack of any customization could mean future operating system upgrades will appear quicker.

However, some smartphone owners like myself enjoy modifying Android with custom ROMs and interfaces such as HTC’s own Sense interface. For the moment, that’s not an option on the G2, as it contains hardware that restores the original settings if the phone is rooted. For most, however, the stock Android interface and seven home screens on the G2 will more than suffice.

Stock software. Although generally considered a “stock” interface, T-Mobile opted to pre-install many Google apps on the G2. Goggles, Finance, Listen, Sky and several other apps come with the device and can’t be removed. It’s a minor issue, as the device’s 4 GB of internal memory still leaves plenty of room for application installs, and shortcuts to these apps can be deleted from the home screens.

Google Voice is also pre-installed and, as one of the main draws of Android, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Additionally, Google Voice configuration is part of the device’s initial setup process, something I’d like to see included in future Android devices. Given the relative non-customized approach of the G2, there’s nothing terribly new in terms of software or user interface. However, the fact that the G2 ships with Froyo is a potential advantage over older devices that may still be waiting for the latest update of Android.

From a hardware perspective, the G2 has several stand-out features: high-definition video recording with the 5-megapixel camera, a new Qualcomm processor, support for T-Mobile’s upgraded 3G network and a unique sliding mechanism that reveals a full hardware keyboard.

Not a perfect picture. Still pictures with the G2 are acceptable, but not stellar. The camera software supports autofocus and a few basic user-configurable settings, but doesn’t offer advanced options. On occasion, I had to take multiple shots with the G2 because the white balance was skewed due to bright light. There’s no option to tap the display and assist the camera in such a situation. The 720p video recording is good, but not up to par with what I’ve seen on other devices currently available. The inclusion of a dedicated camera button is nice, however, and will start the camera software.

Peppy performance. Although the CPU is rated at 800 MHz, the G2 performs at least as well as my Nexus One, which uses a 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU. That’s likely due to an improved graphics chip in the G2, as well a next-generation CPU. The G2 offers a fluid experience with little to no lag, even when running several applications simultaneously. My take is that Qualcomm is offering a nice trade-off with this new CPU; it’s as fast as the original Snapdragon but may help in the battery life department. Indeed, I found that the G2, with its removable 1300 mAh battery, lasts longer than my Nexus One handset without sacrificing performance.

Voice and data: clear and fast. Speaking of performance, the G2’s radio package excels. Voice quality and signal strength are solid and if you use the G2 in an HSPA+ coverage area, you gain a nice bonus in the form of faster mobile broadband. I traveled just within the confines of an HSPA+ area near my home and ran several speed tests. In a best-case scenario, the G2 offered a download speed of 6.4 Mbps, upload speed of 1.3 Mbps and latency of 96 milliseconds. T-Mobile tells me that had I traveled deeper into the faster coverage zone, I likely would have experienced downloads in the 7 to 9 Mbps range.

Those numbers compare favorably with WiMAX speeds and the expected performance of Verizon’s coming-soon LTE network. Note that there are no extra charges for such speeds on T-Mobile’s network. Unfortunately, T-Mobile has removed Froyo’s Wi-Fi hotspot feature from the G2, so the device currently can’t be used to share data with other devices.

Amazing keyboard. While the original G1’s keyboard was lacking, the G2 makes up for it in a big way. The keys are well spaced, large enough for most fingers, backlit as needed and a joy to use. In addition to the standard QWERTY layout, the G2 has dedicated keys for the menu, search and a “.com / .www” button to help with web addresses. Three Quick Keys are also available on the bottom row, which can be customized to open an app. When using the hardware keyboard, the G2 automatically rotates the display into landscape mode, and that includes the home screens. I found that even with only a week of use, I can type faster with the hardware keyboard in landscape than the software input method in portrait. The sliding mechanism for the keyboard may be the best I’ve seen yet; have a look at it in the video overview above. An optical joypad and capacitive touch buttons complement the keyboard and touchscreen display.

