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Hands-on with the second Android Phone

Android Atlas evaluates how the T-Mobile MyTouch3G will compare with the G1.

The Ion gives a taste of what to expect with the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G.
Corinne Schulze/CNET

T-Mobile has finally unveiled its second Android phone, but how does it stack up with the carrier's first release? If you purchased a G1 back in October, is it time to upgrade? How were the major concerns of the first phone addressed?

The MyTouch 3G won't launch in the United States until August, but the phone has been available in other parts of the world for months. The Google Ion, which made the rounds at the Google I/O conference last month, is a limited edition version of the HTC Magic, and shares the same hardware and many features with the MyTouch 3G.

Battery life
One of the biggest complaints of the G1 concerned its limited battery life. Users were forced to disable many features in order to prolong use. Indeed, on my G1, I routinely had to disable Wi-Fi, GPS, and other features that I wasn't using. Normally, my phone would normally survive the day, but it was near dead when I placed it on the charger at night.

Luckily, the battery life is no longer an issue on the second Android phone. The Ion's 1300mAh battery offers increased capacity over its predecessor. Though it's only 13 percent larger than the G1's 1150mAh battery, it feels as if it has twice the capacity. Even if I leave all features turned on, my phone is still going strong at night. There have even been a few nights where I skipped charging the Ion, which is something that I could never do with the G1.

Storage space
The small internal storage space was the other top criticism of the G1. After the operating system, most people had only 71MB of free space for installing applications (Android prohibits storing apps on a memory card). For most , that meant you could install about 50 to 60 apps from the Android Market before you received a low disk space warning.

Besides limiting the amount of apps you could install, the small storage space also affected the phone's performance. Once your G1 approached the storage limit, it would slow down drastically. In response, many people were forced to uninstall apps to free up space.

Thankfully, the Ion offers 512MB of shared memory, which is double the G1's storage. On my handset, that translates into 295 MB available to me. The shared memory is expected to change on the MyTouch 3G depending on the preinstalled software, but we still should see an improvement.

Form factor
The G1's design divided many users. Many complained it was ugly and bulky, but I was pleased with the design, even it it did lack a certain "wow" factor.

This time around, HTC ditched the physical keyboard in favor of a thinner, sleeker, and lighter design. Other changes include a larger trackball and navigation redesigned buttons. While some G1 owners may miss the keyboard, I found the transition to an all-touch-screen environment easy. Granted, there was a learning curve, but after a few days I was sending text messages and browsing with no problems.

Since every part of the Android user interface is customizable, you can swap the virtual keyboard with a third-party app like Better Keyboard. Other available keyboards offer a SureTouch-like layout or even a T9 style that uses standard alphanumeric keys. I'm not sure why you'd want the latter option in particular, but it's there if you want it. And by the time the MyTouch 3G hits the market, expect to find multiple keyboard options in the Android Market.

So should you upgrade?
Though some people will say that the MyTouch 3G is just a G1 without a keyboard, I believe that HTC has made enough changes to justify an upgrade for some G1 owners. The increased battery life and larger internal storage are reason enough to make the switch.

After using both devices for an extended period, I now favor the Ion and its forthcoming MyTouch cousin over the G1. And if purchasing an Android phone for the first time, I'd go with the Ion. Rest assured, I loved the G1, but the Ion is now my primary phone. There were days when I miss the physical keyboard, but I am more than pleased with the virtual tapping.

For more analysis, see CNET's full Google Ion review.