T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide review
T-Mobile's 'myTouch' branding may be alien to us here in the UK, but for our friends across the pond, it is a common and successful line of consumer friendly Android devices. Some eagle-eyed fandroids might even recognise the roots of the myTouch 4G Slide in the form of the HTC Magic, one of the first Android hits in the UK. While it may not have evolved here to what the Yanks have with this 4G Slide, some of us may still be interested with it being more powerful than all other landscape qwerty device currently available in the UK.
The dual core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and impressive 8MP camera brings this in line with the top Android smartphones around, while the bonus of HTC's design and stellar build quality (and of course the sliding keyboard) might be the deciding factor for some.
So is it worth signing two or three years of your life away for? Could it even be worth importing from the States? Read on to find out.
What's in the box?
- HTC device
- 1520mAh battery
- USB cable
- AC adapter
- T&Cs, Start Guide
For a more in-depth look and a quick demo, take a look at our unboxing video.
The 10 second review:
- Device: T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide
- Price: $199.99 (after rebate) on 2 yr contract
- Summary: The current king of landscape slider Android phones with a superb screen, a fast dual core processor, and an impressive camera.
- Best of: Bright and clear SLCD display, camera quality, large keyboard
- Worst of: While well spaced out, keys could be better. Quite a hefty weight in your pocket.
- Buy it now from: T-Mobile USA
T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide specification:
- 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network: HSDPA 1700 / 2100
- Dimensions: 122 x 66 x 14 mm
- Weight: 184 g
- Display: S-LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 480 x 800 pixels, 3.7 inches
- QWERTY keyboard
- HTC Sense 3.0
- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
- Multi-touch input method
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- 3.5mm jack
- Memory: 4 GB storage, 768 MB RAM, 4 GB ROM
- microSD, up to 32GB
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP, EDR
- microUSB v2.0
- Camera: 8 MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash, Geo-tagging, face detection, HDR, manual mode
- Video Recording: 1080p
- OS: Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
- CPU: 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor
- Messaging: SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS with A-GPS support
The front of the device, is, as most are now, dominated by the touchscreen with the earpiece and variety of sensors above, and a cluster of buttons below. Those sensors come down to a proximity and light sensor, but there's also a small hole for the front facing camera and a notification light. The buttons below aren't the usual four Android buttons you'd usually get - T-Mobile have replaced the search button with their "Genius Button". We also find something that's becoming endangered in the Android species - an optical trackpad. While some may argue that a touchscreen renders this useless, it's still useful for placing a cursor at least.
Over on the back of the phone, the first thing that captures your eye is the green-accented camera, with a large and proud "8 MEGAPIXEL CAMERA" label, just in case you forgot. The camera also comes with a dual LED flash for low light photography, and there's also a small hole for the secondary mic. Further down you'll find a discreet HTC logo and the speaker grill.
On the left of the phone there's a thin volume rocker, and a micro USB port for syncing with a PC and charging. The volume rocker, although very slim, is easy to press without being too easy that you annoyingly hit it by accident. The micro USB port is the further down, placed where it will not get in the way of typing on the hardware keyboard.
On the right hand side the only thing we see is the dedicated camera key which is a good thing to see when they seem to be going missing on many of the newer phones.
On the top, there's the 3.5mm headphone jack for plugging in your own set of headphones (as there's none supplied) and there's the power/sleep button.
Finally on the bottom we have the mic for phone calls and a hole to attach a lanyard.
- HTC build quality
- SLCD display performance
- Camera quality
- Keyboard could be better
- Battery life
The landscape qwerty slider hasn't been as successful a form factor in the UK as it has been in America, and it shows when HTC's latest Android slider was the Desire Z. Even so, there are bound to be fans of this niche form factor, and it is this market that HTC and T-Mobile USA are targeting with the myTouch 4G Slide. While it will only be available in the United States, it is equipped with quad-band GSM and the all important 2100MHz 3G spectrum. This means that importers can use this device on the UK's T-Mobile network and still have access to both 2G and 3G HSPA data speeds.
As is the standard with nearly all HTC devices, the 4G slide is solidly built from quality materials, even starting from the box. Opening the extremely sturdy box presents you with the device on top, and the manuals and charger below. While HTC may have skimped on the accessories front, the device itself feels great. the back is high quality soft touch plastic which hides fingerprints completely leaving the back always looking perfect. The glass on the front may collect fingerprints but a special coating means they're easily removed with a quick wipe.
As well as being able to see it clearly thanks to some clever anti-fingerprint design, you'll certainly be able to feel the device too - weighing in at 184g, this is no lightweight. While it doesn't feel overly heavy for it's size, when it's in your pocket you'll certainly feel the bulge. That said, the weight gives a good heft that adds to the quality feel of the device. It's not particularly slim either at 14mm, but that's because of its slide out qwerty keyboard. The size and weight help make the phone feel solid in your hand - there are absolutely no creaks in the casing and there's no doubt that HTC have put this together extremely well. While it may not be able to survive multiple punishing with concrete, this phone will certainly last its working lifetime.
