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For a long time, T-Mobile led the charge as the only carrier with Android phones. But in the past few months, Verizon and Sprint have brought out some crowd favorite Android phones like the Motorola Droid, HTC Droid Incredible, and HTC Evo 4G. However, T-Mobile's back with a new handset to add to its MyTouch 3G line called the MyTouch 3G Slide. It's not a powerhouse like the other smartphones, but it's not meant to be either.
The Slide is meant for customers making the leap to their first smartphone and offers a midrange feature set and a custom user interface from T-Mobile to help with that transition. Overall, we think the carrier's touches are successful, though some could use a little fine-tuning. More importantly, the MyTouch 3G's call quality is great and has the benefits of being an Android phone with a physical keyboard. That said, we think it's slightly overpriced at $179.99 (with a two-year contract) considering that the more powerful Evo 4G and Droid Incredible cost just $20 more. Hopefully, T-Mobile will adjust the phone's price at some point. The MyTouch 3G Slide will be available starting June 2 in black, red, or white.
Manufactured by HTC, the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide resembles the rest of the MyTouch family with a rectangular, plastic body and subtle chin on its bottom, but it also steps out on its own with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. For such a device, we're impressed at how relatively compact it is as 4.6 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick. The handset is a bit heavy at 5.8 ounces, but it has a solid feel and is, in fact, a sturdy phone. We know because we might have accidentally dropped the smartphone at one point, with it open no less, and it came away with nary a scratch.
Of course, we don't recommend that you toss the MyTouch 3G Slide around like a toy; after all, you'll want to protect all of its assets, including its 3.4-inch capacitive touch screen. It has an HVGA resolution, which isn't quite as sharp as the displays found on the HTC Evo 4G or the Droid Incredible. It's still clear and bright, but the pixels are more noticeable and colors don't seem quite as vibrant. However, its touch screen is responsive and you get pinch-to-zoom support. In addition, it has a built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor, as well as a light sensor, but the display still washes out in bright sunlight.
You get access to the handset's full QWERTY keyboard by pushing the screen to the right. The sliding mechanism isn't the smoothest we've seen, but it seems strong and the screen securely locks into place. The keyboard itself is quite good. It doesn't have quite the high-quality feel of theMotorola Cliq's keyboard, but its spacious layout makes it easy to use and reduces errors. However, it did take us some time to learn where all the different symbols were, so we weren't able to compose messages quickly at first. The Slide also offers an onscreen keyboard in both portrait and landscape mode and a Swype keyboard, so you have plenty of options when it comes to text input, which is great.
Below the screen, there are four shortcut keys--home, menu, back, and the Genius button (more on this later)--and an optical track pad that doubles as a select button. The controls are somewhat small and close together, so we had a number of mispresses. There's a volume rocker on its left side, and a camera activation/capture button is on the right side. The top of the device has the power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack; the microSD port is on the bottom. As usual, you'll find the camera with flash on back.
T-Mobile packages the MyTouch 3G Slide in a snazzy plastic case and includes an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, an 8GB microSD card, and reference material. For more add-ons, see our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide ships running Android 2.1, but according to HTC, the smartphone will be upgradable to the Froyo-flavored Android 2.2. HTC has not disclosed when the update will be available; however, according to the company, it hopes to have all updates released by the second half of the year.
That said, you're not getting the stock Android 2.1 experience with the MyTouch 3G Slide. You still get the staple features: Google services, Microsoft Exchange support, full HTML Web browser, Quickoffice, as well as some of the latest capabilities such as Google Maps with Navigation and speech-to-text. The quad-band world phone also comes with all the wireless options we've come to expect on smartphones: 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. However, to differentiate itself from the competition and--more importantly--make the phone more connected and easy to use, T-Mobile also added its own custom user interface.
T-Mobile's interface doesn't have a fancy name and it's actually built on top of HTC Sense, so you'll see many elements of Sense on the phone, such as the Leap screen. You will, however, notice a marked difference when you open the main menu of apps. The icons are bit more bubbly, giving the phone a more consumer-friendly vibe, and there are three new features: the Faves Gallery, myModes, and the Genius Button.
