capsule review

T-Mobile myTouch 3G

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At a Glance
  • T-Mobile myTouch 3G

The T-Mobile MyTouch 3G is T-Mobile's second smartphone running Google's Android mobile operating system. And while the MyTouch 3G ($200 as of July 22, 2009) has much going for it-- a lightweight design, a gorgeous screen, and the 1.5 update to the Android operating system, it's not without its flaws -- the on-screen keyboard is far from perfect, for example.

The MyTouch 3G is virtually identical to the HTC Magic, as the handset is called overseas. The phone has an eye-catching design that's what the T-Mobile G1 should have been-it's sleek, elegantly curved, and graced with distinctive design touches. When the G1 first came out, I described it as bland. Viewed side-by-side with the myTouch 3G, the G1 now looks downright kludgy. It feels bulky, too, and no wonder: Though the MyTouch 3G's dimensions are only slightly smaller than the G1 (measures 4.5 by 2.2 by 0.5 inches versus the G1's 4.6 by 2.2 by 0.6 inches), in hand it feels significantly smaller, and it is noticeably lighter (weighing 4.1 ounces versus the G1's 5.6 ounces). The Apple iPhone 3G is taller and slightly slimmer than the myTouch.

The phone's gentle curves are more than aesthetic touches: Its bottom tip has a more pronounced curve than the top, and the resulting shape formed a comfortable thumb grip. The curves, coupled with the shiny maroon (dubbed "Merlot") finish, make the myTouch more pocketable than the G1 ever could hope to be. Like the iPhone 3G, I found the myTouch is highly prone to showing fingerprints--which are especially prominent on its screen. The only element that didn't attract fingerprints was the matte stripe that runs around the edge of the phone.

Other design touches I appreciated were the well-cut, light-up navigation buttons beneath the screen (Home, Menu, back, and search--a new addition) and the deep well that surrounds the smooth navigation trackball. Also, the volume rocker is longer and easier to press than the one on the G1. The back slides down and off easily, and the microSD Card slot is accessible without your having to remove the battery.

I didn't like the placement or size of the oblong Talk and send/power buttons, however. These critical buttons were unduly small, and I often inadvertently hit the power button instead of the back button because of their proximity. Also annoying is the design decision to have the mini-USB port at the bottom double as the headphone jack; as a result, you have to use HTC's proprietary headphones or add a dongle for regular headphones. At least the port is free and clear, and omits the troublesome cover that the G1 had. Another positive: The included headphones are more stylish than before, and proprietary USB-to-headphone dongle is thinner. It actually felt like an acceptable extension of the headphone's connector, and not the annoying add-on cable included with other HTC handsets.

The myTouch 3G gets another miss with its on-screen touch keyboard. The more I used the device, the more I missed having a physical keyboard, as on the G1. Yes, I appreciated being able to do some limited typing with one hand using the new-to-Android 1.5 native on-screen keyboard, and yes I liked the haptic feedback vibration as I pressed a key (which can be activated in the settings menu), But overall, I felt that the keyboard was too tightly packed, making it occasionally difficult to type on. I also found the letters disappeared too quickly from the screen, so it was hard to confirm at a glance that I had hit the key I thought I'd hit; by comparison, the iPhone 3GS's keyboard displays that key strike longer, showing in a big, easily seen enlargement.

Going back to fix typos was harder than I would have liked, too (unlike on an iPhone, I couldn't drag the cursor back where I wanted it in a line). I found the horizontal keyboard roomier, but when I invoked the myTouch's horizontal keyboard, I could see only a few lines of text in the screen above it.

I loved the myTouch's 3.2-inch, 320-by-480-resolution (HVGA) capacitive touch display. Placed next to the G1's display, it was brighter, more vibrant, and sharper. That said, I found that, compared with an iPhone 3GS, it was not as bright and clear when in the glare of sunlight outdoors. The built-in 3-megapixel camera gains camcorder functions with the 1.5 Android update. It lacks the dedicated shutter button that the G1 offers; but you can use the trackball as a physical shutter button, so you needn't rely solely on pressing the on-screen shutter, as you must on the iPhone.

In most respects, the phone functions in the same ways that the G1 phone (with its first-generation Android operating system) did. Operation was smooth, with few points of frustrating sluggishness (the notable exception was the long pause between taking pictures with the camera). The Android 1.5 OS introduces a few critical improvements, the most obvious being the on-screen keyboard (which appears when you touch a text field). The phone now has integrated universal search, so can search for things on the Web or within individual apps. Android 1.5 can record and upload video and pictures to YouTube and Picasa, and play video in MPEG-4 and 3GP formats. You can now add widgets to the home screen (a media player with playback shortcuts, analog clock, calendar, and picture frame are pre-installed options, or you can search for other widgets, too). Android 1.5 also has stereo Bluetooth support, lets you copy and paste from within the browser (about time), and lets you search from within a page.

The myTouch 3G has integrated Google Voice Search, too; however, in my tests, I found it to be haphazard in its accuracy. Usually, the phone didn't recognize what I said correctly--much like the issue I found with the iPhone 3GS' Voice Control feature. And if I were in an environment with ambient noise, well, my odds of it working went down from there. T-Mobile gets a nod for its innovative packaging of the myTouch 3G. The phone comes in a zippered travel case, with convenient pockets for the USB cable, headphones, and USB-to-wall power adapter. The adapter gets extra kudos for its compact, slim design and the way the outlet plug collapses into the adapter.

On the whole, I found a lot to about the T-Mobile myTouch 3G. I especially appreciated its size and its easy-to-use trackball, yet I can't help but lament its lack of a physical keyboard. The native software keyboard just doesn't cut it for long e-mails and messages.

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At a Glance
  • The T-Mobile myTouch 3G is a big improvement from its predecessor, but the physical keyboard is sorely missed.


    • Lightweight, compact design
    • Gorgeous display


    • No physical keyboard
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