A fast, agile Android slider, but signal connection problems and a lack of hackability are big minuses 

T-Mobile's G2

The T-Mobile G2 is the latest Android smartphone to hit the nation's fourth-largest carrier, and is billed as the successor to the venerable G1.  It goes beyond that though, as this one is a quantum leap, both in the hardware department and software side, from anything we've seen from T-Mobile before.  Hit the break for our complete review.

Reviewing the G2 was a breeze, partially because I haven't put it down since I got it, but also  because the things it gets right are really right, and what it doesn't get right is in your face without looking hard for it.

YouTube link for mobile viewing

So what's readily apparent here?  First off, this thing is fast.  It zips around between homescreens, the app drawer flies like a slot machine, and applications load up darn near instantly.  And it should be.  Imagine the uproar if the next high-end Android phone to roll out was slow and kludgy compared to the current crop of devices.  And it does this all running the base stock software as shipped from T-Mobile.  If and when the hackmasters get this one figured out, using one will probably be an experience we haven't seen yet on any Android phone.  I know that many of you don't care as much about real-world results as you do about benchmark numbers, so I went through and ran the standard gamut of benchmarks that are available to anyone with access to the Market

YouTube link for mobile viewing

There's nothing not to like here, and hopefully other carriers follow suit and a model of the Vision will join the ranks of the G2, Desire Z, and Merge on their shelves as well.

The Hardware

The G2 feels great in your hand.  It's made from a Teflon-coated plastic, with brushed aluminum accents, bezel, and battery door.  The controls are all solid, with no wiggly buttons, and on my unit the Z-hinge is good and tight.  That being said, there are some things I wish were different.  I'm really concerned with the placement of the USB port.  It's wide open, and in a spot where dirt and grime will likely get pushed into it.  I don't abuse my electronics, but I don't like to baby them either.  I'm hoping that HTC or a third party comes up with a case that covers the port under a flap.

I'm also not very pleased with the speaker.  Sounds are tinny and high-pitched, and forget using the speakerphone anywhere that's not dead quiet, because the playback is just not loud enough.  It's not a matter of the grill cutout in the battery door; it's the same with it on or off.  Having said that, the call quality while using the earpiece or a Bluetooth headset is just fine.  It's not excellent like the original Droid or Nexus One, but it's more than passable, and callers didn't have any issue hearing or understanding me.  That is, when it works.  More on that in a bit.

G2 overview  G2 opened

G2 top view  G2 bottom view

camera button  USB port

The trackpad  camera and flash

Inside, the G2 is a beauty as well.  It doesn't run hot (even while tethered to a computer), it has the processor to keep things snappy, and is by far the easiest Android device on battery life I've used.  The full monty:

  • 800 MHz Qualcomm MSM 7230
  • Android 2.2
  • 4GB ROM, 512 MB RAM (1.9 GB available for application storage)
  • Radio: 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz. Plus UMTS
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS/aGPS
  • 3.7-inch WVGA 480x 800 resolution, capacitive touchscreen
  • 5-megapixel color camera with autofocus and flash
  • 1300 mAh battery

But there are some things that aren't so good, and they all center around the radio.  Now I'm nowhere close to HSPA+, but I'm just a hop, skip, and a jump from rock solid T-Mobile 3G data -- unless I'm using the G2.  What I first assumed were provisioning errors (i.e. not having T-Mobile's "Android data" package on my account) didn't get any better once I had that checked into.

It seems like all signal will randomly drop to the big X zone.  I could almost understand when it was happening in my basement dungeon, but not in the park beside two other T-Mobile phones getting steady and solid signal.  Even in my favorite chair by the window, where I can get a steady 3G data signal with the Nexus One, the G2 bounces between EDGE, edge, and nothing.  Once I go outside, and get my 3G, it seems steady -- until I get the signal drop and have to toggle Airplane mode to fix it.

And I'm not alone in this.

Hopefully this will be addressed soon, as it really ruins the experience.  On the plus side I can always use the hotspot on my Evo to fix things when and if T-Mobile ever unleashes that WiFi calling we've been hearing about. 