The Faves Gallery is an extension of myFaves; by touching a dedicated soft button on the bottom right corner, you can instantly see and communicate with up to 20 of your favorite contacts. In addition, you'll receive a special alert in your notifications tray, and a custom green light will illuminate any time one of your Faves contacts you and updates his or her status. The whole idea is to make it easier to stay in touch with the people you care about the most.
It's great having such quick access to your top contacts, and the one-touch buttons for texting, calling, and sharing photos are nice as well. However, the feature didn't always provide us with the most up-to-date information. We often saw old Facebook status messages, which would take a few hours or even a day to update to the contact's most recent one. This may not be as important as having easy access to them, but still, it's a function we'd like to see improved in the future.
Next, we have myModes. This feature lets you customize your home screen with various apps, widgets, and wallpapers based on different themes, such as work, home, travel, and so forth. For example, if you're in Work mode, you can have your e-mail, calendar, and productivity apps front and center, but if you switch to Home mode, you can hide those and have your music player, photo gallery, and Web browser occupy the home screen. If you're familiar with HTC Sense, myModes is very similar to the Scenes feature on Sense.
Finally, there's the Genius Button. By doing a long press on the dedicated Genius Button on the phone, you can use voice commands to make calls, compose and send messages, and search the Web and maps, thanks to Nuance Communication's Dragon Dictation software. Not only that, but also the phone will read back text messages aloud and let you dictate responses in a more natural talking pattern, unlike some where you have to really enunciate and pause after each word.
For the most part, Genius works pretty well. It takes a few seconds for the phone to analyze what you've said, but the software also learns your voice the more you speak, so response time improved the more we used the feature. The voice search function is well integrated with the Web and Google Maps, and came in incredibly handy when we tried to look for places to eat or shop based on our location at the time. Genius was able to pick up our search terms even in louder environments, such as a busy intersection. The only problem we really had with the feature was when trying to compose messages, and it wasn't so much with the message transcription, rather the issue was with names. In one instance, we said "Jen" and the phone came back with a list of D names, including Darren and Dad. In another, we said "Kristen" and it came back with "Chris," "Kris," and "Christine." All close, but not right. Also, the voice that reads back text messages is a bit robotic and mispronunciations were pretty common.
Aside from the interface enhancements, T-Mobile preloads the phone with a few extras, including a barcode scanner app and an AppPack, which bundles app recommendations based on category. You also get something called MyTouch Music that streams some of today's top 100 popular hits. Of course, you can add your own music and video to the phone, and a link to multimedia syncing software DoubleTwist is bundled with the phone along with an 8GB microSD card. The MyTouch 3G Slide also has 5-megapixel camera/video recorder, but we were slightly disappointed in its picture quality, as indoor shots came out looking dull and gray.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz; UMTS/HSDPA) MyTouch 3G Slide in New York using T-Mobile service, and its call quality was excellent. The audio on our end was void of any background noise and voice distortion, and there was certainly plenty of volume, as we found out the hard way. Our friends were equally impressed with the sound quality, noting that they couldn't tell we were on a cell phone. Speakerphone calls were also good. As with a lot of speakerphones, there was a bit of a hollow tone, but, overall, the conversation was clear and again, with ample volume. We had no problems pairing the phone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones, but as with other Android phones, the MyTouch 3G Slide does not support voice dialing over Bluetooth.
We got reliable T-Mobile's 3G coverage throughout Manhattan, and the network's data speeds were impressive. CNET's full site loaded in swift 10 seconds, whereas CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 3 seconds and 4 seconds, respectively. YouTube clips took a few seconds to load but played back without interruption, and sound and picture were synchronized. Our test MPEG4 video also played beautifully, and since the MyTouch Slide 3G has a 3.5mm jack, we were able to plug in our Bose On-Ear headphones so we could listen to our tunes in comfort.
The T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide is equipped with a 600MHz processor, and though some might bemoan the fact that it doesn't have a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, we found the smartphone to be quite responsive. It was able to handle our demands with very little delay, and we didn't encounter any major system problems during our testing period.
The MyTouch 3G Slide has a 1,300mAh lithium ion battery, and the phone delivered 5.5 hours of talk time in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Slide has a digital SAR rating of 1.15 watts per kilogram.