Display & Keyboard
The myTouch 4G Slide has a 3.7 inch screen which is (scarily) now becoming a bit on the small side. Thankfully there are still many other 3.7" phones, as they have proven to be quite the sweet spot for many. The display is of the Super LCD variety, with a resolution of 480x800. This resolution is identical to virtually all other 3.7" devices, and this means that there are enough pixels in the space for text and images to be very clear. Colours on the display are also vibrant. Indoors, this makes the display very good, and the brightness levels are more than acceptable. When you go outdoors though, the screen rapidly changes from excellent to mediocre at best. The display washes out and is much too reflective so using it in sunlight is difficult.
The slide out keyboard is, as you'd expect from HTC, solidly built. The sliding mechanism isn't spring loaded like most landscape qwertys, but that doesn't mean it feels inferior - the slide is smooth and clicks into it's open or closed position. HTC have a very strong record of making some of the best landscape keyboards, though I'm afraid to say that this doesn't quite meet their previous high standards. The keys, especially on the top row, just aren't tactile enough to let you really fly on the keyboard. That said, it's still typable - it's just that when HTC have made gems such as the Touch Pro2, it's hard to be that impressed with this keyboard. On the plus side at least, they are staggered like a real keyboard and they make virtually no noise so you won't disturb anyone with your key clattering.
There is also an onscreen virtual keyboard for when quick one handed messages are an easier option. There are a variety of options available pre-installed, and countless others on the Market. First up is Swype, which is becoming more and more familiar these days on Android. In short, you simply draw lines on the keyboard from one letter to the next to form a word, and the keyboard accurately predicts the word - users accustomed to Swype can reach extremely high WPM speeds!
HTC also have their own keyboard (which I am a fan of) and it comes in qwerty, compact qwerty, and T9 types. Even in portrait mode, the qwerty isn't too cramped so there's no real reason to use the compact or T9 other than personal preference. Prediction and correction is also very good, and I like the fact that the word suggestion bar is only there when in use, unlike most other keyboards.
Call and signal quality
The HTC performs quite averagely in this section - both GSM and WiFi signals are bang on what you'd expect from your average smartphone, and it's the same story with the call quality. I'm not sure the secondary mic on the back makes much difference, but either way you won't have any problems with the earpiece during calls.
What started as a simple UI skin on Windows Mobile has now grown into a full on integration of how Android should look through HTC tinted sunglasses. The myTouch 4G runs version 3 of HTC Sense and it's deep integration and tweaks can be seen wherever you go - any noticeable trace of vanilla Android is buried deeper than many users will ever find themselves. Whether that is a good thing is hard to say - there are as many Sense haters as there are lovers, but in my opinion Sense is the best manufacturer skin (if we can still call it that!) on any Android device. The beautiful glossy icons and simplified menus make HTC Sense devices much more user friendly than Android is in its vanilla form. That said, if you don't like how Sense works or even what it looks like, there's no way you can disable it as it's so deeply integrated. Now that HTC are beginning to unlock their bootloaders, flashing your own rom could be an option if you're absolutely dying for the hardware side of the Slide.
Although both this and other devices such as the Sensation run Sense 3.0 , they're not exactly the same - for example, on the myTouch 4G Slide, the shortcuts you can add to the lockscreen have been removed - all you can do is drag the ring to unlock. There are also some interface tweaks too on the homescreen as we can see in these screenshots.
On the bar at the bottom, there's shortcuts to the phone on the far left, and applications menu on the far right. The middle three are, by default, messages, internet, and people, but they can be customised to any application you see fit. You can also place shortcuts on the homescreens for apps, and as you can see, each one has a dark box around it, something not seen usually. What has also changed is the notifications tray. HTC have added two useful features here; the recent apps bar and the quick settings. The recent bar shows the last 8 applications used which means you can slide down the bar and switch applications quickly for easier multitasking. Of course, you could just hold down the home button but evidently that's not how HTC rolls. The other addition is the quick settings pane, which means you can toggle on and off various wireless settings. This is much more useful and saves you having to open up the settings or having a dedicated widget on the homescreen.
The camera has received quite a lot of marketing to say the least, with T-Mobile even going as far to say that its the "most advanced camera of any smartphone". Anyone keeping up with mobile technology will know that the Nokia N8 unquestionably holds that crown, and that it would take quite a special camera to beat it. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the myTouch 4G Slide does not churn out better images as a result of the claimed "advance". That's not to say that the camera isn't impressive - it certainly ranks up there among the top camera phones available, making it doubly impressive seeing as HTC's track record for camera quality seems to be sketchy at best. While the Sensation may also have an 8MP camera, it unfortunately isn't the same as the one here, as this one has a newer (and better) backside-illuminated sensor with a wide-angle autofocus lens.
