REVIEW: T-Mobile MyTouch 3G with Google Disappoints

T-Mobile's MyTouch 3G with Google is only an incremental step up from last year's G1 with Google. The hardware is sleek and comfortable in the hand, but the new ActiveSync support was a colossal disappointment in eWEEK Labs' tests, and, overall, the MyTouch 3G--available for T-Mobile--lacks direction and purpose.

T-Mobile's MyTouch 3G with Google may be a fine consumer-grade device, but, under the covers, it is at best an incremental step up from last year's G1 with Google. And, those thinking that the addition of ActiveSync on the software side provides a gateway to Android adoption in the enterprise can put those thoughts aside--the new ActiveSync support was a colossal disappointment in eWEEK Labs' tests.

Indeed, on the software side of things, the MyTouch 3G displays a profound lack of direction or innovation over the previous model. Given the outstanding initial impression Android provided last fall and the active development community surrounding the operating system, I had expected to see more from this device.

The MyTouch with Google is available now for T-Mobile, with a suggested retail price of $499. With discounts and a service agreement, the price drops to $199.

The most significant difference between the G1 and the MyTouch 3G is that the MyTouch is more touch-screen-oriented, eschewing a physical slide or candy bar keyboard for an on-screen keyboard. Without keyboard hardware, the MyTouch device itself is quite compact, measuring in at 2.2 by 4.5 inches, a svelte 0.6 inches thick and only 4.1 ounces.

There's no denying that the MyTouch 3G is an attractive piece of hardware and quite comfortable in the hand. Available now in black, merlot and white, the MyTouch 3G likely has the cleanest lines of any smartphone I've seen to date. The edges and sides are largely unadorned with buttons and slots, save for volume controls on the top-left edge and a reset slot and a single Extended USB slot along the bottom edge. (HTC's 11-pin proprietary connector is backward compatible with Mini USB and used for charging, connecting to a PC or for a corded headset.)

For a look at the MyTouch 3G, click here.

Along the front, underneath the bright, 3.2-inch HVGA (480-by-320) touch screen, the MyTouch 3G has a small collection of physical buttons--Call, End/Power, Home, Menu, Back and Search--as well as a handy and accurate track ball. If you can abide by the touch screen keyboard, the device is highly usable and accessible.

The device supports the 1,700 and 2,100 frequency bands for 3G connectivity (850, 900, 1,800 and 1,900 for GSM).

Hardware Features

The MyTouch hits most of the check boxes for hardware features: It comes with an onboard 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi radio, Bluetooth support, a 3.2-megapixel still and video camera, and built-in GPS. For storage, the device features 512MB of on-board Flash memory and a MicroSD slot that supports cards up to 32GB.

Unfortunately, once you get past the hardware, there is little else new to talk about when comparing the MyTouch 3G with a G1 running Cupcake (Android 1.5). Indeed, the MyTouch 3G suffers from a lack of identity, especially when you compare it with the just-announced Motorola Cliq running Android (which will also come to the T-Mobile network later this year).

While it remains to be seen whether the Cliq clicks with users, at least it has a focus--coalescing and organizing social networks and communications. In comparison, the MyTouch 3G comes across more like a Swiss army knife--it provides a lot functionally, but little of it in an optimal fashion.

Take e-mail as the prime example. The addition of Microsoft ActiveSync support to the MyTouch 3G seemed like the final piece of the enterprise-adoption puzzle. However, it quickly became apparent to me that the feature was tacked on as an afterthought and is far less useful than the ActiveSync support found in other devices I've tested it with.

First of all, instead of featuring an e-mail client that aggregates and integrates all types of e-mail into a single interface and store, the MyTouch 3G requires the use of different e-mail programs to access your accounts: The Gmail program accesses Gmail for the account used to register the phone, the Email program accesses IMAP and POP3 accounts, and the Work Email program syncs up with Exchange Server via ActiveSync.

The ActiveSync connection won't sync contacts with the device's onboard Contacts application, but I could still search my personal Outlook contact roster or the corporate contact list from within Work Email. To find corporate contacts, I had to compose a message, hit Menu and Add Recipient, select from the Contacts tab (for personal contacts aggregated from all e-mail accounts) or Company, then search for a user name and add it to the e-mail.

Once a corporate contact was found in this manner, I could add the contact to my local store, but barely any information was transferred to my device. The name and e-mail address made it to my Contacts application, but the phone numbers, physical addresses and other important information didn't. Want to dial someone in your corporate directory? You had better know the number, because the MyTouch 3G won't tell you.

Exchange calendars also do not sync to the MyTouch 3G's integrated calendar application. The only interaction I could achieve with my Exchange calendar via the MyTouch 3G and ActiveSync was when I e-mailed myself a proposed meeting time. But if I viewed the invitation in Outlook, I could not accept or reject the invitation. I could accept the meeting from the MyTouch 3G in Work Email, but the appointment would not copy into the Outlook calendar. (Note: This testing was done in conjunction with Exchange Server 2003 and Outlook 2007.)

In my tests of the G1 with Google and with Cupcake on a G1, I was dismayed with attachment handling--particularly when it came to the POP3/IMAP Email client, which could not download or view documents. With the MyTouch 3G and Work Email, the attachment experience has taken one step forward and two steps back. On the plus side, I found that in Work Email I could download attachments to the device's SD card. On the minus side, the device doesn't come with a file browsing application, so I could not get to the attachment until I downloaded a third-party file explorer from the Android Market. (Thankfully, there are some free ones available.)

Documents ToGo may instead be a more palatable alternative for attachment handling in conjunction with Exchange ($30 in the Android Market), but spending that money may be no better than putting lipstick on a pig.

Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at [email protected].