Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: T-mobile G2 Smartphone. What's to like and why it's not love.

I've had my T-Mobile G2 Smartphone for about 3 months now so I thought I'd write an informal review.  I won't bore you with technical details, but give you an overview of the experience with my first smartphone.  The G2 is the follow-up to the G1 released about 2 1/2 years ago.  The G1 was the original Android phone so it took T-Mobile a while to come out with a successor.  Here are my thoughts: 
What I like:
1)  Ability to access our calendar from the phone (using Google Calendar).  I can enter new appts on the phone and it will sync with the online calendar as well as my Outlook calendar on my home PC without having to poke a 'sync' button.  However, see "why it's not love" #2.
2)  The QWERTY keyboard.  Having not had a smartphone before, this really was a must.  I had nothing to compare it to, but the reviews on the physical keyboard have been good.  The onscreen keyboard isn't too bad in the landscape position, usable with only one hand in the portrait position, and as far as I'm concerned, SWYPE is useless.  It would take a lot of practice.  Keeping my fingernails well trimmed is a must for using the physical keyboard
3)  Blazing fast web page loads.  I'm impressed with the speed, but again, I don't have much to compare it to.  As long as you're on T-Mobile's version of a 4G network, this works well.  It rarely finds 3G coverage and goes right to what T-Mobile calls the Edge network (2G?).  It's slow.  There has been a strong 4G signal most everywhere I go here in the cities. 
4)  Google Maps/Navigation/Contacts integration.  If you're headed over to a friend's house who you have as a contact in the phone, and if you have the address of said friend in the phone and don't exactly remember how to get there, you can click a button and Google Maps will show you the address.  Poke another button and get turn by turn directions from your current location to their house.  I've used this and it prevented me from having to look up the address, go to the PC, type it in, print out the map, etc.  SWEET! 
5)  As close to a pure Android experience as you can get.  Many other phones will have a separate user interface on top of the Android OS.  I really wanted to experience Android without a UI.  And I like it.
6)  Facebook integration.  It has been much easier to post and comment on Facebook since I got the phone.  I do not have acccess through my work PC to Facebook - it is blocked, so before the phone, the only way to access it was through my PC or laptop at home.  I have a hundred other things to do in the evening besides logging into Facebook that way. With the phone, I can check it out, make a quick comment and be done in short order.   

Why it is not love:
1)  The phone will not consistently stay connected to my wireless network at home.  The phone is supposed to automatically connect to my home network when I walk in the door.  I have the phone set to "Never" log off the wireless signal.  For reasons I cannot pinpoint, when I check the phone periodically, it sometimes has disconnected from the wireless network and flipped back to the cell signal.  I can always get it to log back on, but have no idea why it keeps disconnecting.  There have not been many complaints about this issue in the T-Mobile G2 user forums.  T.M. customer support told me exactly what I figured they would:  They cannot guarantee the phone's function on anyone else's network but their own.  Which means I need to prove it does it on more than just my network (which I haven't done yet) before they'll do anything about it.
2)  This one has more to do with Google than the phone.  Any contact I add on the phone automatically gets sync'd with my Google contacts online.  But I cannot sync my google contacts with my Outlook contacts like I can with the calendar.  Dumb...  Google's phone calendar will also not allow me to start an appt at any times other than the top of the hour or half hour.  If my appt started at 8:15, I couldn't make that entry- I'd have to choose either 8:00 or 8:30.  I can setup the 8:15 appt on my online Google calendar and it will sync to the phone correctly, but I can't initiate an appt on the phone at 15 or 45 after the hour. 
3)  This one, too, doesn't have anything to do with the phone.  Comcast's Xfinity Mobile App sucks.  Since our home email is with Comcast, I would love to be able to read, reply, forward and delete emails from the phone.  I used the app for about 2 months.  Over that time period, I had to unistall and reinstall the app multiple times.  It would function correctly for about 2 times after you installed it and then start doing any one (or more) of it's annoying habits.  Comcast better go back to drawing board on this one.  It has been uninstalled from the phone.
4)  No front facing camera.  I really didn't think this was a big deal until I tried to take a picture of Karen and I.  Like any camera you use to try and take a picture of yourself, it would be nice to be able to see if you are even close to being in the frame.  The next phone I own will have a front facing camera. 
5)  Holding the phone in order to use the physical keyboard reduces the strength of the signal.  If the signal is weak to begin with, if you open the keyboard and start typing, many times it will disconnect from the cell network altogher.  You have to move your hand and wait for it to reconnect before hitting send or posting what you're typing. 

Official rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars.  If the wireless network issue didn't exist, I could easily give it 4.5.  Some of the apps I use still have some bugs to be worked out or features to be added. 

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