Flashback Friday: HTC G2 Review or How We Miss the Physical Keyboard!

T-Mobile G2 (HTC) hands-on review

I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the HTC G2, the hefty aluminum clad physical keyboard touting Android smartphone. The follow-up to the first Android smartphone ever, the HTC G1, T-Mobile’s HTC G2 helped usher in the second generation of Android devices at a time when smartphones were still quite a novelty to the general population.

For our first Flashback Friday, we give you a trip down memory lane with our 2010 review of the HTC G2. So kick back, put up your feet and marvel at how far smartphones have come in the last four years.

Did you rock a G2 back in the day? Let us know just how much you miss it.

The T-Mobile G2 is the official successor to the world’s first Android phone, the G1. While there have been countless phones released running the Android OS, the G2 is something of a milestone. We’re not talking about the capabilities of the phone itself, it’s just that the G2 shows where the OS has been in less than two years, and the G2 keeps the G1 alive going forward. While it looks like a solid successor, has the new HTC handset earned its name? Read on to find out!

T-Mobile G2 with Google

Available October 6th for 199 on 2-year contract

Specifications (Specs-sheet)

  • 3.7” S-TFT WVGA display (480 x 800)
  • 800 MHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ MSM7230 processor
  • 5 Megapixel camera with LED Flash
  • 720p HD video capture
  • 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal memory
  • 8-GB SD card, expandable to 32 GB
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR + A2DP stereo
  • Stock Android 2.2

The Good

  • While a little on the heftier side, the G2 is as solid as they come
  • spacious keyboard with Z Hinge
  • Stock Android experience which theoretically can make way for quicker OS updates
  • The new Qualcomm CPU makes it a multimedia powerhouse

The Bad

  • While not bad, the G2 could benefit from having a larger battery
  • The heft of the device may turn some people off
  • Stock Android is not as aesthetically pleasing like some custom user interfaces out there
  • HSPA+ isn’t available everywhere for users to take advantage of
  • MicroSD card not Hot-swappable

Hardware

The T-Mobile G2‘s hardware is a representation of HTC’s genius, mixing a svelte and sexy look with a touch of industrial design. The G2, if darker in color, could look like it belonged to the Verizon Droid family. In short, the G2 may be the successor to the G1, but I’d still consider it something like a Nexus One Pro.

Along the top of the phone, you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack along with the power button. The button is click-able enough, but is almost flush with the device, so it may not be very reassuring. Still, there was never a time that I had frustrations unlocking the device. On the right side, you’ll find a dedicated camera button and the switch to unlock the backplate. The only thing you’ll find on the bottom of the device is the microphone, as the charging port is found on the left side of the handset. You can also find the volume rocker on the left side. The back of the G2 houses the 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, as well as the loud-speaker. From playing videos and listening to music, I can say that the loud-speaker is very nice, loud, and clear. The front of the handset sports the gorgeous 3.7 inch display, and the four soft buttons you’ll find on virtually any Android device, home, menu, back, and search.

The first thing you’re going to notice about the G2 once you pick it up is that it’s heavy. It’s actually the heaviest Android phone we’ve seen, even beating the EVO 4G by .5 ounces. In fact, the only Android device we’ve compared that’s heavier than the G2 is the Dell Streak. This could go either way for some users. Some may like the feel of the device, since they weight makes it seem more solid and durable, where others may feel like it’s just too heavy. At 6.5 ounces, coming from a Samsung Vibrant to the G2 was almost alarming, but I got used to it, and now prefer the extra weight to the device.

Instead of the trackball we’ve seen on many Android devices, the G2 sports a trackpad. I was pretty skeptical about the trackpad, as I really liked the trackball on the Nexus One, but after using it a bit I’m happy with it. The trackpad is very sensitive, so it may take some getting used to, but I’m thankful for its sensitivity, as it makes scrolling a nice experience when not using the touchscreen. I was also happy to find that surrounding the trackpad is an LED notification light that will tell you when you’ve receive an email, tweet, etc. It’s a little too dim for my liking, but it’s better than nothing.

