The T-mobile G2 has been receiving a lot of positive feedback since its release. With reviewers loving the QWERTY keypad, the vanilla Android experience and great feel, it was only right that I checked it out. I wanted to see how it stacked up against its only iOS competitor, and ultimately, if it was an iPhone killer or not.
There’s no denying that if it came down to looks only, the iPhone 4 would win this category against almost any smartphone. Its steel chassis, plated with a supposedly scratch proof glass and classic black finish, is a winning formula. It looks stunning. The G2 on the other hand, may not be going for the same look, but HTC’s done a great job turning a practical full QWERTY-equipped smartphone, into a stylish piece of kit. Size-wise, the iPhone measures in at 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm and 137g in weight. The T-mobile handset is on the larger end, at 119.4 x 61 x 15.2 mm and a hefty 184.3 g, but you would expect that from a handset with a built-in full keyboard.
The G2′s smooth-flipping Z hinge, and the curved back make for a pleasant feel in-hand. (No loose hinge issues here.) Personally, for me, this is a big issue. If I’m going to use a handset it has to feel good when I hold it, and unfortunately, the iPhone 4 doesn’t. The iPhone 4′s sexy looks have come at a cost. With sharp edges, and a flat back, it’s almost like you have to go out and get a Bumper or case, just so that you can use it every day in comfort. Another drawback for the iPhone that I’ve discovered is the slippery glass back. I don’t mean it slips out your hand, but with a toddler running around the house, the small vibrations from her thumping feet encourage my iPhone 4 to slide off almost any surface, no matter how flat. Admittedly, not everyone will experience this, but it happens often enough that I noticed.
As mentioned, the G2 is noticeably chunkier than the “thinnest smartphone in the world,” and to some people, that could be a stumbling block. But it’s definitely still pocketable. The fabrication â€” with soft-touch plastic and brushed aluminum â€” is nice and grippy, and it feels good to the touch, like a quality device. That, plus those rounded edges, seat the phone nicely in the palm. Since a device’s feel is more important than its looks, at least to me, I’m giving this round to the G2. The iOS handset looks nicer, but that flat back and square edges don’t work for my palm. Sorry, iPhone lovers.
T-mobile G2Â 1 vs. iPhone 4Â 0
Both handsets host 5mp snappers with single LED flash, autofocus and 720p HD video recording. So, on paper they are equal. But, as we all know, numbers amount to nothing and so I had to try them out against each other. I snapped both indoors and outdoors. One thing I noticed straight away about the G2 Android phone was the different options available for capturing images, like adjustable white balance (big deal to a media fanatic), different effects, adaptable image quality, and a hard camera button on the handset itself.
These two photos were taken in the same light conditions from the same position. I think the result is pretty clear, the iPhone 4′s image has much more color, contrast, and definition. The G2′s photo looks almost washed out in comparison. Outdoors was slightly different though. G2 is the top photo, iPhone’s below:
I intentionally tested the lenses out by pointing them at the sun (probably shouldn’t do this), but I got some interesting results: The G2 dealt better with the intense light. It managed to fade it out, and still pick up some good greens and blues from the sky and grass. The iPhone 4′s camera seem to flare up in the sun, and faded the grass and skies. However, the iPhone’s sharpness, and contrast were again better than the G2′s. But one thing I did notice was a major improvement in shutter speed for the Android device.
Every other experience I’ve had with an Android phone’s camera has been mostly negative, as it ends up blurry or worse â€” I wind up missing what I was trying to capture. To its credit, I didn’t experience any of that with the G2. But what matters most is the resulting image, and the iPhone’s camera wins hands down. Not only are the images generally much better, but with the on-screen manual focus, it is a much more complete camera experience. The G2′s additional features just don’t make up for a lower-quality final product.
T-mobile G2 1 vs. iPhone 4 1
Both handsets have similar size capacitive screens, but the G2′s is a bit larger, at 3.7 inches (480×800 pixels). The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch 640×900 pixel Retina Display.
