T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide: A Very Good Midrange Smartphone
At a Glance
Ready to graduate from the T-Mobile Sidekick? Debuting on the network on June 2 and priced at $180 with a two-year contract, the newest addition to T-Mobile MyTouch family stands out from its siblings with a full QWERTY keyboard, a slick new Android user interface, and a bigger touchscreen. I was impressed with the Slide's user-friendly design, but camera-happy users will be disappointed with the low quality of the Slide's 5-megapixel snapper.
Hardware: Excellent Keyboard
Like previous MyTouch 3G models, the Slide arrives in unique, reusable packaging. In place of a soft, zippered case with the older generations, the Slide comes in a durable, hard plastic box. Resourceful types can definitely find a use for the box--even if they don't want to store their phone and phone accessories in it. The MyTouch 3G Slide also comes equipped with an A/C USB charger, a USB data cable, and stereo headphones. It's available in three color options: black, white, and an attractive dark red.
The MyTouch 3G Slide isn't as pocketable as the original MyTouch 3G, measuring 4.55 inches by 2.37 inches by 0.6 inch thick. The extra chunk is worth it, though: The physical keyboard is a welcome alternative to the small, cramped native Android keyboard, thanks to its large, comfortably spaced keys. You also get a nice assortment of dedicated punctuation and shortcut keys. If you prefer the touch keyboard, you can use Swype for quicker typing.
Another improvement is the Slide's 3.4-inch display with multitouch. Though a bit smaller than the 3.7-inch and 4.3-inch displays we've seen on the latest high-end Android phones, it sure beats the 3.2-inch display on the original MyTouch 3G. The Slide's 480-by-320-pixel display is crisp and bright and remained reasonably visible in the bright outdoors sunlight.
Beneath the display, you'll find four hardware buttons: Home, Menu, Back, and Genius (we'll discuss the Genius button in the next section). The right spine houses a dedicated camera shutter button (always a plus) and on the left you'll find the volume rocker. A power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack appear at the top of the phone and a micro-USB port at the bottom.
Android Made Simple
The MyTouch 3G Slide is powered by the latest Android 2.1 firmware, and HTC promises that you'll be able to upgrade it to 2.2 ("Froyo") at an undisclosed future date. The 3G Slide's user interface, custom-built by HTC and T-Mobile, has some features reminiscent of HTC Sense, such as the pretty weather app and the socially aware address book (which aggregates your friends' contact information from your social networks). You also get HTC's Friend Stream which takes all of your friends' status updates, links, and photos from your various social networks and displays them in a single feed.
Another unique, user-friendly feature is MyModes, which lets you customize your phone for your work life and for your personal life via widgets, homescreen apps, and wall papers. If you want to avoid work e-mail and appointments as much as possible over the weekend, you can simply set those applications to be hidden from your homescreen when you leave your office. You can program MyModes to switch by location (using GPS), or you can switch it manually.
Another useful feature is the Genius button. Press it and you jump to a simple voice command menu. From there, you can use commands to make calls, compose and send texts and e-mails, search the Web, and more. It worked fairly well in my hands-on tests, taking a few seconds to figure out what you said, but producing generally accurate results. The more you use the feature, the better it gets, too: It employs Nuance's Dragon Dictation Software, which gradually learns your voice and thereby improves response time.
Remember T-Mobile MyFaves? T-Mobile's cheap calling plan of yore (which permitted users to make unlimited calls to five people of their choice) is back--this time, in the form of a speed dialer application on the Slide. The app has a kind of 3D effect that you spin through to get quick access to your favorite friends' contact information, pictures, and their social networking account links.
I took a few snapshots indoors and out with the Slide's 5-megapixel camera and found that image quality was a mixed bag. Outdoor snapshots looked good with fairly sharp detail and natural colors but also a bit of pixelation and blurriness. Indoor photos were on the dark side, and the flash tended to blow out detail. There was a fair amount of image noise in my indoor photos, too. The Slide's camera has a quick shutter speed, and the interface (like the ones on other HTC Sense phones) is touch-friendly and easy to use.
Very Good Performance
A few applications ran a bit sluggishly, but overall I was very happy with the Slide 3G's performance. The Friend Stream app took a while to fully populate; and when I tried scrolling through my friend's status updates, it stuttered a bit. The same thing happened with the MyFaves app when I tried flipping through my friends. Most apps--whether native or third-party--launched quickly, however, and I was impressed with the Slide touchscreen's responsiveness.
Call quality over T-Mobile's 3G network was quite good. My friends and family sounded clear and natural with ample volume. Likewise, my colleagues reported that my voice sounded loud and clear with no static or distortion--even while I was standing on a busy street corner. I was also pleased at how quickly the network loaded media-heavy Web pages.
The MyTouch 3G Slide is a big improvement over the original MyTouch 3G and is one of the best Android phones available from T-Mobile. First-time smartphone owners will like its simple user interface, finger-friendly touchscreen and keyboard, and sub-$200 price.
For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.