Aside from a few minor annoyances, the G2 is a top-notch choice for T-Mobile customers seeking an Android handset. The support for faster mobile broadband speeds coupled with a peppy processor and fantastic keyboard make the G2 well worth the look, especially if you’re still toting the original G2 from two years ago. As I mention in the video overview, had I not paid $529 for my Nexus One in January, I’d likely be adding the G2 to my personal collection of handsets. I’ll have the review unit in-house for a few days yet, so if you have specific questions about the G2, drop them in the comments.

 

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  1. look nice. i may pick one up after the hacking community has broken through the hardware restore mechanism and his can be properly rooted.

    if unrootable i just do not think i could handle owning such a limited device.

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    1. Interesting. I know why I’d miss such hacking: I put custom ROMs on my Nexus One a few times a week. Not sure I’d call it “such a limited device” if I couldn’t do that, though. What are you using today and how often are you requiring root access? Don’t get me wrong: at a high level, I think consumers should generally be able to do what they want with these devices. Just curious.

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      1. Considering that I am a life long linux user, on my g1 all of the file manipulation was done through terminal, a good bit of hardware toggling was done through terminal, and timed sh scripts were ran through terminal. Overclocking, tethering, etc. So I would say more than multiple times per day I required root. The G2 anti-root chip would cut the functionality and usefulness of my phone in half.

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      2. currently i have a droid and an evo both on cricket and a handful of nokias and iphones that i use as WIFI only devices.

        i am what you might call a phone hobbyist. i grab whatever used phones i can get a deal on mostly just for the fun of playing around with custom ROMs and seeing what i can make them do over and beyond what was originally intended.

        i also earn a supplemental income assisting cricket stores with flashing over sprint and verizon phone to work on the cricket network. these days android phones are my specialty.

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      3. George and Tom – both of you have solid needs for the ability to root. Makes total sense to me. But I’m thinking the majority of consumers likely won’t be affected by such a limitation and any negative impact on G2 sales will be minimal at best. Having said that, I’m sticking with my Nexus One and the gazillion custom ROMs I have for now. ;)

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    2. VISIONary (rooting app) and Wireless Tether make a great combination (I’m using them now). VISIONary allows you to re-root at boot time with no need to re-remember what apps got root.

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  2. t-mobile killed it with the anti-root chip, I loved my g1, not because it had great specs, not because I prefer T-mobile, but because I could do whatever I wanted with it. Now that t-mobile has lowered their data cap to 5 GB and is installing anti-root chips, guess what t-mobile, you’ve lost another potential life long customer. …looks like you can flash a HTC EVO to work on cricket wireless…

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  3. Hey Kevin can you use the G2 in landscape without having the physical keyboard open? You stated that you didn’t enjoy typing on the touch screen keyboard in portrait but if you rotate the phone will the touch screen keyboard change to landscape?

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    1. I’ve used it in Gmail and in the browser, so yes, you can use the G2 in landscape mode without having the physical keyboard open, which is a nice option. Unfortunately, the home screen doesn’t auto-rotate unless the hardware keyboard is open – a minor thing, but would be nice if it did.

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      1. How about in text messages?

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      2. Yup, software keyboard works in landscape for text messages too.

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  4. The G2 seems like a cool phone, and in comparison to the Epic 4G which seems to be its only competitor at this point in QWERTY packin 4g Speed Android phones I don’t know that I’d take it over the Epic. One major drawback on the Epic is the $50 initial increased cost over the G2. Comparing the plans and the required Premium Data addon that Sprint needs for the Epic (450 mins, Any mobile any time, Unlimited text and data. $69 + $10 = $79) and the G2s (500 mins, Unlimted text and data $79) It really starts coming down to hardware. I prefer the Epics 4″ SAMOLED vs the 3.7″ SLCD. But I like T-Mobs HSPA+ network over Sprints Wimax network. The Epic has a 5 row keyboard, where the G2 has a 4 row keyboard. The Epic has a 16GB Micro SDHC card with it where the G2 has a 8GB. Front facing video chat camera vs None. Really the Epic is an overall better phone for only $50 more.