The iPhone 4′s screen clearly has a higher pixel density, and it shows. Everything is so much clearer and more defined on the Apple screen. Saying that, the G2′s display is no slouch. I loaded the same image on both handsets, and the colors performance was quite vivid on the HTC device â€” maybe even more so than the iPhone’s.
Then I took them outdoors for the final test. In daylight, the iPhone’s IPS display wiped the floor with the G2′s WVGA display. There was no light refraction on the iPhone and barely any reflection off the sky. The G2 not only reflected the sky immediately, but was also pretty difficult to read in the sun.
Overall a clear win for the iPhone. It’s sharp, crisp and laughs in the face of daylight.
T-mobile G2 1 vs. iPhone 4Â 2
Text Input & Notifications
Both operating systems have text messaging organized in thread form, and each are attractive in their own way. But one thing that can make a huge impact on the messaging experience is the input method. Both devices have an onscreen virtual keyboard in portrait mode, and in my opinion, they are each as bad as the other (unless you have incredibly tiny finger pads). However, the G2 has one redeeming factor: Swype. Being able to swipe through letters instead of tapping each key with pinpoint precision makes the cramped portrait space suddenly much more usable.Â With one finger, you can just ‘swype’ across the keyboard and get the words you want. And if that’s still too difficult, you can press the little microphone symbol and speak a text message â€” which is a nice touch, having this integrated.
But you really can’t talk about text input without bringing up the G2′s most prominent feature: The hardware QWERTY keyboard. No matter how good a virtual QWERTY is on an iPhone screen, it’s not the same as an actual, physical keypad.
Often, when a phone has a hardware keyboard, the pull-out tray is rather fat. And while the G2′s does “embiggen” the phone a little, given what it is, it’s actually svelte. The keys are flat, but there’s generous spacing and the pressing them offers just enough “click” without being too rigid. HTC did a very nice job with this keyboard. (BTW, why don’t all keyboards â€” virtual and hardware â€” have a dedicated “www / .com” key like this? It ought to be standard.)
Just including a hard QWERTY at all is enough to beat out the iPhone for text input, IMO, but that it’s such a well-designed one is icing on the cake.
Now there are also features that are not device-specific, meaning they are facets of all Android phones vs. iOS devices. And I’m not going to pit the merits of the two platforms against each other (at least not in this post), but there are a couple things I’d like to note as it relates to text input: I find the iPhone’s auto-correct function to be really irritating. (And believe me, I’m being kind.) There is no such thing on the HTC phone, which is nice. I don’t need auto-correction, or at least not so much of it â€” it’s a text message, not an essay. And it generally puts in more errors than fixes, thanks to dumping in erroneous “corrected” words. I also like the message notifications on the G2, with a drag down list of alerts. It’s easily better thought out than the “centered, obscure your view, interrupt whatever you’re doing, no way to save” notifications on the iPhone.
A clear win for the G2 in the text department. I know it’s not very likely that Apple will ever include a hardware keyboard (though I’d love to be wrong). But there are drastic improvements that need to be made to its virtual keyboard, auto-correction and notifications. These are major areas, and Apple should definitely have a re-think across the board.
T-mobile G2 2 vs. iPhone 4Â 2
As you’d expect, the iPhone’s A4 processor handles iOS 4 extremely well. Switching between apps takes no time, and without any lag. The G2 has an all-new 800mhz processor, and with Android 2.2 (Froyo), it offers great performance.
Honestly, the processor speed may be less than a 1GHz chip on paper, but in reality, it didn’t seem any different. So forgetting the number and focusing on real world performance â€” I dare say, the G2 may even be zippier than the iPhone.Â The iOS animations between app switches mean it actually takes longer for the iPhone to get from one app to another. I went from the internet browser, to camera, to email, to YouTube, and back around again a few times just to be sure, but the G2′s Froyo app switching is definitely swifter.
In terms of media, the T-mobile G2 is not built with multimedia at the forefront of planning, and you can tell. Audio quality from the loudspeaker has too much treble, and distorts when turned up full. It pretty much ignores any bass lines, so I’d advise using a headset at all times. The iPhone, again as expected, is good in this area. Music is clear, there’s not much distortion and you can just about make out some funky bass tunes.