Mostly composed of a single piece of aluminum, the G2 will definitely hold its own on the wear and tear front. The backplate of the handset is released by a hinge that is right next to the dedicated camera button, and you may press the wrong one while taking a photo. You simply pull the hinge down, and the backplate is released and you can then take it off. After you remove this piece, which is rather heavy itself, you’ll find a the battery, and below that, the MicroSD card slot and SIM card slot. We were really hoping the G2 would have a hot-swappable MicroSD card, but that’s sadly not the case.

The G2 comes with HTC’s new “Z Hinge”, which actually lifts the screen up and over to reveal the keyboard instead of just sliding it up. Some have been pretty skeptical about the new hinge, and I belong to this group as well. It doesn’t take a lot of time to realize that you need to push the screen out instead of up, and one you’re used to the mechanism, it won’t be problem. The durability of the hinge is another question.

Some people have reported that the Z hinge is loose on their handsets, making the device open when you hold the phone upside down. It’s a very specific way to hold the phone, and since there’s absolutely no use case to hold the phone in such a way, I consider this a non issue. And that’s to say that this happens to all G2s, otherwise the hinges could indeed be loose, but I experience this with the G2 and the hinges still seem very solid. It could just be that the hinge is made to be so sensitive when you push it up, it’s just as sensitive when up side down and opens slightly. However, if you’re experiencing no sort of spring action with the hinge, there may be an actual problem.

Something that some people were concerned with was the CPU speed of the G2. The handset sports an 800MHz Qualcomm MSM7230 Snapdragon processor, and from the benchmarks we’ve seen, lack of speed will definitely not be an issue.

Keyboard

The G2 sports a gorgeous keyboard, and it’s hard to say anything bad about it. The buttons don’t protrude out much, but they are very ‘clicky’ and the spacing between the keys is great. Many times one has to get used to the way a physical keyboard works, but the G2’s is intuitive, and you will be banging out long emails and texts immediately.

The keyboard comes with three customizable buttons called Quick Keys, which allow you to set an application, and almost anything else for that matter to a button. I set the web browser, Gmail, and messaging to these keys and it works great. Simply press the button wherever you are on the phone, and whatever you assigned to that key will immediately launch. While it’s nice to have you may forget about them, and even if you don’t you do have to remember what application is assigned where. The option is great, it’s just not greatly needed.

The one thing I wanted with this keyboard was a dedicated number row. But thanks to the Shift and ALT keys on both sides of the keyboard, capitalizing a letter anywhere on the keyboard or getting out numbers is a breeze. You’ll also find a dedicated search and menu button, as well as a www./.com button, which is pretty nice if you remember to use it.

Software

The G2 comes with the stock Android experience, so many of the geeks out here should be very happy. It may not be as sexy as the HTC Sense UI, but it does theoretically mean that you’ll be able to receive OS updates quicker than other devices with a customized user interface.

As with many Android smartphones, Google services can be found throughout, but more so on the G2. Google decided to throw pretty much every Android application they have developed onto the G2. Apps like Google Finance, My Tracks, Sky Map, Shopper, Translate and more can be found on the G2, with no way to remove them. We know Android phones have had their fair share of bloatware on them, but we’ve never see Google do it themselves. On top of not being able to delete the applications, you can’t move them to your SD card, either. This may rub some people the wrong way, but it may not bother everyone. Once the G2 receive a decent root solution, these applications can be removed permanently.

Stock Android isn’t the prettiest, but it’s probably the most straight forward. That said, some of the stock Android apps that come installed look downright ugly, even if they are just as functional. Case in point, the Music player. It’s one of the most drab applications that you’ll find on the phone, and we’re still wondering why Google didn’t give it a nice overhaul the same time as the Photo Gallery for Android 2.1. Thankfully, there are many music replacement apps, and it’s not much of an issue. We expect a lot of this to change once Gingerbread hits, but we still are pretty much in the dark on that one too.

