Phone and Data
T-Mobile's HSDPA+ network rocks for us, and they're aggressively rolling out that 4G service across the US. Here in the DFW area, we got between 6 and 8.8Mbps download speeds according to Ookla's Speedtest application. That's very fast. Our Samsung Vibrant with HSDPA actually manages a very respectable 5.5-6.5Mbps download, so the G2 shows improvement but you won't suffer if you choose the Vibrant instead. On our WiFi 802.11n network, the HTC G2 managed 8.6Mbps for download speed, just slightly under our best 4G speed. Upload speeds are still significantly higher on WiFi, and averaged over 3Mbps while 4G and 3G both hovered around 1Mbps.
The G2 is a quad band GSM world phone that's locked to T-Mobile. It has 3G and 4G on T-Mobile's US 1700/2100MHz bands. It has the full suite of Google and phone tools for calling including Favorites (your favorite contacts in a separate tab for quick calling), Google voice command and dialing, speakerphone, Bluetooth headset and car kit compatibility, a large on-screen dialer and Google Voice support. There are no call send and end buttons-- call us old fashioned but we miss these on current touch screen phones, but there is a permanent control bar icon to open the dialer and the on-screen call end button is huge.
Speakerphone calls have average volume with distortion at max volume. The G2 can't beat the original Motorola Droid's incredible speaker nor the Vibrant's, but it's loud and clear enough to be heard in car. However, I wouldn't want to listen to music for an hour using the speaker. The ringer volume could be louder, and the T-Mobile jingle ringtone isn't loud enough to be heard in a big box store. Conversely, the phone's vibrate feature will tickle your funny bone and shake your purse.
Call quality on both ends is very good, with clear and natural voice. Volume is average and it's a bit louder than the Vibrant when using the earpiece rather than a headset (a stereo earbud headset is included in the box). Reception is acceptible but not impressive by any means. The Vibrant with the recent J16 firmware update has more stable reception, though they both manage to pull in similar -db's of signal strength. We did notice that both cellular and WiFi reception are degraded when the keyboard is deployed and our hands naturally covered the antenna area.
Thanks to fast 3G and 4G in our area, Google's Webkit web browser flies, with extremely fast download and rendering times. To sweeten the pot, Flash video is on board and we found its performance to be better than the Nexus One running Android OS 2.2 Froyo. Videos and Flash ads didn't bog down the browser and playback was smooth (see our video review). Google's Gmail and email applications are on board with support for POP3, IMAP and MS Exchange email. Since this is a vanilla Android phone, there are no 3rd party MS Exchange enhancements to further improve on syncing Exchange PIM data.
Performance and Software
We hope you love all things Google, because the T-Mobile G2 has every Google Android app known to man, woman and child. We won't list them all here, but you get the standard staples of Android goodness such as Gmail, Gtalk, Google Search, the Android Market, YouTube and Google Maps. You also get Google Goggles, Google Latitude, Google Voice, Google Earth, Google News, Amazon MP3 and more. Nope, you can't delete them. Yep, they're mostly useful and you can delete the application shortcuts that litter a page or two of the multi-page home screen.
T-Mobile went easy on the G2, not that they're prone to junking up phones with bloatware like some other carriers. There's Web2Go (really just a shortcut to the T-Mo portal), My Account and Photobucket. T-Mobile has unfortunately removed the native WiFi hotspot tethering application, and that means you won't be able to use the G2 has a wireless high speed hotspot-- bummer (T-Mobile is supposed to reinstate teh WiFi hotspot app in an OTA update). You can install non-market applications (hello AT&T!) and in general do whatever you wish with the T-Mobile G2. Rooting? Not so much right now. It seems that if you root the G2, it will restore its unrooted self after the next reboot. For those of you who don't even know what I'm talking about, that means you don't have to care. Root access allows for deeper hacking of the phone, it won't get you free calls to Australia or an early upgrade. That hidden restore partition uses up quite a bit of storage, and that's why you don't see 4 gigs of available storage. In fact, it's more like 1.2 gigs of available storage.