Via Wifi, both were pretty adept in handling full HTML web pages. The iPhone’s default Safari browser handles page scrolling and image viewing with ease, and web surfing on the G2 was also very good. If there was any difference in web page loading, I’d say theÂ G2 offered the tiniest bit more lag in my experience, with some stutter occasionally. It wasn’t bad at all, but it was there.
Two major aspects of any smartphone, is call quality and data connection. And when it comes to that, performance greatly hinges on the network, which varies from region to region, so it’s nearly impossible to offer a decisive comparison. But it’s worth mentioning that the current iPhone is only available (officially) on AT&T’s 3G network. If you’re in a bad coverage area, this will impact you on a daily basis. Meanwhile, over at Tmo, the carrier has what it calls “4G.” Is it a true 4G network? Not really. The infrastructure works on HSPA+, which is really more like 3.5G. This has become a controversial topic in the cellular industry, but suffice to say, if you’re in a good Tmo market for this, you’ll probably experience great data speeds.
The important thing to note, though, is that T-mobile’s network isn’t very comprehensive, so if you travel often to different areas, coverage could be an issue.
Overall, when it comes to performance, it’s practically a wash. In the end though, I’m giving it to the iPhone, but just barely. An improvement to the web browser and sound quality would see the G2 level with the iPhone in every aspect of performance â€” and maybe even tip it over into “win” territory.
T-mobile G2Â 2 vs. iPhone 4Â 3
Extra Bits – Buttons/Hardware
So, we’re finally down to my last point of comparison. Here, I’m taking a look at some of the little bits that can add up to a big difference.
The iPhone has always been, and will continue to be a minimalist handset. With a solitary home key on the front, volume up/down and mute buttons on the left and the power off/lock key, it’s very simple, and that’s the major attraction of the iPhone. Everything has been designed to be straightforward.
The G2 has an optical trackpad/button on the front, which is great when needed. There are also the four typical Android soft keys (home, menu, back and search). As they’re not physical keys, they don’t get in the way, but they make for great shortcuts. And they work well, very responsive with little lag if at all.
On the right of the G2 is the dedicated camera key, another feature the iPhone could do with. HTC did a great job of fitting all of these in without making it look messy or cluttered. The single rocker on the side blends into the phone, making it almost unnoticeable. And yet, when used, it feels like a quality rocker switch. The current iPhone got rid of its volume rocker in favor of two buttons that stick out a bit. This is a personal preference thing â€” you either like this treatment or you don’t.
What’s even more striking on the surface is the LED notifier. This, plus the addition of the camera button, are very practical features that were implemented well into the G2′s form factor. Meanwhile, the Apple device still lacks both of these extremely useful components, so for these reasons, the G2 wins here.
FINAL SCORE: T-mobile G2 3 vs. iPhone 4Â 3
There’s a lot to dive into, and the comparison easily could’ve gone on into an epic level of nitty gritty detail, but I tried to hit upon what I think would be most important for the typical user. And with that in mind, I think consumers couldn’t go wrong with either handset.
So I call this one a tie. The reason why is pretty simple: I’m actually torn about these phones. My rational brain wants to name the iPhone as the winner, thanks to its better screen and camera, and thinner, lighter and more attractive form factor. But the G2 shows how hot an Android handset can be. Not only does it perform pretty well, but I am personally such a sucker for a good QWERTY keypad and comfortable, curved back that I’d sacrifice all of the iPhone’s benefits just to have that.
And that’s the thing â€” it’s always going to come down to personal preference. Each user prioritizes features differently. One person may need better text/SMS functionality, while another could prefer an enhanced multimedia experience. So unless there’s a huge margin of difference, winners and losers are only in the eye of the beholder.
And this beholder wants to be holding a hardware keyboard. In my perfect dream, it would be integrated on an iOS phone. For me, this dream device would blast both of these current handsets out of the water.