Tag: G2

Review: T-Mobile G2 Touch (HTC Hero)

Posted by – November 24, 2009

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.

First Impressions

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.

    Applications

    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.

    Perfect.

    Media

    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.

    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.

    click for 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…

    Android music apps: Droidify and Last.FM

    Posted by – August 19, 2009

    Android sports two music and Internet radio applications. Droidify is a client for accessing Spotify and it sucks because it either does not recognise my password or it crashes every time. Sort it out Spotify. I am a fan but this is just not good enough.

    Last.FM works very well. It has a neat interface with options to listen to your library, recommended music or create a station as well as search. Some of the recommendations are real gems – artists and bands who don’t have a prayer in the regular music press or with the big labels. Perhaps that’s why the industry is so frightened of these apps. After all, the last thing they want is an open marketplace for original content when the same old crap will do. If you’re a fan of anything remotely unusual or alternative then this free app is a gem. I am sure Droidify would be another good freebie if the bloody thing worked.

    I will definitely be buying music as a result of hearing it on Last.FM. Buffering time on 3G is under ten seconds and the audio quality is good, at least 192KBPS I would guess. There isn’t much to say about this really, except it does exactly what it says on the tin, and very well too. Keep it up fellas. Spotify had better shape up pronto.

    Android applications: Beebplayer

    Posted by – August 14, 2009

    If you are an Android user then one of the first things you should do is download Beebplayer from the Android Marketplace. It accesses BBC iPlayer over WiFi AND 3G and also allows you to stream live broadcasts. Check out the quick demo video:

    HTC Magic – Google Android G2 Review (Phones)

    Posted by – August 11, 2009

    As an avid iPhone fan changing phone’s so dramatically might seem rather a significant step, however, my own circumstances permitted this comfortably as this review shall demonstrate. So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the HTC Magic on Vodafone shall we?

    First of all, in the box:

    • The phone, obviously
    • Slip case
    • Hands free
    • Mains charger
    • USB Cable
    • 2GB MicroSD card

    The first obvious thing is the mains charger. To my chagrin Apple discontinued bundling these with iPhones or iPods long ago. I still have one from my old iPod 2G so I haven’t felt the absence as much as I might have done. Chalk that as one in the ‘plus’ column. Sadly it is immediately cancelled out by the irritating habit that HTC perpetuates: using the mini USB socket as the headphone socket. This annoys me endlessly as it means that proprietary headphones must be used and long phone calls cannot be made with the charger and hands free in use at the same time. Fortunately I still have my iPod touch for music and video, so not only do I rarely use the hands free, it is also just for calls, not media. These minor issues are simply that, however – minor. On to the substance.

    Aesthetically it is a beautiful phone. A white, smooth shell, a good weight and the ergonomics are such that it sits in the hand feeling naturally balanced. At the bottom are six keys and a trackball. The home key does just that, home every time. The menu key opens the menu in whichever application is running – I like this, very intuitive and not just a single menu for all applications. Back either goes back, up a level or back a page depending on the application and search is exactly that. The two phone keys are green phone for calls and red phone for hang up or go to sleep if the phone is not being used. The keys are set well and are unintrusive. The phone can be operated pretty much with out them, just using the touch screen save for the occasional press of back and the sleep key.

    The touch screen is also very good. It ‘kicks back’ harder than iPhone, meaning that harder presses are needed, which takes some getting used to, however the advantage is less accidental typing. It’s pot-ay-to/pot-ar-to with this. Each is as good as the other for different reasons. It is merely a case of getting used to the feel. The trackball is merely a matter of preference too. It is not necessary to use it ever to operate the phone, but it is there if you are a fan of such hardware. The trackball very kindly flashes white on an incoming call – very nice.

