Editors' note: Portions of this section are taken from our review of the Google Ion/HTC Magic, to which the MyTouch 3G is almost identical. We lowered the rating of this product on October 14, 2009, to reflect new Android handset releases.
Sometimes, good things come to those who wait. Almost 10 months after the G1, we finally have the carrier's second Android phone, the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G. And after giving it a shakedown, we're happy to report that it improves on its predecessor in a number of ways. As a rebranded HTC Magic, the design is familiar, but we like the sleek profile, expansive touch screen, and user-friendly controls. We don't miss the G1's physical keyboard, though we recognize that some people may not agree.
Inside the phone offers everything you saw on the G1, plus a few extra goodies thanks to the Android 1.5 Cupcake update. And we can't thank T-Mobile enough for adding Microsoft Exchange Server support. On the downside, the MyTouch has some usability quirks, the Web browser remains iffy, and some important features are missing. But when you factor in its agreeable performance and broad degree of customization, the MyTouch does much to broaden Android's techie base. You can get it for a reasonable $199.99 with a two-year contract. Also, keep in mind that you'll need a data plan.
Where the G1 was boxy and a tad clunky, the MyTouch offers a sleek profile and a glossy skin in white, black, or merlot. You can attribute the slimmer shape to the lack of a physical keyboard, but whatever the reason, the MyTouch is an appealing device and we're glad to see an Android phone that actually looks cutting edge. At 4.65 inches tall by 2.19 inches wide by 0.65 inch deep and weighing 4.09 ounces, the MyTouch has a sturdy, comfortable feel, and it slips cleanly into a pocket or bag for easy traveling.
Yahoo e-mail syncing wasn't as fluid. Messages often showed up as new in our in-box,even though we had read them. Also, when we deleted messages on the phone they weren't subsequently gone from our PC in-box. But even worse, we occasionally got a message that our username and password were incorrect. The syncing error corrected itself over time, but it was annoying until that happened.
The 3.2-inch touch-screen's color support tops out at 262,000 hues, but thanks to a high resolution (480x320 pixels), the HVGA display shows colors, graphics, and photos beautifully. You can personalize the screen with a selection of wallpaper, and you can adjust the brightness setting and backlighting time.
The user interface is standard Android. The home screen is made of three panels side by side, which you can move between by swiping your finger across the display. And of course, you can populate the screen with any number of shortcut icons that give instant access to the related applications. The MyTouch comes with a number of default shortcuts, but you can delete them if you wish or organize them into folders. The Cupcake update also introduces a home-screen widget bundle of an analog clock, calendar, music player, picture frame, and search. Such customization and ease of use makes for one of the best cell phone UI's around.
On the whole, the touch interface is responsive. We could move through long lists easily by flicking our finger (to go quickly) or by dragging it up and down the screen (to go slower). Just be advised that, like the G1, the MyTouch doesn't have an iPhone-like multitouch interface that lets you zoom in by pinching your fingers. Also, given the MyTouch's capacitive touch screen, you must use your finger; a stylus or your fingernail won't work. Fortunately, the MyTouch has an accelerometer, but it doesn't work in every feature (see below).
The display offers haptic feedback, but only for certain actions. For example, a quick tap to open an application won't offer any feedback, but you will feel a very slight vibration if you press and hold (aka a "long press"). You use a long press for several actions, most of which are related to customizing the home screens. A long press on any portion of the home screen will open a menu for customizing shortcuts, widgets, folders, and wallpaper. On the other hand, a long press on a shortcut icon will allow you to move the icon around the screen. It's all very user-friendly.
As on the G1, a tab at the bottom of the display will pull up the main menu, with the full set of features and application icons. It's an easy-to-use and attractive arrangement that's free of burdensome animation or graphics. You can scroll up and down by dragging your finger. Unlike with the iPhone, you do have to crawl though a few menu pages to find some applications, but that's not a concern for us. To add a shortcut to the home screen for any icon, just use a long press. To delete the shortcut or any icon, just use a long press and drag it back to the menu tab (it doubles as a trash).