The Software

Look out Verizon and Sprint, T-Mobile has a new strategy to take the crown in the software bloat category, and I'm calling it "GoogleBloat."  Beside the few pieces of T-Mobileware you'd expect (My Account, My Device, Web2go) it seems like every piece of software Google has ever written for Android comes pre-installed on the darn thing.  See the list for yourself:

Google bloat

I'll be the first to admit that all of these are good, useful applications.  Heck, I'd likely install most of them anyway -- most of them.  What I take issue with is that they're baked into the OS, and you're stuck with them.  Maybe if they were stubs and didn't take up 100MB or so of my precious app storage I could overlook it, but they aren't, and I can't.  Just because it's Google Sky Map and Google Shopper and not V-Cast or Nascar doesn't make it any better in my opinion.  Another issue this causes is when it's time to update these apps.  If you can update them, that is.  Everyone with a G2 has an update for Google Goggles sitting, ready to be installed, but can't update it because the Market version is signed with a different development key than the version on the G2.  I've had other issues that required a manual checkin or reboot to upgrade some other Google applications, too.  Is this a minor thing? Yes, because the installed apps still work just fine, but I want more from a company as big as Google.  A special mention goes to the Photobucket mobile app.  It seems to spring up in your face, asking you to sign in or sign up with no provocation, and getting it uninstalled would be my number one priority should the G2 ever get a proper root.

The rest of the software is great.  It's basically stock bone-vanilla Froyo, with two extra homescreens, utilities for the physical keyboard, and tethering stripped out.  It's fast, it's relatively bug free, and what we've all been asking for during the current onslaught of blurs and wizzes.  It's Android in it's pure form, and I love it.

The Camera

Here's more proof that megapixels do not equal better quality.  The 5MP shooter in the G2 looks, feels and acts just like the one in the Nexus One, and in semi capable hands turns out pictures that you're not ashamed of.  The video camera shoots in six different resolutions from HD (720p) down to low quality 3gp files for MMS'ing to your friends. Here's an example at "standard" resolution, which is what most of us will use, as the G2 is no replacement for even the cheapest HD camcorder. 

YouTube link for mobile viewing

Like I said, it's acceptable.  For sending videos of the kids to Grandma, or dropping a quick video on YouTube it's just fine, but you'll never want to use it to film a masterpiece.  For the record, here's the setting for the above:

Camcorder settings

If you really feel the need to have footage that's just as grainy, only bigger and at a larger file size, by all means use the HD resolution.  You'll switch back.

Stills, on the other hand, turn out fairly nice as long as you have adequate light.  Like all other cellphone cameras, the flash just doesn't cut it as the sole light source, and often causes more harm than good.

Staged shot with G2 camera  Outdoors in the shade

Indoors with flash  Rust never sleeps

BOO  stained glass light

The root dilemma

No discussion of the G2 would be complete without talking about the elephant in the room.  Whether it's accidental (as some well known Android wizards seem to think), malicious (like policy think-tanks with agendas might think), or in the best interests of the end user (like T-Mobile wants us to think), the fact remains that this one might never get fully cracked open.  I'm sure that all the right people are hard at work at it, and I wish them the best, but for now we all have to go with the assumption that it ain't gonna happen.  That kills a tiny bit of my insides, as it ruins the phone for me.  Sure, there's no need to root it so it gets faster, and T-Mobile might be offering up tethering and WiFi calling, but locked is locked, whether it be hardware bootloaders or software NAND controllers.  I wouldn't blame anyone who decided against the G2 because of this issue, and I'll be up front -- mine's going back, and only because of this. 

On the other hand, if you have no desire to monkey around with the operating system and are happy with it as it stands, I can't knock you for that either.  It's a hell of a phone even locked down, much like the Droid X is.  It's just not the phone for a natural-born tinkerer like myself.  Cheer me for it, or sneer at me for it, it is what it is.  If it turns out to not have been locked up on purpose, and does get cracked open, I know where the T-Mobile store is to get another one, and I certainly will!

