The problem with Android phones—a problem, anyway—is that for all the talk of choice, they can be remarkably undifferent. They lack a reason to exist. The myTouch 4G Slide has one, though: to be the best cameraphone you can buy.
The cameras in your average smartphone today are, by and large, pretty okay. But they're generally not good enough to replace a cheap point-and-shoot. The white balance sucks, the color saturation's off, the low-light performance is crummy, whatever. There have been a few exceptions so far: phones from Nokia, some from Sony Ericsson, and the iPhone 4. And it's really the latter that made a killer camera bolted to a phone a mainstream thing, putting one in the pockets of tens millions of people. The myTouch 4G Slide is the first Android phone to make a concerted effort to do that, with an 8-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that's exclusive to the Slide for now, and not unlike what we'll probably see in the next iPhone.
Beyond the camera, the myTouch 4G Slide is a totally typical, but totally fine Android phone. It's running Android 2.3 with HTC Sense on top, and it's got a very good keyboard. No surprises. But let's talk about the camera. HTC tries to make it feel very point-and-shooty, with deeper controls than your average phone's camera, for everything from white balance to ISO and exposure. There's also a ton of filters built in, to scratch your Instagram itch. "Zero-shutter lag" means it's effectively taking pictures before you press the shutter button, so once the camera app's open, you shouldn't miss anything. The features aren't quite as extensive as a full-blown camera, but it's close enough with perks like face detection, at least for most people.
It's fast with a 1.2GHz dual-core chip, even with HTC's custom software running on top. The keyboard is huge and clicky. HTC still delivers some of the best materials this side of the iPhone 4—the phone just feels like quality. T-Mobile is fast when it's fast—I was peaking around 7-8Mbps around Georgia. Built-in Netflix, still a relative rarity for Android. The camera is legitimately good. It's quick to shoot; the colors are more accurate, the 1080p video more detailed than the iPhone 4; and the software delivers most of the control an average-but-concerned shooter would want.
Check out full-sized samples here.
HTC's Sense skin looks terribly 2008 at this point. The low-quality gradients, and weird smatterings of glossy gloss. The faux 3D desktop is gauche. It doesn't make Android any better. T-Mobile in New York isn't fast at all—the best downstream speed I ever saw was around 3Mbps. I wish the shutter button was more useful. Because of the way the phone splits, trying to use the shutter button resulted in camera shake like 80 percent of the time. And obviously a slider phone is kinda chunky.
If you're on T-Mobile and having a solid camera built into your phone is a serious priority, well, it's kind of a no-brainer—if you don't mind the added heft or Android, which could be two serious downers, depending on who you are.
myTouch 4G Slide
Screen: 3.7-inch, 800x480 resolution
Processor and RAM: 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon, 768MB
Camera: 8-megapixel stills, 1080p video (rear);
Storage: 4GB internal + up to 32GB SD Storage
OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) + Custom Skin
Battery: 1540 mAh
Price: $200 with two-year contract