    On to the interface. The home screen has twelve ‘slots’ where users can place shortcuts or widgets. Tap the icon and open the application. This works perfectly. At the top is a Google search field which opens the browser for results and at the bottom is a tab which, when pressed, brings up the whole applications menu. The applications open in the same fashion as the home screen icons. Users can also scroll down using the trackball on both screens too. Swiping works excellently on the touch screen but I am still getting used to not having ‘the pinch’ when viewing the web, images and so forth. Zoom keys do the same but are incremental zooms rather than tapping or pinching to preference. Panning is perfect and renders well.

    The bundled applications are where Android scores massively. Integration with online services such as YouTube, Gmail, Maps etc is perfect, and I do mean absolutely perfect. I could not fool this phone no matter how hard I worked it. Use your Google account to log in to any application and this is ported to all other Google applications. This may be Google’s killer application for Android – web integration. The 3G is up to 7.2 MBP/S – twice the iPhone 3G (I have not used iPhone 3G S) and online applications load like greased lightning. The browser too is lightning fast, loading and rendering pages quickly and well. The interface is not up to Safari on the iPhone, but still very good. Maps is, as one would expect, marvellous. Seamless integration with all other applications like Locale, Twitter and services like Street View and Latitude are standard. Based upon my experience of both phones, the GPS in this phone slaps the iPhone around the head and laughs. Signal acquisition is lightning fast and I tracked last night to within a metre. Location without GPS (cell towers and triangulation) is sketchy, as it is on all phones, good to within a kilometre or so. One great function is that these can both be on or off, either or or both. This is excellent for battery life. iPhone (even 3G S) cannot do this and this was one of my biggest gripes. As I began to use iPhone more and more I found myself charging twice a day. For example, a recent trip to London saw me leave the house on a full charge at 10 am – literally unplugged from the mains and out. Moderate usage, i.e., 1-2 hours of music, occasional Twitter and Facebook and web browsing plus a Maps-navigated trip meant that it switched off, dead battery by 11 pm. This was a massive factor in my decision to go Android because this is simply not good enough. Despite Apple’s assurances about the 3G S I found myself disgruntled with iPhone as the function is superb, but it is not a great deal of use if it is dead before the day is out. I am sure Moore’s Law means that in a few years this will be a non-issue, but in the here and now something must be done.

    My solution was to jump the fence to Android and to dust off my iPod Touch 32GB for music and video. Another factor in this decision was money. To get a 32GB iPhone 3G S free on contract the line rental on an 18 month deal is £75 per month. That is patently absurd. I am Apple’s biggest fan but until they open it up to all networks O2 are going to keep charging ludicrous prices. Granted, the package was unlimited everything, but that rings hollow when the Magic is £35 a month with 100 minutes, 600 texts and unlimited web. I don’t know anyone personal user that uses more than even a 1000 minutes and texts and for £45 you could get that and a free Magic with Vodafone. For my usage requirements I would have to pay an extra £720 over the contract. Even if I did not own an iPod touch, I could spend half of that on a top of the range iPod of any sort, get a free Magic and pocket the change. I have paid more for Apple previously because it is worth it, and I would again, but that is simply outrageous. The fact that I own an iPod Touch already made it even easier to go Android. I could go even further and get the free phone and a 32GB memory card for £63 on Amazon., thereby saving £650 or so. The iPhone is worth a premium, but it ain’t worth £650 plus £600 per contract in line rental. I am still Apple through and through, but no longer an iPhone user, for now anyway. I actually don’t blame Apple solely . O2 are just as guilty. I say again: open it up to all networks.

    So here I am, having thought I would never leave iPhone, with an Android phone and an iPod Touch for media. Ideally the single gadget would be great, and for the first 12 months of iPhone it was, but sadly the cost combined with a phone that writes cheques that its battery cannot cash made it nigh on impossible not to go elsewhere. I even looked at the Nokia N97 but that keyboard is awful. I cannot believe they couldn’t come up with that phone minus the clunk. It is a shame too because the camera, at 5 MP with flash and Carl Zeiss optics is so very, very, VERY tempting. So, in light of all of this, what else is there to say?

    Quite a lot actually.