 
There are 40 comments

Dperks17 says:

I like this phone alot, I have an incredible now and sometimes i really really do miss having a hardware keyboard. Thats why i'm looking to get the merge

kevlars9 says:

Great review man. Bow do you think this whole root dilema will happen with future HTC phones such as the desire HD and what not?

rajendra82 says:

Not being able to uninstall preloaded applications is some of the lamest shit ever pulled by the carriers.

SHaitien says:

So far I love my G2 (coming from a G1). I guess I'm lucky, I've had no signal issues.

qst4#AC says:

You are spot on about the signal. I've been to Denver, Kansas City, and Los Angeles in the past week and the signal will just cut out for no reason. I initial thought it was coverage, but these are major cities and airport so this behavior was unexpected and I too found myself having to power up the EVO. Everything else about the phone is perfect and I was surprised to find that the processor feels faster than the EVO and Nexus, which is real cool given it is 800Mhz. I really wish Sprint would release this form factor the Epic and EVO are excellent phones but the G2 is just a beauty.

LCW says:

good review! highlights the too many issues with this devices to make it a real winner... it should be blowing the Nexus One away, and it far from does that... in fact, introduces more issues that it really solves, besides a hardware keyboard...

vinny#AC says:

Owning a Nexus One and the G2 I can tell you from experience that I have no signal issues. The web pages load faster on the G2 then on my Nexus One and my Nexus is very very fast. The hinge issue, there is no issue. It is as smooth as a babies ass. We will have wifi calling and tethering very soon, fact. This phone could have been named the Nexus Two very easily. Great phone with ass kicking speeds with very little issues. The only thing I had a problem with is the sound of the speaker when turned up loud. Maybe because of the metal back. I ordered a case from T-Mobile, I'm hoping when the snap on case is installed the sound quality won't be so tinny sounding. Thank You T-Mobile for a great device.
Vinny
PS Jerry talks about using his Evo to fix the G2 signal issue. The Evo has more problems then a hooker in church. Just read any Sprint forum, that phone is a disaster. I have not had any signal issues with my G2. Hopefully that will not change. The G2 rules.

AndroidFTW says:

really great review

thx jerry

vinny#AC says:

How can he say at this point we have to think the G2 will not be able to get full root??? Some other well documented devices also had a very hard time achieving root and yet we heard no sorry ass crying from the peanut gallery about those possibly never achieving root access, but yes they eventually achieved full root. Absolutely amazing how anyone can lay that imfo out there like that. Many customers will be scared off with that piss poor future reading and think his Evo is the shits. The G2 will get full root, wifi calling and tethering IMO the G2 runs by the Evo in all areas.

mao mao says:

mine works great haven't had the signal issue, great review. The only problem I've had is streaming music it drops out after few minutes, which a lot of people seem to have.

I am returning my G2 with a note to Tmo today...
No open platform = no open wallet
If they let me mod it then I will repurchase.
Also agree speaker quality is sub par.

NoSpin says:

The radio will hopefully be fixed with an ota, and I still believe the mod community will hack this thing. Speakerphone is an issue, but this is an amazing Android phone. Wasn't everyone optimistic about rooting like a week ago? Now it's all of a sudden doom and gloom?

It's only been 8 days since release, just because it hasn't been rooted (yet) shouldn't be a reason to return probably the best Android handset on the market right now.

I pre-ordered, and tomorrow is the last day to return without penalty. I hope others who pre ordered are wisely considering the same. Again, the phone will still be for sale later on and if they fix the issues I will have no problem buying it again. The G2 I got is NOT the G2 I wanted, expected, or paid for.

interesting, the quadrant you have separates the score out by test, that must only be in the paid for version.

its also interesting to see that the bottleneck of the N1 is the i/o and that the 2/d and 3/d sections are roughly the same. i wonder if there is any optimization that can be done to the i/o of the N1 to improve, or what specifically the i/o section of the test does.

