You also get turn-by-turn directions, though it's important to remember that Google Maps directions consist of a simple list of instructions. To get real-time directions, you'll need to download a third-party app. The locator function wasn't terribly accurate; the majority of the time it missed our real location by a city block. Also, it could take a few seconds to find our position, even though Cupcake was supposed to speed up the locater feature.
In addition to the standard text and multimedia messaging, the MyTouch 3G supports a variety of POP3 e-mail services. Gmail, of course, is the star attraction. When you turn on the phone the first time, you'll be prompted to sync your existing Gmail account or create a new one right on the phone. We tried the latter, but the connection timed out after accepting the terms of service so we created an account on our PC instead. You also can sync accounts for other services like Yahoo and Hotmail; we linked a personal Yahoo account and got our mail within seconds. Instant messengers can use Google Talk, AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo. The experience varies a bit between Google talk and the latter three, but all did their job. With Google Talk, however, you can see your friends' status in the app and your address book. The MyTouch supports threaded text and you can keep your instant-messaging conversation in the background while working on other apps.
As we've already mentioned, we very much welcome the addition of Microsoft Exchange server support. That was a serious omission on the G1, and its absence kept Android from being a truly work-friendly device. The setup experience is similar to that on the iPhone. We just entered our e-mail address, user name, server, and password. Just remember that your work e-mail will need to support Outlook Web Access (OWA). Yet, we're not happy that Google and HTC left out support for Outlook contacts and calendar syncing. You can sync with them using an export from Outlook to Google Contacts and Calendar, but that will involve a few extra steps. We may get direct support through a future third-party app, but until that time Android can't quite compete with work-savvy smartphones.
Once we were set up, our work e-mail arrived with no delay. The syncing process was pretty seamless--once we deleted a message on the phone, it disappeared from our computer only moments later. We could access folders, though the process was a bit convoluted. After tapping the in-box icon at the top of the screen, you'll see a list of your folders in no discernible order. We have a lot of folders, and it was rather painful to scroll through a long list that wasn't arranged alphabetically. We also didn't like that the MyTouch doesn't automatically refresh when you access a folder.
We had other minor usability complaints. Perhaps we're viewing the MyTouch through the lens of the iPhone, but Android and the handset pale slightly in comparison. For example, with no "shake to update" feature, you must press the menu button and then click the "refresh" icon to see your new mail. No, it's not a deal-breaker, but at the very least we'd like to see a refresh control directly on the main e-mail screen. Deleting an e-mail also involves a couple of more steps than on the iPhone, though you can delete multiple e-mails at once. Moving e-mails, however, was no different from Apple's device.
E-mail-attachment support isn't consistent. You can access (but not edit) Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents through Gmail, but you don't get the same luxury when using POP3 and Outlook mail. When using those services, you are offered the option of saving the attachment to the memory card, but without a file manager there's no way to access the memory card directly on the phone (you'll need to sync the phone with a computer). If you can explain that discrepancy, please let us know since we can't make heads or tails of it. On the upside, you can get full attachment support with the Documents To Go app.
The Android Market, which lets you download free and paid apps, is unchanged. When browsing through lists searching for desired titles we found it to be quick and easy to use. The range of available apps won't quite rival the iTunes App store and some apps can't quite compare with their iPhone counterparts. For example, the Facebook app is simply the mobile version of the social networking site, rather than a dedicated app with a full range of features. Patience is in order, however. As Android grows, we're sure that the quantity and quality of apps will increase. For more detail on the Android market, consult our G1 review. And for updates and reviews of available apps, visit our new Android Atlas blog.
One quirk of the Android OS is that you can store applications on the internal shared memory only. On the MyTouch, that's limited to 512MB RAM so it's important that you track your available storage carefully. The handset's memory card slot--a 4GB MicroSD card came with our review model--is only for saving it for photos, music, and other attachment files (the slot can accommodate cards up to 32GB). Though some users have raised the red flag over this issue, it's something with which we can live. Yet, that doesn't mean that we're not encouraging Google to change this policy soon.
Music and video
The MyTouch's music player isn't terribly fancy; it offers album art, but features are limited to playlists, shuffle, repeat, and an airplane mode. The interface is simple, but easy to navigate with intuitive controls. You can view album art in a list format and you can instantly convert any song to a ringtone directly from the music player by hitting the "Use as ringtone" button. That's a nice touch.
You can load your own music (the player supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, OGG, and RM files) on the MyTouch using the microSD card or the included USB cable. We synced our phone using the first method without any problem and transferred over an album. The MyTouch didn't always recognize the album art, but that's a minor issue. Alternatively, you can buy songs through the Amazon MP3 Store, which offers DRM-free tracks. A single song is around $0.89, and an album can be anywhere from $5 to $9. You can browse the store by Top 100 Albums, Top 100 Songs, by genre, or just search for your favorite song or artist. Wireless song downloads are available over 3G and Wi-Fi.