At the top of the home screen is a dedicated Google Search bar. Pressing it once will open a full keyboard, though it's available only in vertical mode. Next to the search bar is a small microphone that opens a voice search feature. It's a nifty feature, even if the search keyboard doesn't work in horizontal mode (more on that later).
Below the display are the MyTouch's only physical controls. They offer improvements over the G1 not only because there are more of them, but also because they have a sturdier feel. And though the keys are crammed into a relatively small area, they didn't feel too cramped. We also like that the navigation trackball is larger and has more space around its perimeter. Pressing the trackball will select icons and menu options.
Besides the trackball you'll find Talk and End/power keys, a Home button, a Google Search shortcut key, a back button and the Menu control. The latter control is a welcome addition. Besides opening a small menu for accessing wallpapers and settings, reading notifications and customizing home screen icons, it also unlocks the phone and opens pertinent commands for the features for app that you're accessing. What's more, it offers another way to access the Google Search feature. The home button will (of course) return you to the home screen from any app, and a quick tap of the End button locks the display.
Keypad and keyboard
The phone dialer interface is simple and intuitive. To reach it, you can press the Call button or go through the main menu. Round onscreen buttons show both numbers and the related letters. They were sufficiently large, but haptic feedback would be nice.
Curiously, the virtual keyboard differs according to which feature you're using. For example, the Google Search keyboard is available only in the phone's vertical mode. Though it should be fine for quick taps, the arrangement is rather crowded when banging out long search terms. Indeed, we made quite a few mistakes when tapping.
Fortunately, the messaging, e-mail, and browser applications offer a landscape keyboard with a lot more room. We could comfortably type messages without making mistakes and the phone felt comfortable in our hands. We also liked the new predictive text, which is sufficiently accurate. You can switch between alphabetic and numeric/symbol keyboards with a single tap.
To change between portrait and landscape keyboards, just tip the phone to the left and the MyTouch's accelerometer will kick in. It takes a second or two, but it gets there. You won't get the same effect when tipping the phone to the right, but that's a quirk we can overlook. The accelerometer also works across all the phone's applications, though not in the main menu and the home screens.
On the outside
The volume rocker is located on the MyTouch's left spine. It's thinner than we'd like, but it's easy to find when you're on a call. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover. Fortunately, you don't have to remove the battery, too. Like the G1, you're forced to use a single Micro-USB port on the bottom of the handset for the charger, USB cable, and any wired headset. While it's not an issue for the first two peripherals, it is annoying that you can't use a standard 3.5-millimeter headset without the included adapter. Many users will, no doubt, use a Bluetooth headset instead, but it's nice to have an option for both.
Before moving on to the MyTouch's features, we have to comment on its spiffy packaging. Instead of a standard paper box with a plastic tray, the handset comes in a padded zippered case that slips into a paper sleeve. The case, which is covered in a nylonlike material, has separate compartments that securely hold the phone, wall adapter, USB cable, headphones, and user materials. Not only can you use the case for storing the phone's various parts, but you can also use it for taking the phone on the go. If desired, you can even remove the foam compartments and use it for other purposes. Clad in simple black with just a silver MyTouch 3G logo, we'd almost call the case stylish.
Each contact in the MyTouch's phone book holds eight phone numbers, four e-mail addresses, an IM handle, a postal address, a company/organization name, and notes. You can save callers to groups and assign a photo and one of 55 polyphonic ringtones (including one called "Romancing the Tone"--ack). You can store an additional 250 names on the SIM card and sync your Gmail contacts with the phone. The MyTouch 3G also supports T-Mobile's MyFaves service gives you unlimited calls to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Individual plans for MyFaves start at $29.99 a month.
The MyTouch offers many of the same features as the G1. Essentials include a calculator, an alarm clock, and a calendar with Gmail calendar syncing. A few more organizer apps like a world clock, a notepad, and a to-do list would be nice, but they should be available as apps. Beyond the basics you'll have Wi-Fi, USB mass storage, stereo Bluetooth, PC syncing, and speaker-independent voice dialing. Unfortunately the MyTouch doesn't offer a file manager for moving files between the phone and the data card.