Just remap partitions to use SD or system RAM, and mount as ext3, like was done for the Galaxy S phones. With that done on the Nexus (or Evo, or Incredible, etc.) Quadrant scores hit right around 3000. http://android.chemlab.org/lolquadrant.png

DevynMapes says:

Mind posting a tutorial on how to do that? Haha.

ah i remember reading about that. any word on if that actually improves performance or just skews the numbers?

It improves I/O performance, and if it is a real bottleneck (like on the Galaxy S phones) you can see the effects. It's mostly just inflated benchmark numbers though :) I find the best thing it does is put a quick end to the always present my-phone-is-better-than-yours-because-it-benchmarks-higher argument and lets us all go back to tinkering and enjoying our phones ;)

jonr#AC says:

I see that T-Mobile has the phone for sale without a contract on their website? Can I buy it from T-Mobile and put other carrier SIM-card in it and use it right away?

If you pay full price, you should be able to contact T-Mobile when it arrives and they will SIM unlock it for you. You won't get 3G speeds on any other network except Wind (? someone correct me if it's not Wind) in Canada though, because of radio technology.

hfm says:

Yeah it's Wind in CA. Actually here's the full list..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UMTS_frequency_bands

Band IV (AWS)

hfm says:

You would have to unlock it. TMo will usually give you instructions if you tell them you're going out of the country, which we actually were going out of the country. Not sure if you have to have a contract or service with them or not though.

Mano123 says:

nah if only neeeds a similiar phone form factor like the g2 and merge is at&t to be fair. sprint has enough great phones for now ;) verizon will always have good phones and tmobile just got this. its at&ts turn to get a nice phone like these. to be honest I think the merge is better looking than the g2 but its just preference.

remixfa says:

the stupid dog comment at the end of ur video made me crack. wasnt expecting that.

signal issue can be fixed with an OTA. Did you happen to check the Status and see if it was really on Edge, or just throwing up the wrong indicators like the Vibrant did sometimes?

other than that, at the store we havent had any real world complaints (yet), and most people generally really like it. At this point its really only "Would you like the G2 with keyboard, or the Vibrant without?.... or the free phone?" lol.

It's definitely on Edge when the Nexus One and a BlackBerry 9700 in the same spot get 3G. But the radio issues aren't why I'm returning it, as annoying as they are. I'm pretty certain T-Mo will take care of those. I just won't spend money on a phone that's purposely locked, and the only "official" statement says it purposely locked. If it turns out to be nothing more than a standard NAND lock, I'll repurchase. I like the phone that much.

ScottieG59 says:

I have the same signal issues. The x will show up and I will not know how long it was without signal. It will not get it back on its own without intervention. It is disturbing since I am on call at work and I need to be reached. I am not sure why, but one time the screen went white and I had to remove the battery to make it reboot. I can't say it has more problems than my Blackberry phones; they all have something. The lack of UMA is bad. It is a great feature since T-Mobile has lousy or no coverage outside big cities. I never see the high speed network unless I drive about 25 miles closer to town.

The lack of a spell checker is really a problem if I have to send messages that must be correct. I mistype a lot and I appreciated that Blackberry had the spellchecker.

Still, I mostly like the phone. Google adds value to the experience. I expect T-Mobile is working on getting the fix for the unreliable connection, lack of tethering and WiFi calling. It would be great to add a spellchecker, but I use a freeware program. It makes me copy and paste. Also, I added Documents to Go full version and it also lacks a spellchecker.

All in all, it mostly okay, but the phone comes up short compared with the iPhone. If things do not improve soon, I will likely buy out of the contract and go to AT&T or Verizon. I still like Android a lot and with T-mobile cutting the data plan from 10GB to 5GB, there is less reason to stay with them.

