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T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get

Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get

The official sequel to the first Googlephone, the T-Mobile G2 is a long time coming. In a market where carriers molest the open OS anew every time a new handset drops, this is the Android phone for the Android nerd.

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Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get

Specs
T-Mobile G2 specs
Price: $200 w/ a 2-year contract
Screen: 3.7-inch LCD, 800x480 resolution
Processor and RAM: 800MHz Snapdragon MSM7230, 512MB
Storage: 4GB internal + 8GB pre-installed microSD card
Camera: 5 megapixel stills, 720p video recording, LED flash

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The Nexus One was the Google Phone, Google's definitive vision for what an Android phone should be. But, you basically can't buy one anymore. All of the best Android phones now are slathered with customized (often inferior) user interfaces and topped with a generous helping of bloatware. The G2 is the new "Google Phone," or the closest thing to it. A Nexus One with a keyboard. It's running a (mostly) stock build of Android 2.2, and it's preloaded with a ton of Google's Android apps, which tend to be the best ones around anyway. And it's a showcase for T-Mobile's pumped up "4G speed"-but-not-4G 3G network, which they've juiced to speeds of 14.4Mbps with the HSPA+ standard.

Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get
Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get
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Every slider phone comes with tradeoffs. Namely, bulk. It's just physics. The G2 has been nipped and tucked so it's just a hair thicker than the HTC Evo, which is impressive, until you realize the entire iPhone 4 is thinner than the G2's lower half. But the heft mostly works for it, adding to the sense you're rolling like a serious nerd, particularly when you're pounding out text with the giganto keyboard.

The five-megapixel camera, while it's not quite iPhone 4-level, appears to be better than the HTC Evo, in both stills and 720p video. (Check out full samples here.)

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See our Android 2.2 review for more details on the software, but it's worth noting that it's still striking (in a good way) how utterly, constantly connected you feel on Android with Google Talk, Latitude, push Gmail, integrated Twitter and Facebook, versus the iPhone. Apple's is a far more siloed experience. The downside of that iron-grip tether to the internet is that it makes you more wary about battery life, particularly when you roam somewhere with a less-than-great T-Mobile signal, like outside of its urban strongholds. (Inside the city, with HSPA+ T-Mobile is impressively quick.)

Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get
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Everything that we love about Android 2.2 applies here: It's fast, polished, has a mature app store experience, and the best interface of any Android phone. Period. The keyboard is serious, a boon for road warriors with a serious email jones.

Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get
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The hinge for the G2's presto! keyboard! action is gimpy. It doesn't feel robust enough to withstand thousands of snaps open and closed. There's also no good place to put your thumbs to push the screen up, so sometimes you'll inadvertently press keys on the keyboard or touch the screen when you open the phone. I pinched myself a couple of times when I closed it. It's kind of a disconcerting piece of engineering when the whole phone's literally designed around it.

The speakerphone sounds like garbage. It's harsh and tinny. Worse, the speaker's on the back of the phone, so if you place it on a desk it gets even more muffled. The trackpad is kind of pointless, and because of the way it's recessed into the body, not very responsive.

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The big, showstopping flaw? There's a rootkit The NAND lock is a bit more aggressive than the one in previous HTC phones, designed to prevent people from tinkering with the software—something that's against the original spirit of Android. T-Mobile says it's a security feature, but whatever the rationale, it keeps people from modding the G2's software until they get around it. And it's even lamer to see it on the G2, which is trying invoke those roots as a sequel to the G1. Oh, and there's some minor crapware built in, like a pestering Photobucket app you can't delete. Who is Android open for, exactly?

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Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get
Illustration for article titled T-Mobile G2 Review: The Purest Android Experience You Can Get
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In the end, everything that's good about the G2 outweighs the bad, especially if you're not planning on diving into the code yourself. If you've got a broken down G1 waiting to be replaced, or just want a clean Android experience, this is still probably your phone.

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DISCUSSION

The pre-installed software on my G2 bugs the hell out of me. I want to delete the photobucket app, but at least I got it to stop nagging me to upload photos. The last thing I need is an alert window with an embarrassing picture from last night smack in the middle of my screen when I turn it on.

Also, the Facebook app is just plain useless. I don't need an app that just opens links in the browser, especially when those links are broken half the time.

Not being able to delete the pre-installed software has another drawback for me: The browser has quit working and gives me an error message (The application Browser (process com.android.browser) has stopped unexpectedly) whenever I try to use it. I assume this could be fixed by uninstalling or disabling Flash or reinstalling the browser, but I can't do that. Luckily, Opera Mini is working fine for me.

Other than that, I love this phone to death. The battery life is amazing; I can take a 2.5 hour bike ride with My Tracks turned on and the battery will still last the rest of the day and well into the next day without a fresh charge. The interface is amazingly responsive compared to my old G1. The HSPA+ network is blazingly fast. And, as noted in the article, the phone just feels solid. Finally: it's a small thing, but I love the aluminum battery door.