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T-Mobile G2 review: T-Mobile G2

T-Mobile G2

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
7 min read

T-Mobile G2

The Good

The T-Mobile G2 boasts a premium design and easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard. It's the first smartphone to support T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, and offers speedy performance and good call quality. It ships running Android 2.2 with the stock Android interface.

The Bad

The G2 doesn't offer tethering or mobile hot spot capabilities. We have some concerns about the slider hinge.

The Bottom Line

Some minor issues aside, the T-Mobile G2 is one of the carrier's top Android smartphones, offering an excellent QWERTY keyboard, speed, and plenty of features.

With all the Android devices that have come out in the past year, it's surprising that the T-Mobile G1, the first Android phone to ever hit the market, is just now getting a successor. After all, it's been two years since the G1 debuted, which is an eternity in the tech world. However, the T-Mobile G2 (also known as the HTC Desire Z overseas) was worth the wait with its premium design, outstanding keyboard, and fast performance. It's also the first smartphone to support T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, which delivered impressive speeds. Sure, we have our quibbles, but for T-Mobile customers looking for a more high-end device or a purer Android experience than the Samsung Vibrant or the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide, should definitely check out the G2. The T-Mobile G2 is available for $199.99 with a two-year contract at T-Mobile stores, as well as other electronic retailers including Best Buy and Radio Shack.

Let's be honest. The T-Mobile G1 wasn't much of a stunner in the looks department, and though we wouldn't necessarily classify the T-Mobile G2 as sexy, the smartphone's design is a huge improvement over its predecessor. At 4.68 inches tall by 2.37 inches wide by 0.55 inch thick and 6.5 ounces, the G2 isn't the most compact or lightweight device, but without the chin, it's easier to slip into a pants pocket. The overall look of the phone is clean and very professional, but what's striking about the handset is its build quality. The G2 features stainless-steel parts and a soft-touch finish, and when you hold the phone in your hand, it feels like you're getting a premium device and not something plasticky or cheap.

In hand, the T-Mobile G2 has a very high-quality feel to it.

The G2 features a 3.7-inch WVGA Super TFT capacitive touch screen. It's not quite as vivid as the Super AMOLED displays that grace Samsung's Galaxy S phones, but it's still gorgeous and bright. Images and video look great, and text was easy to read. The display also has a proximity sensor, a built-in accelerometer, and pinch-to-zoom support, all of which were responsive during our testing.

The G2 offers both the Android keyboard and Swype, but you also have a four-row QWERTY keyboard at your disposal, and it's quite a good one. The raised buttons are a decent size with enough spacing between them to minimize mispresses. Though we love Swype, we found the keyboard so easy to use that we found ourselves using it for most tasks, even sending short text messages. There's also a dedicated button for the www./.com extensions, as well as three "quick keys" on the bottom row, which you can assign to open specific apps.

We found the G2's QWERTY keyboard easy to use.

All that said, there is one aspect of the G2's design that bothers us a bit, and that's the slider hinge. The sliding mechanism itself is very smooth, and the screen locks securely into place. However, as some early users have discovered, it doesn't always stay in place. It's unclear whether this is happening on every device, but when the G2 is held upside down, the screen drops down. It happened on our review unit after a few hours of use, but granted, you're not going to be holding your phone in that position; we wouldn't say it's a deal breaker, but still, we'd prefer if it stayed shut. We're also a little weary at how the hinge will hold up after an extended period of use, but T-Mobile said that it put the G2 through rigorous testing and passed, so we'll see.

There are a number of other controls on the phone. Below the display, you'll find the standard Android shortcuts--home, menu, back, and search--as well as an optical trackpad. On the left side, there's a volume rocker and Micro-USB port and a camera activation/capture key on the right spine. The top of the device features a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power button, and the camera and flash are located on the back.

The T-Mobile G2 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an 8GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.