I've had nothing but a positive experience thus far. Very satisfied with my investment. I haven't encountered any of the issues of others, and I received my phone on the 30th. I live in a HSPA+ area, no signal problems. Guess I'm lucky.

itch808 says:

4 finger multitouch?!?!? Let's see some software that uses it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Smokexz says:

I don't understand why people want to root it sooo badly! Everyone knows it is just messed up, and if the OTA fixes this issue, that's one MINUS gone, as for the signal, I have better signal strength than my Vibrant however this can also be fixed with an OTA. A real minus would be the hinge is extremely hard to get used to, other than that, it is a perfect device

Rigelian says:

I've enjoyed this phone. I don't have the signal issues others have been having. The reception has been better than the N1. I like the keyboard and the phone is a bit snappier than the N1 despite having the slower clock speed cpu. The only issue I have with it is the loss of the hotspot and tethering functions. Hopefully, we'll get a solution for those issues as well.

mao mao says:

ever since my other post and here I've been having horrible data connection consistency issues :-(

freelanzr says:

Would be nice to native tether, but I just use PdaNet app and tether just fine.
I like all the Google apps, so would prob have them anyway, but of course would rather have the option to remove.
I have not had any connection issues.
Fastest phone I have ever experienced loading apps and browsing. Wish the screen was larger and amoled.
Seems to be only abt 1.5GB of available storage not the 4GB promised
No indication of when your on hspa vs hspa+, very annoyed with this
But a great phone all around, I'm keeping mine.

salvikid01 says:

I was so unhappy with this phone :/
just bought it last week, and its already getting returned. the signal sucks!!! the hinges on the it was loose and the internet was slow!!

i think verizon/incredible spoiled me!!
i love the feel and hardware on this thing! but... it was a fail in my book.

camera sucks also :/
tear

salvikid01 says:

I was so unhappy with this phone :/
just bought it last week, and its already getting returned. the signal sucks!!! the hinges on the it was loose and the internet was slow!!

i think verizon/incredible spoiled me!!
i love the feel and hardware on this thing! but... it was a fail in my book.

camera sucks also :/
tear

amleon says:

Overall, I really like this phone (no wonder, I used to have a blackberry which was impossible to get online). BUT, I have noticed a few things about this HTC and wondering if others have experienced this / found a solution:

Ejecting the phone / applications list:
When I download items to the phone from my mac, connected via USB, then try to eject the phone from the computer, it doesn't work. I get an error to "quit other applications running before you eject". But, there are no applications running. USB is turned off, and iphoto which automatically launches when you connect phone/computer was quit out of. Is there any way to see a list of applications that may be running on the phone?

Creating folders on the phone:
While the phone was connected to my mac, I created a new folder in the root as well as in the gallery section, called 'videos' but it never appeared any where on the phone, in the main display or in the gallery.

Downloading Files to Phone:
I converted 2 mpv files to mp4's to test them on the phone. I connected the phone to the mac and downloaded one mp4 file and it played just fine. Then I re-connected the phone to the mac to download the second mp4, and found the first one disappeared from the phone altogether.

Pandora:
Not sure if this is a problem with the phone or Pandora, but the Pandora message (you can only skip songs 6 times/hour) remains on the screen when I navigate away from Pandora, to any other section, the Gallery, email, text messages, etc.

Connectivity:
The phone loses connectivity constantly. I have to turn it off, which, doesn't turn off all the way (the home/menu/back buttons remain lit). Then I have to keep holding the off button for :45 sec before it actually turns off.

Battery life:
Less than desirable. I think this was commented on a few times before. I have to constantly re-charge. What if there was an emergency and I had no access to power for a few hours or even worse a day? I would be left completely unreachable.

Any way to connect the phone to a flatscreen tv? I can get the audio to play through my home receiver, but can't figure out how to the get display to show up...

You will love this phone.

SIZE WEIGHT CONSTRUCTION
No more wimpy plastic breakage. The metal housing and back make this a great business phone that will last. The nice weight gives it a good feel and a nice sense of durability and value. Perfectly sized phone.

SPEED
I have no idea what's up with all this "connectivity issue" garbage. In Dallas/Fort Worth, the network is up wherever you go and it's lightning fast with absolutely no connection problems for me. HSPA+ all the way.

SLIDER
Lots of talk about the wimpy hinge doesn't make sense to me. The hinge is fine, but I guess you should pay attention to care for your phone. As for me, thw SWYPE technology makes using the qwerty obsolete, anyhow.