Like the iPhone, the MyTouch features a dedicated YouTube app. The interface is user-friendly whether you're browsing categories or searching for a video by name. Videos loaded quicker over 3G than they did on the G1, but the quality wasn't the greatest. Video and audio was synchronized, but the blurry picture was bothersome. The high-quality mode over Wi-Fi offers a much better experience, though videos froze for a few seconds every now and then. You can rate videos and view comments without leaving the app.
The 3.2-megapixel camera is a mixed bag. Though we were glad to see the video recording and playback, editing features for the camera and camcorder are nonexistent and the user interface is stark. Also, while you have an autofocus, we found it as difficult to stabilize the MyTouch as it was with the G1. It's too bad, really, as we think that HTC had enough of an opportunity to refine the shooter from the G1.
To view your shots, the MyTouch has an easily accessible Gallery app with a slideshow feature. As we mentioned, we had to be careful to avoid blurry shots, but photo quality was decent on the whole, though our photos had a yellowish tinge. If needed, you can crop out unwanted portions. Colors could be brighter, but there was little image noise. Thanks to the Cupcake update, you can upload videos directly to YouTube and post photos to Picasa.
The full HTML browser is also quite similar. Thanks to the responsive touch screen, scrolling around Web pages was a painless experience. The accelerometer makes for seamless switching between portrait and landscape mode and we approve of the onscreen icons that allow you to zoom in and out without digging through too many menus. Unlike when the G1 first came out, the MyTouch's browser supports copy and paste and tabbed bookmarks. We also like that you can open a new window. Check out our G1 review for more details on the browser.
Yet, at the end of the day, we still think that the iPhone has the best Web browser, mostly due to its multitouch interface that makes for easier zooming. When using the browser, press the physical back key to move backward through your browsing history, but you must press the menu key and the "forward" touch control to move the other way. The MyTouch 3G does not support Flash Lite.
We tested the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. The MyTouch is a quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone device that also supports T-Mobile's 3G network. Like with the HTC Magic, call quality was exceptional. We enjoyed crystal clear conversations and a strong signal. Voices sounded natural and we encountered no static or interference from other electronic devices. Here again the volume level could be louder--we had trouble hearing in noisy places unless the sound was turned all the way up--but it was fine for most situations. In all, we were quite pleased.
On their end, callers were also pleased. In fact, some couldn't even tell we were using a cell phone. A couple people complained that they had trouble hearing us when we were in noisy environments, which makes sense considering we had a similar problem on our end, but the gripes ended there. Automated calling systems could understand us easily the majority of the time.
Speakerphone calls were decent. As with the G1, audio was a bit garbled and fuzzy. It wasn't worse than many other cell phones on the market, but it was a change from regular voice calls. The volume level remained a tad low, but we could hear callers without too much effort. We had to speak close to the phone if we wanted to be heard on the other end, though it wasn't a big deal. Bluetooth headset calls were fine and in another Cupcake update, the MyTouch added support for autopairing.
When you're on a call, the MyTouch's display will darken and the phone will lock so that you don't hit an onscreen command accidentally. To unlock the screen, just press one of the physical controls. Alternatively, you can access the home screen by pressing the corresponding button. If you need the dialpad, there's a tab for it at the bottom of the display. Yet, it's a bit annoying that you have to physically drag the tab up rather than just pressing it once.
T-Mobile's 3G (AWS 1700/2100) connection was lightning fast under most circumstances. Particularly when using the browser, we noticed a positive change from the iPhone. T-Mobile 3G connection doesn't seem to penetrate as far into buildings as AT&T's does, but once you have it, you should be quite satisfied.
As with the G1, the MyTouch's processor performed beautifully. The phone responded quickly to our commands when opening and closing applications and there was no lag time when navigating the menus. More importantly, we didn't experience any system freezes or crashes.
Multimedia quality was variable. Music quality was fine, as long as you used a Bluetooth or wired headset. Tunes over the single external speaker were tinny, but that's to be expected on almost any cell phone. Video quality was just average. Clips that we recorded with the camcorder looked fairly washed out. Also, fast movements looked blurry.
The MyTouch has a rated battery life of 6 hours talk time and up to 17.5 days standby time. In our tests, we managed 6.08 hours and of talk time and 12.8 hours of music playback time in airplane mode. According to FCC radiation tests, the MyTouch has a digital SAR of 1.37 watts per kilogram.