    I now benefit from a better camera. I had a lot of time for Steve Jobs’ protestation that optics were more important than megapixels, because he is right, however, we all know that 2 MP was and is crap and something of an e
    mdarrassment, so when iPhone 3G S arrived with a none-too-stellar 3.2 MP (again, I cite the price) I started to get a little bit annoyed. I was not THAT bothered as I used my proper camera most of the time, and most folks used the iPhone camera for the odd blog/Facebook/drunken antics snap, nothing more. However, surely for the cost, 5 MP, zoom, flash and Carl Zeiss optics are in order? Anyway, since the camera on the Magic is decent, I should say so too. It too is 3.2 MP with a good digital zoom. There is no flash which is a shame but the photographs are crisp, well rendered and deep in rich colour. This camera is fine for the casual friends and family snapper, or the occasional holiday snap. The somewhat limited (as yet) Android Market has applications that will work with just about any photo hosting service and photos can also be posted to Facebook, Twitter, most blog hosts and most social networks. All of this can be done for free. Excellent job Google. The excellent, and free, ‘Qik’ application will host your media and automatically post them to just about every social network and blogging provider too, which is essentially what I just said, except for the killer app: it does so with video too, which neatly brings to me the video camera.

    Video is recorded the same way as the camera snaps – point and shoot. The quality of video is very good for personal use and the frame rate is great. It has not lagged at all yet. The phone seamlessly uploads to YouTube as standard, just tap and it goes, and very quickly too thanks to the fast 3G connection. Adding Qik simply opens everything up. All that is needed is to log in to Qik and connect your social/blogging/hosting accounts and uploading is a breeze. Publishing over WiFi and 3G is fast, perfect and all the connectivity is in order, Bluetooth too. This element of the phone leaves me looking at my iPhone asking ‘What can YOU do?’.

    Location based services are also coming in to their own on Android. Google Sky Maps is an excellent application that does for the sky what maps does for the ground. Speaking as an amateur astronomer this is a boon of an application. Spot something, point the phone at it, identify it in sky maps and it tells you all you need to know, all thanks to the GPS location fix. This is a sensational and criminally underrated application which leaves me asking, on my knees, at the top of my voice ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE A CABLE AND SOFTWARE PATCH THAT WILL LET ME USE MY PHONE TO POINT MY TELESCOPE?’. The Android market also has some good stuff available, especially considering it is a fledgling store. The classics are all free – Space Invaders, Asteroids, Missile Command etc and there are plenty of stores online too. There is an installer application in the Market which will install and run .APK files from the memory card. Currently the phone and memory card could not hope to be filled with applications. The fact that I store and listen to/watch media on my iPod Touch means that this memory is free. The phone is nowhere near full and the card has a few megabytes used. I cannot possibly imagine having enough applications to fill it, unless high memory software like SatNav comes online, and even then quite a lot of these would be needed to fill it, and if that did happen then flash storage is getting cheaper every day with 32 GB cards available for £63 on Amazon. There is already freeware, turn-by-turn SatNav software online – ‘AndNAV’. It uses open source maps with a Google Maps-esque interface. I imagine that in a few years we will see free, full 3D SATNAV online for Android.

    Android is looking like the likely pretender to the Apple crown. It doesn’t have the glamour which, sadly, seems to count for a lot, but it has it under the hood, and it won’t bankrupt you either. I really thought iPhone was it, the fully converged device. Sadly, batteries don’t play ball. Additionally, O2’s racketeering has left a sour taste in my mouth so I cannot justify the outlay and I do not feel I have bought second best either. The minute iPhone gives me what I want, I’ll probably be back, but right now I am back to waiting for Apple to amaze me again, which is a shame, because buying iPhone was a revelation. Upgrading it was a chore. I want Android to go ballistic to destabilise things a little more. Apple and O2 need a size 12 up the backside and Nokia need to stop making clunky phones, and, Blackberry who?

    This phone is great – buy one and you won’t be disappointed.