It was time to renew my mobile phone contract (well, actually my partner’s contract this time – she gets the hand-me-downs) and after my experience with Android using the HTC Magic this phone was only ever going to be Android again. I did not want a slide-out keyboard so my options were either the HTC Tattoo or this. Given the better camera and less chunky design I was sold on the G2 Touch very easily.
For anyone interested I quickly flicked through YouTube and dug up this promotional video:
On with my review now.
I have the black version, which is nice. In the box is the phone, headphones/hands free kit, battery, 2GB microSD card which is already loaded in to the phone, and a charger. The charger is nifty because the plug has a USB port meaning that a separate USB cable is not necessary – a nice saving, plus, I don’t know anyone who is ever stuck for a USB cable. They are everywhere, breeding like wire coat hangers. Picking it up for the first time felt good. It has a nice weight and it balances well in the hand. When I powered it up I went through the rigmarole of setting up my Google account, email and suchlike. I then immediately installed all the applications I had on my Magic. The performance of the G2 in doing so was better than the Magic, faster and smoother.
The screen is simply gorgeous – absolutely pin sharp and clear. I began to customise the phone and discovered what a superb interface it has.
Here you can see the screen. The wallpaper is customisable and you can have different ones for the lock screen and the open screen. What you can see here is the clock widget (one of 12 different clock widgets preloaded) and several shortcuts. The screen is one of seven fully customisable screens that are available with a swipe. It is set up so that the home key takes you to the ‘middle’ of the seven and obviously there are three screens either side, accessed via a swipe. Each screen has sixteen slots where application shortcuts or folders can be dragged, or widgets can be installed. Widgets vary in shape and size but as a rule you can install either a single full screen widget, two half screen widgets or four panel style widgets. The G2 comes preloaded with both Android widgets and HTC widgets. The Android widgets are functional but the HTC ones look way better. Currently pinned to my screens are the following:
Screen 1: (left most screen) Full screen weather widget
Screen 2: Twitter widget
Screen 3: People list (a neat widget that lets you add your frequently dialled contacts to a scrolling list – very cool)
Screen 4: (Home) shortcuts to my 16 most often used applications
Screen 5: Calendar widget and Google search widget
Screen 6: Photo album widget (allows you to scroll through your pics without opening the gallery application
Screen 7: TuneWiki widget
Installing these widgets makes the phone extremely user friendly and not only beats scrolling through the applications menu, but also the widgets such as Twitter, Facebook, music etc are live, real time widgets. As an Apple lover it pains me to say it, but sorry boys, this kicks the ass out of the iPhone interface. For my most frequently used applications it is often one tap, no opening of the application necessary. This is the most user friendly phone I have ever had in this respect. I think Android has an image issue as it is thought of as geeky because anyone who used this phone would think twice about iPhone. I never say never, but for my money Apple need to do something revolutionary to get my business back.
The phone has, aside from the touch screen, 6 keys and a rocker button for volume. Red and green phone buttons with the expected functions, home, menu which accesses setting in all applications and another rocker key that is both back and opens a search field, again in all applications. They are all easily accessible and responsive. The on screen keyboard is easy to use. Typing is comfortable (I have large goalkeeper hands) and there is an excellent predictive text and spelling engine which also learns any new words typed – a nice touch that has been a glaring omission in previous phones, occasionally making me want to launch them skyward.
The first thing I did with the applications was open the browser. It’s the standard Android browser with interface add ons courtesy of HTC. It’s lighting fast, loads pages smoothly and never crashes. Panning is smooth with no lags or dragging frames. I then discovered it allows tapping, zooming and pinching iPhone stye. Result! This makes it Safari’s equal, and better for two reasons: it supports Flash, and functions can be adapted to applications, for example, if you tap a podcast feed link it will invite you to choose a default application to open it, either browser or whatever client you install. You can choose not to set a default and to just choose an application this one time too. After that I opened the albums application, where photos and video are accessed. Visual media look stunning on this screen, really beautiful. The interface allows you to scroll through photos or videos by swiping, and to view you simply tap. Excellent. Smooth, responsive and no lag. Bookmarks are viewed visually as thumbnails, and this can be exported to the home screen as a bookmarks widget. One up for Android.