    Something else to point out. I have a Vibrant and running the Ookla Speedtest.net app on it the best I’ve pulled was a 5.71Mbps Down and a 1.75Mbps Up on the HSPA 7.2Mbps network here in Tukwila WA right outside downtown Seattle WA. My friend has an Epic that the best he could get is 7.6Mbps Down and 1.2Mbps Up on 4G. Then seeing that this G2 got a 6.4 Mbps Down & 1.3 Mbps Up makes me want to cry for the HSPA+ 21Mbps network. I dont think its getting high enough real world numbers. Although ALL of these numbers make me want to laugh when I did Speedtest on my wifes Samsung Transform and the best it was able to get on Sprints EVDO Rev A network was 850Kbps. I had no idea Sprints 3g was so slow.

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  5. VinylDestination Monday, October 18, 2010

    Great review. I am waiting for my G2 to arrive in the mail by Wednesday and becoming more excited as time passes. It seems that the reviews are positive, but I’m starting to think that I am missing out with all this “rooting” business that everyone keeps talking about. I

    I’ve never had an Android phone and coming from an unlocked first gen iPhone so I’m guessing that it’s like jailbreaking, which I’ve done before.

    Question for you… it seems like Android community is always buzzing with the next/future update and had heard so many complaints that such and such Android phone won’t update to this next version because of (blank)… I was hesitant to get the phone because I didn’t want to encounter missing out on a future update for whatever reason. What are your thoughts on that? The reason why I got it was… 1. I ended up getting the phone for such a great deal ($150) without extending my contract and 2. I can tether at higher speeds (coming from edge) when I need to.

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    1. “it seems like Android community is always buzzing with the next/future update and had heard so many complaints that such and such Android phone won’t update to this next version because of (blank)… I was hesitant to get the phone because I didn’t want to encounter missing out on a future update for whatever reason.”

      Theoretically, the G2 should see future Android updates sooner than other handsets because there’s no custom user interface that would need to be ported or tweaked with an updated version of Android. However, custom updates from the Android community are unlikely to make it to the G2 due to the hardware that currently prevents rooting.

      You mentioned that you can tether when needed, but remember that T-Mobile removed the Wi-Fi tether option from the G2. The company says it is looking into offering a tether feature for the G2 in the future.

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      1. vinyldestinaton555 Monday, October 18, 2010

        I had read that PDAnet for Mac works well. I have also been reading about the wifi tether… but to my surprise… I don’t mind doing it with PDAnet. And if they eventually do allow wifi tether, it would be the icing on the cake.

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  6. Does the G2 Have the capabilities of making a phone call from the bluetooth headset?

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    1. Indeed it does (at least on the headset I tried) and the device supports handsfree Google Voice Actions as well. See: http://www.google.com/mobile/voice-actions/

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  7. I hope it’s ok that I decided to stop reading this review when you called a 4 row keyboard a “full, QWERTY keyboard.” If it’s not 5 rows (with a number row) it’s not a full QWERTY keyboard.

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  8. onecallednick Monday, October 18, 2010

    These devices are merely pocket-sized computers with telephony baked in. I hope as they become more and more powerful it will be less and less ok to limit them in any manner. Carriers have proven again and again that they will make decisions that screw their customers if it’s good for their bottom line. I believe the FCC should make a rule restricting carriers from locking their phones the way the G2 has been locked.
    freemyphone.com is a good resource for people who want to make carriers keep their devices open.

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  9. I wish I was as rich as you guys, I have the G1 and I got a plan with it last year, so I could afford it but without it, it is 500$, and you need the 4G plan too. But dang what a nice phone!

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  10. Would I be able to download pdfs or word documents on the G2? And upload the same to send via email?
    How does the G2 performs with the MT4 for forex trading? Thanks

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    1. The G2 comes pre-loaded with QuickOffice, so PDFs and Word docs shouldn’t be a problem for reading or emailing. I have no knowledge of the trading system you mentioned, so I can’t comment on that.

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