What's hot: Google Android OS is modern and fun, slim and good-looking.
What's not: Media player could use some spiffing up.
June 2010 Editor's Note: Want it with a keyboard? Check out the MyTouch 3G Slide.
Reviewed August 16, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Though it didn't stop it from selling millions, the G1 (T-Mobile and HTC's first Android phone and in fact the first Google OS Android phone to hit the streets), was an ugly brown brick of a phone. OK, you could also get it as a chunky black or white brick, and white looked a little better, but it wasn't pretty. The G1 looked like a prototype phone, missing all the curves and styling cues that bedeck a final product. As the cliche goes, beauty is skin deep, and Android's shiny new OS and HTC's capable hardware made the G1 a success nonetheless.
With the myTouch 3G (known by the less intimate name "HTC Magic" overseas), the outsides now look as good as the software inside. In fact, Android itself has matured since 1.0, and the 1.5 "Cupcake" release that blesses the myTouch 3G adds missing elements like video recording, Bluetooth A2DP and more that we pined for on the G1 when it first shipped (G1 owners can download Cupcake update over-the-air, setting the software at parity between the two models). The 4.1 ounce myTouch 3G is slim, stylish and sexy-- it looks like the kind of touch screen phone you want to be seen with rather than jam in a pocket when your non-geek friends pass by. It's smaller than the iPhone but not maddeningly small. The capacitive display is large enough to be manipulated with a finger easily, though the on-screen keyboard is smaller than the iPhone's.
The phone is available in 3 colors: white, black and merlot. Black looks less plasticky and has a soft-touch back, but they all look good. T-Mobile and Skinit offer shells (replacement backs) and skins that add graphical patterns and custom photos, similar to what they did for the SideKick. The phone retains the G1's distinctive "chin" but it's more curvy and less pronounced.
The hardware specs are very close to the G1: a 528MHz Qualcomm CPU, 3.2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G HSDPA and a microSD card slot. The myTouch 3G has more flash storage-- allowing room for more app installations (you can't install apps to a microSD card). And you'll want to install apps: the Android Market is an addiction masquerading as an icon on the myTouch. As with the iPhone, you can peruse and download applications directly to the phone. In fact, since Google Android phones sync to the cloud (online services from Google and MS Exchange), there is no side-loading from a desktop version of the Market. Don't worry if you're not a Google PIM services user: there are applications that can sync Outlook, the Mac OS X address book and iCal to Google. There are thousands of free applications and paid applications on the Market (billed to your gmail account not to your T-Mobile bill). Both the quality and quantity of applications have improved in the 9 months since the Market opened (there are currently over 6,000). While you won't see games that rival the iPhone's high end commercial offerings, there are file managers, social networking, good puzzle and arcade games, MS Office suites and more. The Android Market is easy to use and trying out apps is fun. Google doesn't indulge in Apple's draconian approval process, which means more freedom for developers and customers. Should you purchase an application, you have unlimited download rights to any Google OS phone that you register with your gmail account, and Google's refund policy is very lenient. While Nokia's Ovi store struggles in both respects and Microsoft's Windows Mobile software store still isn't open, Google has done an excellent job of making a store that can stand up to Apple's iTunes in terms of ease of use and customer-friendliness. That said, the app selection still can't compete with the obscene number of offerings in iTunes. In Android's favor is multitasking, something the iPhone can't do.
Like the G1, the myTouch 3G sports an excellent trackball for those times you don't want to use the touch screen. The capacitive touch screen (the same kind used in the iPhone and Palm Pre) is responsive, though it requires a firmer touch than the iPhone and G1. It's by no means hard to use and it's head and shoulders better than resistive touch screens, but we'd prefer it a little more sensitive, especially near the edges. The display is vivid and bright, just like the iPhone's and it's outdone only by AMOLED displays in terms of looks. The smartphone has call send and end buttons, the usual Android "menu" button that opens the settings drawer in the home screen and menus when in an application. A long press of the menu button brings up the on-screen keyboard and another press dismisses it. The keyboard automatically opens when you tap a text field. As with the G1, the call end button puts the phone to sleep rather than exiting the current app or returning to the home screen. If that drives you bonkers, you can download a free utility called "spare parts" from the Market that allows you to change this behavior. There are also back buttons and a Google Voice Search button.
The phone uses the same HTC ExtUSB USB port and same spec charger as the G1 and other HTC phones. The port is on the bottom and it combines syncing/charging and stereo audio out. Similar to Sony Ericsson phones, the myTouch 3G ships with a 3.5mm stereo earbud headset and separate in-line adapter that mates the ExtUSB port to 3.5mm. Also included are a USB cable, a stylish gloss compact charger that has a chin like the phone, a screen protector, and cloth carry case (more like a marble bag). All this comes in the nicest packaging we've ever seen with a phone: a semi-rigid zipper case with pockets and form-fit foam. The cardboard sleeve that surrounds the zipper case is rather artsy and interesting too.
