Review: T-Mobile G2
You have to hold the T-Mobile G2 in your hand to understand the build quality of the phone's body. In photos, it looks plastic and bland. In person, it has a solid, dense feel, and a high-quality fit and finish that's reinforced by the unique, ultra-smooth sliding mechanism. The G2 is reminiscent of the Google Nexus One, but with soothing grey brushed metal and soft touch paint instead of the brownish purple color and sanded finish on the Nexus One.
The T-Mobile G2 has a great feel thanks to the weighty materials and fine paint finish, but it will feel a bit large if you've grown accustomed to non-keyboard phones or if you're stepping up from a full-QWERTY feature phone. It's smooth and nicely rounded, so it feels fine in a pair of comfortable, though not-too-tight, pants.
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A tour of the device reveals a unique handset design, especially among Android phones. On the front you'll find touch sensitive keys for Home, Menu, Back and Search options. The order for these keys is different on every Android, but the differences don't take much time getting used to. After 8 months practicing with a similar Nexus One, I had no trouble with these keys, but folks used to hardware buttons might need practice. The trick? Slide your finger to the key, don't tap directly, for the best response.
The button in the bottom center of the phone acts as an optical joystick, too. It worked fine in my tests, though Android hardly needs a joystick. I used it mostly for fine text editing, but there it had a tendency to jump ahead or skip whole text fields if I moved my finger too quickly over the top of the button.
On the right side of the phone, on the top part of the slide, is the two-stage camera key. Hallelujah. Too many new touchscreen phones lack this necessary button. I found the camera button a bit stiff, so it required some effort to engage the auto focus, but it wasn't so bad that I misfired any shots. Also on the right side, on the lower half of the slide, is a latch to release the battery cover. The cover takes up about 80% of the back of the phone, and it pops off easily. You'll need to remove the battery to change the microSD card, unfortunately.
On the left side is a microUSB port, completely exposed with no port cover. I never cared for flimsy port covers, but you'll want to keep the G2 away from crumbs and moisture. Above the USB port is the volume rocker. It's too flush with the phone for easy use, and it's also placed about a finger's width too low on the side. Not a huge problem, but it could be improved.
The keyboard that swings out from beneath the screen is well designed, but I'd like something bigger. The unique Z-hinge design, which lifts up as it slides out of the way, doesn't seem to offer any benefit to the user in terms of a larger keyboard. The keys are a bit stiff for my taste, with a length of travel that is too shallow. I prefer the keyboard on the HTC Touch Pro 2, which is still my favorite among smartphones.
I've seen reports of a loose keyboard problem, and my co-editor, Eric Zeman, reports a hinge so loose on his own review unit that it swings open frequently. Holding my phone screen down, the hinge stays in place. If I open and close the phone multiple times in a row, the hinge seems to get looser, but it tightens again after some use. Very odd situation, and I hope HTC figures out this issue, if it is a widespread problem.
The keyboard has a great layout, with plenty of useful shortcuts. The @ symbol gets a key, and “.com” and “www” share a key. There are individual keys for the period, comma and question mark. This relegates the numbers to ALT keys instead of a dedicated row, but it's a worthwhile trade-off. The phone also has three programmable shortcut keys to the left and right of the space bar. You can set these keys to perform real actions, not just opening apps. So, one key can open Twitter, while another might start a phone call home, leaving the third to toggle Google Voice settings. There are plenty of robust options that can be assigned to these shortcuts.
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