T-Mobile announces second Google phone

Summer 2009 is shaping up to be the season of the smartphone, as one device is launched after another. Next up is T-Mobile's Google Android phone, the MyTouch 3G.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
5 min read

Competition in the smartphone market is heating up this summer as one new hot smartphone after another hits the street. The latest is T-Mobile's next Google Android device, called the MyTouch 3G.

T-Mobile MyTouch 3G
T-Mobile MyTouch 3G T-Mobile

T-Mobile will announce the new smartphone Monday. It is the second smartphone the carrier has introduced that uses Google's open-source mobile operating system, Android. T-Mobile introduced the world's first Google Android phone, called the G1, last fall. And so far the company claims it has sold over 1 million devices.

The MyTouch 3G is manufactured by HTC and is essentially the same hardware design as the Google Ion, which is also known as the HTC Magic. The device was introduced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February and is now being sold by Vodafone in various markets around the world.

The Google Ion/HTC Magic has been described as thinner than the G1 and slightly smaller than Apple's iPhone. But it features a large 3.2-inch touch screen with a resolution of 320 x480 pixels and no physical keyboard. The phone offers network support for 3G and Wi-Fi.

Kent German, an editor for CNET Reviews, characterized the Google Ion/HTC Magic as having a "sleek, attractive design with a gorgeous display, tactile controls, and an easy-to-use interface. " German said that the phone was the Android device he had been waiting for.

CNET's German hasn't yet reviewed the new MyTouch, which will come in new colors and have enhanced software capabilities specially designed for T-Mobile.

The MyTouch comes with 512 Megabytes of internal memory and supports microSD for external storage. The device will ship with a 4GB microSD card, but customers can add more storage if they'd like.

Even though T-Mobile's first Android phone hasn't even been out a year, T-Mobile is calling the MyTouch its premier Android smartphone, said Andrew Sherrard, vice president at T-Mobile. The carrier will announce a few more Android devices later this year, but it will be focusing much of its marketing efforts promoting the MyTouch. And while Sherrard said the G1 isn't going away anytime soon, he believes the MyTouch will have an even better chance to pick up new customers who are looking for an easy to use smartphone.

T-Mobile plans to sell the MyTouch for $199 with a two-year service contract, and it will be available to current T-Mobile customers starting July 8. Non-T-Mobile customers will be able to get the new phone in early August.

The MyTouch is entering the market just as every major smartphone maker is also introducing its latest and greatest device. Three other smartphones makers have already started selling phones this summer. Palm's much anticipated Pre was introduced on Sprint Nextel's network two weeks ago. Nokia followed with its U.S. debut of the N97, touch-screen smartphone. And Apple started selling its faster and memory-enhanced iPhone 3G S on Friday.

Like the Palm Pre and Apple iPhone 3G S, the MyTouch will be sold exclusively through a single wireless operator in the U.S. And as a result the $199 price tag is subsidized and requires consumers sign a two-year service contract with the carriers. By contrast, Nokia's N97 is not subsidized and is sold at full retail price without a service contract.

So how does T-Mobile expect the MyTouch to stand out among all these other cool new phones? The key, Sherrard said, is personalization. While the basic hardware design of the MyTouch is the same as the HTC Magic, T-Mobile has made enhancements to the device both in terms of hardware and software.

"No two MyTouch devices will be alike," Sherrard said. "They will be as unique as the users that own them."

From a software perspective, consumers will have the opportunity to completely customize their MyTouch device with various Android applications. In retail stores, T-Mobile sales representatives will help customers set up their own personalized device before they leave the store.

The location-based application Sherpa was designed specially for the MyTouch. T-Mobile USA

One example of an application that will make the phone more unique to a particular individual is called Sherpa, created by Geodelic. This application is a location-based service that uses GPS to help users find restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses or points of interest that are nearby.

What differentiates this service from other location based services is that Sherpa learns where users have been and what they have searched for in the past, and the application is able to make recommendations. It might show some local businesses that it thinks a user might be interested in, such as the nearest dry cleaner. Or the application might highlight special events going on in that area. It also will tell users how far they are from whichever location they are trying to find.

The application, which is one of 5,000 applications available on the Android Marketplace, will be exclusive to T-Mobile, Sherrard said. The MyTouch will also have special Google features baked in, such as easy picture uploading to Picasa and easy video loading to YouTube, both Web properties owned by Google.

Some other ways users will be able to customize their phones includes the ability to add widgets, music, a personal calendar, photos, and Web link shortcuts that can all be accessed with a single click.

"What we have found is that once consumers know how to customize a device and they add everything they want on it, they respond very well to having a phone that is specially designed for them," Sherrard said.

Still, the battle for the smartphone customer could get bloody. Even though Apple's iPhone 3G S offered only a modest hardware upgrade, it still flew off the shelves the first weekend it was on the market. Analysts said earlier they had expected Apple to sell 500,000 iPhone 3G S devices during the weekend, and it's likely that the company easily exceeded these expectations.

The Palm Pre also got off to a good start with devices selling out the first weekend it was on sale. And Research In Motion, one of the biggest smartphone makers on the market, expects to introduce the BlackBerry Tour and the next generation of its touch-screen BlackBerry phone, the Storm, later this year.

In the end, Sherrard believes consumers will seethe MyTouch as more than just a phone.

"This is more than a product launch for us," Sherrard said. "We want consumers to view this as an experience that we are creating for them."