The myTouch 3G comes in a very nice zipper case with an array of goodies including a 4 gig microSD card, stereo headset and screen protector.
Battery life was a sore point with the G1 and the myTouch 3G has a higher capacity Lithium Ion battery (1340 mAh) and better power management in hardware. While the G1 struggled to make it through a day of hard use, the myTouch has no trouble. With moderate use the battery lasts 2 to 3 days with WiFi off and 3G on. The battery lives under the back door as does the microSD card slot, though you need not remove the battery to access the card. T-Mobile and HTC include a 4 gig card that's pre-installed in the card slot.
Voice quality is improved over the G1 to our and our call recipients' ears. Call quality earns a very good rating and reception is a bit above middle of the road (stronger than the G1). Call volume is adequate and the speakerphone is decent but not wildly loud or blessed with extreme dynamic range.
If you're upgrading from the G1 running Android 1.5 (Cupcake) , you'll have no learning curve with respect to software. It's the same stuff here, and that's not a bad thing. The 3 page home screen with widget and shortcut support, brain dead application palette that's similar to the iPhone's and the applications are the same. For those new to Android, it's very easy to learn and use, it's fun, it's modern and it lacks some of the graphical special effects found on the Palm Pre and Samsung TouchWiz phones (gee-whiz transitions and animations). There's an SMS/MMS client, gmail client and a separate email client (why gmail must be separate from other email accounts only the wizards at Google can say). There's a music player with a basic UI (not nearly as pretty as the iPhone), a YouTube player that does a very good job of playing video (even the HQ setting streamed well over 3G in the Dallas area), Google's excellent webkit -based web browser, Google Maps, Google search with voice search, PIM applications that sync to Google's online services (contacts, calendar), IM (of course including Google Talk) and the most unobtrusive yet informative notification system we've seen on a smartphone. There's no dedicated video player on board, but you can download Video Player (nothing wrong with simple and clear product naming) for free via the Android Market. Video playback is still not wildly impressive: the phone handles QVGA MPEG4 video encoded at 600kbps or less well, but anything over and it drops frames and loses audio-video sync.
The myTouch 3G has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens. It can shoot video and still shots and save them to a microSD card (a 4 gig card is included). The camera has no flash, so indoor shots that aren't well lit look dim. But outdoor shots and well-lit indoor shots look good. You focus by touching an on-screen button and you must keep the phone still until the shot is taken. Autofocus isn't that fast, so that generally means holding still longer than you'd think.
Here's our video review that covers the Google OS user interface, home screen, widgets, and more. We also take a look at the web browser, on-screen keyboard and TeleNav navigation.
If you aren't wed to hardware QWERTY keyboards, the myTouch 3G is a great esthetic and ergonomic improvement over the G1. It's good looking, smaller than the iPhone, fits easily in a pocket and packs a great new mobile OS. Google's Android OS is modern, fast and fun. It's got plenty of power in the online department with very good email, gmail, web and YouTube goodies on-board. Since the myTouch 3G has more flash memory than the G1, it should be upgradable to Android 1.6 and Eclair (2.0). Web page load times are excellent and rendering is on par with Safari on the iPhone. T-Mobile's 3G network, though late, is now a solid performer. Android is customizable, multitasking and responsive, slowing only when many applications are left running simultaneously (use the free Task Killer to manage open apps). It's a solid alternative to the iPhone, though the music and video players aren't nearly as sexy and 3D gaming isn't nearly as advanced.
Price: $199 with a 2 year contract, $499 retail without contract.
Phone:GSM quad band with EDGE, dual band 3G HSDPA on the 1700/2100MHz bands (works in Europe on 2100MHz 3G and on T-Mobile US). Up to 7.2 Mbps download with support for 2.0 Mbps HSUPA uploads. Sold SIM locked to T-Mobile.
GPS:Yes, internal GPS with aGPS. Google Maps included, TeleNav available for download for spoken directions (requires monthly subscription).
Camera:3.2 MP with autofocus lens, can take photos and video.
in speaker, mic and HTC ExtUSB stereo headphone
jack. Music player included. Ringtone formats supported: AC, AAC+, AMR-NB, MIDI, MP3, WMA, WMV. 3.5mm Stereo earbud headset included and adapter for 3.5mm stereo headphones and headsets.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR.
Software:Google Android operating system running on Linux 2.6 kernel (open source). Software included: alarm clock, calendar, contacts, g-mail application, e-mail application (POP3 and IMAP), music player, youtube player, web browser, Google Maps, Android Market, IM client, SMS client, MyFaves, Amazon MP3 store, calculator, voice dialing, photo viewer and settings.
microSD card slot, SDHC high capacity card compatible.
In the box:Zippered semi-rigid carry case that holds all included items: phone, compact world charger, USB cable, stereo earbud headset, 3.5mm headset adapter, 4 gig microSD card, screen protector, cloth pouch and getting started guide.