If you have a need for speed and think that the speedy 1GHz Hummingbird CPU in the Vibrant is ho-hum and that Porsches are just a little too slow, the 800MHz T-Mobile G2 will boost your octane. Despite the nominally lower clock speed, the HTC G2 is currently the fastest Android phone. The latest generation Qualcomm Snapdragon scored 1624 on the Quadrant benchmark, making it one of the fastest factory-fresh Android smartphones (tweaked, hacked and upgraded phones can do better, but we're talking stock phones). As of this writing, only the T-Mobile myTouch 4G (also made by HTC) with the same CPU but clocked up to 1GHz scores higher than the G2.
That's the G2 at the top of the Quadrant Benchmark list.
Softweg's Benchmark registered:
File system: 147.76
Some of this speed comes from Android OS 2.2, the fastest Android OS released yet, but you won't see these kinds of numbers unless the CPU and GPU are fast.
At release, there's been all sorts of wonders and grumbles about the G2's supposed 4 gigs of internal storage. Our unit, purchased from a store rather than sent by PR, show only 1.2 gigs of internal storage available. The OS, added software and reserved space use up some storage on any Android phone, but nearly 75% is unprecedented. We're awaiting HTC's word on this. As a consolation, T-Mobile includes an 8 gig microSD card pre-installed under the battery (not the best location).
T-Mobile's high end Android smartphones: the T-Mobile myTouch 4G, Samsung Vibrant and T-Mobile G2.
Multimedia and GPS
Don't expect a glitzy music player, this is vanilla Android with its notoriously dull music player. HTC does include software (DoubleTwist) for iTunes syncing on the phone's 8 gig microSD card, but the player is stock Android. Gallery, the standard Android 2.x photo viewer and video launcher is here and it's not bad at all. Still, we'd say that Samsung, a company that has lots of experience in portable media players and other lifestyle gadgets, has much nicer customized media players on the Galaxy S family (including the Vibrant), and somewhat better video playback performance for high bitrate videos, though that's a very close race and both phones perform superbly.
The 5 megapixel autofocus camera is good by HTC standards; sorry HTC but your cameras do lag behind Samsung's, Nokia's, Sony Ericsson's and Apple's. We're thrilled that there's a flash on board, and it does help with dark shots. Photos tend to look artificially sharpened and less natural than the Vibrant's, Sony Ericsson Xperia X10's and other good shooters. The photos are certainly better than the Nexus One's, as a consolation, but they're still not as good as the years-old Nokia N95.
The camera can shoot video at 720p in MPEG4 format near 30fps. Video also tends to look oversharpened and the contrast is stark, but we'll give it a pass since it's sharp and smooth.
The GPS is solid with extremely quick fix times and no lag on the highway. We're both pleased and impressed with the GPS' performance as tested with Google Maps, Google Navigation and location-based services that make use of the GPS. Though not currently available on the Android Market, we installed our own copy of TeleNav and it worked just fine on the G2.
For a fast phone with a large display and a full set of wireless radios, the G2 has solid battery life. The 1300mAh Lithium Ion battery easily lasted through a day of heavy use with push email on, 30 minutes of web browsing, watching a few short videos, playing music for an hour and downloading 10 apps from the Android Market.
Unlike WiMAX, HSPA+ 4G isn't a battery killer, and we found the battery life was the same on 3G as 4G. Sweet.
The T-Mobile G2 by HTC is undeniably the best Android smartphone with a keyboard on that network. In fact, it's one of the best keyboarded Android phones among all carriers. If you're looking for a high end Android phone that's fast, handsomely made (aside from the loosey-goosey hinge design) and has 4G data speeds, the G2 is your answer on T-Mobile. Would we pick it over the also excellent Samsung Vibrant? That's not an easy choice, and we leave that up to your aesthetics, brand preferences and design for a hardware keyboard (at the price of added girth and weight). The Vibrant is our pick for multimedia thanks to the color-saturated Super AMOLED display and Samsung-enhanced media players, while the T-Mobile G2 is our pick for speed, text entry and Froyo (which will be coming to the Vibrant eventually).
Pro: Extremely fast, large and excellent hardware keyboard, latest Android OS with Flash video. Sharp display, solid GPS.
Con: A bit heavy, odd hinge mechanism may bother some, WiFi hotspot tethering feature is removed. Where is that 4 gigs of internal storage-- gone to prevent rooting the phone. Speakerphone isn't good.
Price: $199 with a 2 year contract, $499 without contract.
Websites: www.t-mobile.com, www.htc.com/us/
Shopping: Where to Buy
The Z-hinge partially open.