SPEAKER
Also lots of talk about a poor speaker is absolutlely not what I found to be true. The speaker functions wonderfully, sounds great.

BATTERY LIFE
Could be better, as with all recent phone, especially Android. Get your favorite App Killer loaded and use it. Even customer service may recommend this to you...

PANDORA
Works beautifully here with the Dallas Ft Worth HS*A+ network. I can drive around all day with no hboles, no glitches, beautiful connection and sound. It's the only radio I have in the car - at all - now.

CAMERA
Wish it had better zoom, but all phone cameras need that. Pics are great and so is video. Easy to use and super fast uplaods with this phone and network.

WEB, ETC.
Super fast - just plain sweet as can be. I am not looking to travel much, and Dallas Ft Worth has a great network. If you bought this phone to use as a travel phone and are griping about connectivity, then you simply should have done your homework. This phone is beautiful on TMobile's 4G network. If they haven't built a network or completed the network in your area then you can't get what doesn't exist. Go figure, Einstein. If however, you are in an area with 4G, you can't get better.

sanchezkk says:

This will be my first Android phone. I don't think I am making a bad decision picking this one out instead of the Vibrant.

thierry#AC says:

My 2nd android phone,had a motorola defy for testing and returned it to try the G2 since it was offered for free with a contract extension.
Btw wife got the galaxy S Vibrant.

The Good:
fast speed,shape,looks great with the metal material,hinge is not an issue.nice looking screen,calls Q are clear and loud.

The Bad:
Horrible speakerphone very thin/high pitch sounding no way you use it for music or I even for my phone conference meetings.The darn thing is really heavy for it's size it is said to be as heavy as the big dell streak.

My main issue is the speakerphone as I use that feature a lot,in comparaison the cheaper motorola defy speaker was so much louder and fuller sounding.
So while it was free I still am debating on returning it.

misfit61871 says:

Well it seems this review is a little behind, because the G2 has been rooted, I have a G2 I rooted it and now I am running Gingerbread with a CyanogenMod v.7 no problems to date. In fact I just installed a new radio and kernel, I'm running at 1.5Ghz, good signal, excellent OS, got rid of alot of bloat. And the speaker problems can be solved with a good EQ like DSP manager.
So far I am very happy with my G2, now if I could only get my wife to let me root her G2, she is still running hers as is out of the box.

Tat2Power says:

DO NOT BUY THIS PHONE. Nothing against droids. I had the G1 before this and it was great.. still works. This POS however is not worth the time. I'm on my 5th phone in less than a year. I'm not hard on my phones at all. The 1st one didn't last a week. The second one I had for a few months and the screen stopped working, the 3rd one the touch screen stopped working out of the blue one day. This is NOT A DEPENDABLE PHONE AND IF YOU USE OR NEED IT FOR BUSINESS DON'T GET IT!! I've lost tons of data that I will never get back. The google reinvocment is great for some stuff but doesn't bring back everything. My 4th phone just stated electronically doing weird things. Now, all of them have had the common cursor jumping problem due to the light sensor. Which suxx something awful. The camera is slow and if your trying to take a pic of something moving forget it. I don't know if it is the phone or just the service in my area but it suxx. I lose "data connectivity" every time I try and watch something. Sometimes I have to resend texts 10 times to get them to send. This very review I had to bring out my laptop because my new 5th phone kept crashing while trying to type it.
What it boils down to is there were some serious rd or corners cut while making this phone. If you buy it you will be sorry. Def PURCHASE THE INSURANCE FOR IT! OR YOU'LL BE SCREWED MORE. Tmobile doesn't care about their customers. Anyone who's used them will know this for sure. But their overpriced phones and the service they give you on them should be a crime. I've talked to others who have the same phone and have yet to find anyone still using their original one. BUYER BEWARE. I looked for reviews before I bought mine, and all their were were butt kissing reviews saying it was great. Not the case. If you have no other choice I highly recomend finding a G1 somewhere.. it is the only phone I've ever had that lasted me 2 years and still works to this day.. its the backup I use while waiting 3 days for tmobile to "overnight" me a new G2. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!!