New G2 Android smartphone provides excellent utility, functionality along with blazing speed in the successor to the ground-breaking G1.
T-Mobile delivers the G2-the successor to
the original "Google phone," the G1-with a full complement of
quad-band GSM, tri-band 3G, Bluetooth and WiFi radios that enable voice calling
over WiFi and, network coverage permitting, access to T-Mobile's speedy HSPA+ 3G digital network.
The device, which runs Android version 2.2,
sports nearly every feature available on today's crop of smartphones, but lacks
support for Android 2.2's standout tethering and hotspot features.
While the G2 doesn't have the 1GHz processor
featured by some of its competition (the G2's version of the Snapdragon runs at
800MHz), the phone's performance doesn't seem to suffer. In fact, using the
phone's features in an area that's well covered by T-Mobile's HSPA+ 3G digital
network makes most network-based functions seem to happen instantly. When I
downloaded a series of 1.5MB photos from Gmail, for example, the process was
about twice as fast as with a T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 also using 3G in
the same location.
The G2 has a 3.7-inch display and weighs 6.5
ounces. As expected, the G2 will stream audio and video files, and it comes
with a variety of ways to do this, including a built-in YouTube player.
Overall, the T-Mobile G2 by HTC, which is priced at $199 with a two-year contract, is quite a good
Android phone. It doesn't have every feature that can be found with the
competition, but it has a few features the others don't have, most notably the
very fast 3G access. If you want an Android choice, this is right at the top of
Testing the G2
Testing the speed of the T-Mobile network
reveals a lot. I downloaded the same set of photos to the G2, to a BlackBerry
Bold 9700, and to a ThinkPad T410 equipped with a T-Mobile Rocket 2 USB wireless stick. The Rocket 2, which operates on T-Mobile's HSPA+
network, was the fastest of the bunch, downloading the 1.5 megabyte photos in
six to eight seconds each. The similarly HSPA+-capable G2 was nearly as fast,
with each download taking 10 to 12 seconds. The BlackBerry, which lacks HSPA+
support, took 16 to 18 seconds per photo. Note that the times varied even when
transferring the same file. Part of the reason was a second or two of latency
on some transfers. Once or twice, the process took significantly longer,
requiring well over a minute in one instance.
Considering that this test was hardly a
precise scientific measurement, the best conclusion to be drawn is that the G2
is indeed really as fast as T-Mobile says it will be. Probably the better
measurement was in downloading apps from the Android Market, where the process
was nearly instantaneous. Video streaming was clear and without interruption,
and without the appearance of artifacts in the images that would indicate a
download that was overrunning its pipeline. I should add that another good
indication of solid bandwidth is that Pandora Radio, which has caused me
endless frustration on other devices, functioned without a glitch on my test
drives around Fairfax, Va., where T-Mobile has a large HSPA+ footprint.
The high speed of the 3G shows up in
surprising ways. Because the apps that Google supplies are all basically cloud based,
they depend on reliable access, whether it's for the navigation features and
images of Google Maps, or for access to the information in Google Goggles. With
previous Android devices, getting the information to load always involved a
wait. But as long as I was in the high-speed part of T-Mobile's 3G footprint,
the whole cloud-based activity was seamless.
Of course, there's more to a phone than its
3G capabilities-as attractive as those might be. The G2 features a slide-out
QWERTY keyboard in addition to its on-screen keyboard. It's fairly easy to type
on, provides decent tactile feedback, but it's not as nice as the keyboard on
the Sprint EVO. The on-screen keyboard features the new Swype technology that
is designed to make on-screen typing easier by just letting you trace a line
from letter to letter. It works well, and I found it easy to use.
As expected from an Android 2.2
device, there's the full complement of support for image, audio and video
types, there's support for most types of e-mail including Microsoft Exchange.
The software that comes with the G2 is the same as you'll find on other Android
devices, and whatever isn't there is available on the Android Market. The
current version of the Android browser supports full HTML as well as Adobe
Flash. The spec sheet claims that the device is capable of high-definition
video with a 720p camcorder function. However, since the G2 does not provide
any sort of output to allow connection to an external monitor, the only way to
find out is to record the video to the memory card, transfer that to a USB memory reader, and then play it on a television with a USB slot. Having a high-definition multimedia interface connector would be
a very nice thing.
Another nice thing that some Android devices
have, but the G2 doesn't, is a WiFi hot spot. With T-Mobile's fast 3G, this
would seem like a natural, but it's not there. Still, this is a capable phone,
at least when it's used as a communications device. Using the G2 as a phone
revealed a slightly fuzzy voice quality, apparently from a microphone that wasn't
up to the task. Using it with a Bluetooth device did not show that same fuzzy
quality. I also noticed that the WiFi reception was weaker than expected.
Testing with the other radios turned off showed that the range for WiFi was
about 30 percent shorter than the BlackBerry Bold. The tests involved both
voice over WiFi and data transfer over WiFi using a Cisco 802.11n multiple
input, multiple output-equipped access point. However, the other radio
receivers performed about equally, so this isn't a major shortcoming.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.