The T-Mobile G2 is quite a feature-packed smartphone, but one aspect that sets it apart from the rest of the pack is the fact that it's T-Mobile's first HSPA+ smartphone. HSPA+ is an evolution of the carrier's 3G network, and though not technically 4G, T-Mobile is promising 4G-like speeds with theoretical peak speeds of 14.4Mbps. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the network isn't widely available. Currently, T-Mobile has rolled out its HSPA+ network to 65 major metropolitan cities, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, and Seattle, and reaches 100 million people. The carrier said it plans to expand its footprint to 100 major metropolitan cities by the end of the year. You can check for your city on T-Mobile's coverage map.

Luckily, we were able to test out the network here in Manhattan, and we have to say the speeds were quite impressive. We downloaded Ookla's Speedtest.net app from the Android Market to our G2 to clock download and upload speeds, and we averaged 3.89Mbps down, peaking at 5.18Mbps, and 1.28Mbps up. By comparison, Sprint's 4G network provided average download speeds of 3.42Mbps and upload speeds of 0.93Mbps on the HTC Evo 4G.

In more real-world testing, the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 5 seconds and 3 seconds, respectively, whereas CNET's full page loaded in just 19 seconds. With support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, we were also able to get CNET TV videos to play. We downloaded the Pandora app in 7 seconds and a track from Amazon's MP3 Store in 15 seconds. YouTube videos buffered in just a couple of seconds, and even high-quality videos loaded within a few seconds and played back without interruption. With such swift speeds, it's really a shame that the tethering and Wi-Fi hot spot capabilities have been disabled on the G2.

Hopefully, T-Mobile will activate the feature at some point in the future since it's a built-in function of Android 2.2, which is what the G2 is running on, along with the stock Android skin. Though we have no problem with customized UIs--as long as they're useful and don't impede on future updates--we also love the standard Android experience for its pureness and clean look.

Aside from the Froyo features outlined in our article here, the G2 also comes preloaded with a number of Google services, more than other Android smartphones on the market. Aside from the staples--Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk, and YouTube--you also get Google Voice, Voice Actions, Google Earth, Google Translate, Google Finance, and Google Listen, among others. This is all well and good, but unfortunately, you can't remove or uninstall these apps, which is annoying, especially since they take up some of the phone's 4GB of internal memory.

As a phone, the G2 offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, text and multimedia messaging, and in addition to HSPA+ support, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, and GPS. The phone book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, IM handles, group IDs, photo caller IDs, and so on. The G2 can be set up to pull and merge contact information, calendar appointments, and messages from multiple e-mail and social networking accounts, including Exchange, POP3, IMAP, Facebook, and Twitter.

The G2's multimedia capabilities are pretty standard. The media player isn't quite as robust as the Samsung Vibrant's, but it supports your most basic music and video codecs, offers the essential playback features, and comes bundled with DoubleTwist syncing software. The phone comes preinstalled with a 8GB microSD card, but it can accept up to 32GB cards, if you have a larger multimedia library.

Picture quality could have been slightly sharper.

Last but not least, the smartphone is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera, which is capable of HD video capture. Despite having an LED flash, the picture quality on our standard indoor shot was a little dull and fuzzy, as was our test HD video. The camera did much better on photos taken outdoors, however.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) T-Mobile G2 in New York, and call quality was great. We enjoyed clear-sounding calls with very little background noise and voice distortion. We also didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period, and we had no problem using an airline's voice-automated response system. Friends were also pleased with the performance on their end. There were a couple mentions of some slight tinniness, but overall, no major complaints.

T-Mobile G2 call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality was pretty much what we expected: slightly hollow, but clear and loud enough to hold a conversation, even in louder environments. We were able to pair and make calls using the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones with no problem. The G2 also supports voice dialing over Bluetooth.

In terms of general performance, many were quick to dismiss the G2 because of the fact it had an 800MHz processor instead of a 1GHz processor like many of today's smartphones, but don't let the numbers fool you. The G2's next-gen Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7230 processor does just fine at keeping the handset on task. We experienced very little to no delay during our review periods, regardless of what task we threw at it.

The G2 ships with a 1,300mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6.5 hours and up to 17.5 days of standby time. The G2 met the rated talk time in our battery drain tests. Anecdotally, we were able to get a full day's worth of use from the smartphone before having to charge the battery. According to FCC radiation tests, the G2 has a digital SAR rating of 1.31 watts per kilogram.

T-Mobile G2

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9