Web Browsing, Multimedia, & Camera

Web browser

This is your standard stock Android browser with no optimizations added to it, and that’s just fine. The Android browser is said to be the fastest mobile browser in the world, and it is. As long as you don’t have flash loading at the same time as the page is loading. To alleviate this, I put my plug-ins to “On demand”, and only have flash load when I want it to. This way, I can get the best of both worlds. What makes the Android browser so fast, you ask? You can thank the JavaScript V8 engine for that one, as it has been added to Android 2.2. We’ve yet to see a built-in RSS feed reader that you can find on devices like the Galaxy S line, but the browser is simple to use, and blazing fast. If you’ve used a Nexus One at any point, you have an idea of the speed the G2 possesses.

Multimedia

The G2 sports a host of multimedia functions, even if they aren’t beautifully implemented. Stock Android is focused on function, and not aesthetics, so don’t be surprised if the look and feel of things are a little underwhelming. Still, the G2 can share virtually anything easier than most devices today. The Photo Gallery is the same you’d find on the Nexus One, all done up with a 3D look, thanks to CoolIris. Sharing couldn’t be easier on the G2. Whether it’s a picture or a video, you can share it to any application that supports it. Easily upload a video to YouTube , send over Bluetooth, messaging, Photobucket or email all from one place.

Camera

The 5 megapixel camera on the G2 can produce some great photos, but it really needs to be in optimal lighting conditions. I tried taking some pictures in the Moscone Center during CTIA, only to find that the pictures came out much darker than the room was itself. You can take advantage of the LED flash on close up shots, but there would be little to help the shot if you’re in a large room. However, outdoor shots come out crisp and clear. This is an ongoing trend with the camera quality of HTC devices, and many others for that matter. Video recording is slightly better, and recording in 720p is a breeze. The camera performs admirably, but it won’t be replacing your point and shoot.

Motorola Android at CTIA 2010

CTIA 2010 - much brighter than photo shows at the time

Random building in daylight

halloween time.

Call Quality , Battery Life, & HSPA+

Call Quality

Call quality on the G2 is pretty damn clear, and there were no issues on either side of the conversation. Thanks to the generously loud-speaker, conference calling is also a pleasure, but as with many speaker phones conversations, there can be some background noise. The G2 kept it to a minimal, but there was some slight fuzziness when no one was talking.

Battery Life

Even with a 1300 mAh battery, the G2 will easily last you a full day. The 800MHz clock speed of the CPU is partially to thank for this, but the power management HTC has put into their devices is pretty solid. Since this is a smartphone, you probably will get just a day out of the handset before needing to recharge. Even with heavy web browsing and watching videos, the G2 will still hold a good charge. If you’re too powerful for your phone, you may need to grab an extra battery when they become available, but most people won’t need to.

HSPA+

Not to ignore one of the most appealing features of the handset, the G2 is the first device to fully support HSPA+, T-Mobile’s upgraded 3G network that can reach “4G speeds”. The average download speed we saw was around 5.8 MBs and upload speeds averaging out around 1.3MBs. While those may be the average speeds, I saw the download speed it 8MBs at one point, so depending on your area you could have much faster speeds than our experience with HSPA+. For comparison, the EVO 4G, from our experience, averages around 4-5 MBs down.

Conclusion

So how does the T-Mobile G2 stack up? Simply put, it’s pretty awesome. It may not come with all the bells and whistles we’ve been seeing on some of the recent smartphones, but the G2 still packs a punch. It’s as solid as can be, and sports one of the best physical keyboards I’ve ever used on a smartphone. It’s sleek, and hits all the right places on what an Android phone should be in my opinion. It’s fast, and I’d take the thing over any other phone on the market today. HTC hit this one out of the park by keeping it simple, but still providing all the power you need in a handset. If you’re looking for one of the best Android phones out today that’s not plagued with a customized user interface with the latest version of the OS, a rock solid keyboard, and blazing fast data speeds, the T-Mobile G2 may be calling your name.


Back to top ▴