I then started to rummage around through various applications and I then noticed something we all enjoy: freebies! The phone is shipped with a Twitter client called Peep. Quick Office and a PDF Reader, all preloaded. This is very pleasing and I suspect it was done not only to sell phones, but also to showcase the interface and widget live feeds. Many users would not automatically install these applications so adding them gives a good reason to create widgets which showcases the phone’s power.
Peep is a fully functional Twitter client supporting photo uploads, geotagging, retweeting and the widget is a live feed pinned on the home screen. It looks great, is slick in Twitter’s native black and cyan and can be customised for notifications.
Finally, a HTC phone with a standard 3.5 MM headphone jack! This is a revelation as the phone has no EQ, meaning that a decent set of headphones is a prerequisite for anything other than passing media usage. I plugged n my Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones and I found an extremely satisfying, bassy, full sound. This works for me as I always set EQ’s to bass boost anyway, but for hardened audiophiles the lack of an EQ may grate a little. The fact that the sound is good means that those who aren’t too worried should be more than happy with the sonic output of the G2. The excellent quality is borne out when listening to podcasts and viewing YouTube too, so clearly there is decent hardware onboard. I use TuneWiki for music, an application I recently reviewed. In terms of audio it is no different to the onboard application, but it integrates Last FM and Shoutcast radio plus a lyric stream and album art as well as the ability t
o post updates to Facebook and Twitter saying you love/hate the current tune (or a custom message). The album art looks gorgeous on the screen and playback is smooth, no skips or lag at all.
YouTube playback is excellent, with the 3.5 G connection making it very fast indeed, loading videos within a second or two. Video playback is again, smooth, no lag and an excellent frame rate. Uploading to YouTube is massively improved. The Magic permitted only one minute of footage to be uploaded, whereas the G2 allows the full 2 GB/ten minutes allowance per video. The video resolution on recordings is such that they will only ever look home made, but that’s more than enough for any mobile phone filmmaker. Videos can also be shared through your Google account, email and, by installing Qik or PixelPipe, practically every hosting service around. The video camera, as with the camera, struggles massively in poor or low light, often returning unusable footage in areas poorly lit. There is no flash or light in the phone to supplement the camera.
The camera is a 5 mega pixel, automatic zoom affair. It has no flash so well lit or daylight areas are as far as it goes really. Rather than tell you, below is a Picasa slideshow of the results it produces. It is the most random collection of images ever, but I went for all kinds of objects on all kinds of surfaces. I also did it in a hurry, so you might see a little shake-blur, wonkiness etc. I figure this all adds to the review. Click it to see the full size images.
There is so much to this phone that I could go on and on talking about it. It has ‘wowed’ me far more than iPhone ever did. Streaming applications such as Beebplayer (BBC iPlayer application) and internet radio streams work perfectly, as does photo editing software such as Picsay Lite and the superb, and free, Photoshop mobile. The Footprints application takes geotagged photos and links them to your maps in Google Maps, meaning you can take a tour of your photos through Maps, or have photos flag up when you pass/travel to locations you (or anyone else in your Google network) have already geotagged. This is similar to iPhoto on Mac, but this is mobile. This is one of the reasons that the cloud computing model is, I think, going to revolutionise computing, and in particular mobile computing. Also bundled are all the usual Google applications like Talk, Voice, Gmail etc. It is a testament to how far Android has already come that these excellent applications now look to be standard features, usurped in a review by the really flashy, slick stuff on board. Photos can be shared through Picasa, Facebook, Flickr, Peep (Twitter) – all of which are integrated in to the phone as baseline functions, meaning that no application is necessary to use the function, it’s practically a part of the OS, as well as any other applications you install, plus email and IM applications. This phone is connected via WiFi, 3G, 3.5G (HSDPA, up to 7 mbps – very impressive), Bluetooth, GPS (which has a pinpoint accuracy when tracking and locating) and is a media and Internet powerhouse, fully connected and connectable with all the major location services catered to such as Maps, My Tracks, Google Sky Map. It’s all there and it’s executed in what it is safe to call the best Android phone to date.
And did I mention it makes and takes calls and texts as well? Very well it does too…