Just looking at the camera itself tells you it means business - the camera pod is large and protrudes from the casing like a fish eye, and it also has some nice subtle green accents. The lens is noticeably large (larger than my Galaxy SII) and the "3.6mm 1:2:2" inscribed probably means something awesome. It's also equipped with a dual LED flash which is very bright, and although it may not be a Xenon one like on the N8, it means it can be used as a video recording light too.
The camera software of the Slide accounts for much of the attention the Slide is getting on the photography front. It features many snazzy features such as zero shutter lag, HDR and panorama sweep modes to name a few. That zero shutter lag feature isn't quite what it says on the tin as it's just not instant. It is extremely quick though, and that's helped by the fact that it focuses automatically without having to press the (well made and easy to press) shutter button half way down. If you don't want to focus on the object in the middle, you can also touch to focus at any other point on the screen.
The camera app also has a raft of options and settings, which are mainly concentrated on the nine preset scene modes:
- Auto - Automatically detects and adjusts settings to achieve best results. Using this most of the time will work just fine - the following scene modes don't have to be used as auto mode produces perfectly good shots too.
- SweepShot - Use to capture landscapes by holding camera steady and rotating to capture panoramic scenes; simply pressing the camera button then sweeping slowly left or right to produce a snazzy super wide picture. A small preview progress bar at the bottom shows you what has been captured so far.
- ClearShot HDR - This high dynamic range captures multiply photos at differing exposures to make sure everything in the frame is exposed correctly - this means that a bright sky or a bright object won't affect the other parts of the frame. This requires around 5-10 seconds of post-processing before you can snap another photo.
- BurstShot - This captures multiple photos in a quick burst for capturing fast moving objects. This allows you to select afterwards the photo with the object at the right stage of movement.
- Night - Obviously used at night, and this mode helps pictures to appear more detailed in low light settings, but it's also very easy to blur your photos using this.
- Action - Apparently adjusts settings to keep moving objects looking sharp; I didn't notice much of a difference between this and the auto setting which may just show how good the auto setting is without needing to even select a scene.
- Macro - used for taking photos of objects up close. Quite an impressive macro mode on 4G Slide - images appear very detailed with a nice blurred background.
- Portrait - this mode has a circle on screen which you can adjust the size of using a slider. The idea is to adjust it to the size of your subject's face to make them sharp and the background blurred. In practice, it doesn't really work that well in comparison to post processing apps and programs. For one, there's no gradual change from sharp to blur, but there's also the fact that no-one's face is anything like a circle - an egg shape would probably have produced better looking images.
- Manual - Allows you to adjust more specific settings, but don't get too excited - this isn't anything like manual options on a DSLR like aperture. What you have here is actually you'd find on most other smartphone cameras, such as saturation, sharpness, contrast, exposure, white balance, and ISO. Granted, this is a bit more than usual, but nothing you can't do on a computer afterwards.
Now that you've seen what you can do with the camera, it's time for the photos. I have to say that I was very impressed with what the myTouch 4G Slide produced - not only was the camera easy to use, but the images have great detail and colour. The following photos have been taken using the Auto mode or macro mode, with no image adjustments.
For those interested in the SweepShot feature, I have also taken some panoramas using the device. I really can't stress enough how easy it is to take these, and only a very small percentage of the ones I took haven't quite stitched together properly. As you can see from the following panoramas, you can stop short of the maximum width. While the maximum width the pictures can be may not be as wide as the panorama modes on other phones, I personally feel that these are a good compromise of image width and resolution.
The final mode I want to show is the HDR scene. HDR isn't that common on mobile phones at the moment - the iPhone 4 is probably the only other mainstream phone with this feature. The following are some comparisons between the same frame shot with the auto mode, and then the HDR mode. As mentioned previously, HDR does require some time afterwards to process the photos taken - this can be worth it though for particular scenes. You can see that in the auto mode, the sky is so bright that to capture the detail there, the camera lowers the exposure, resulting in the foreground being too dark. HDR takes another photo with the correct exposure for the foreground and Frankensteins them together for a perfectly exposed shot. See if you can tell which ones are HDR photos!
HDRs are ideal for landscapes, but because it uses multiple photos merged together, it means moving objects are a no-no, because it can't take these photos at exactly the same time. An example of this shortfall is demonstrated in the following picture - you can see that the HDR one has the people in the middle blurred because the first photo it took wasn't quite the same as the others it used to make the HDR.
As well as photos, the myTouch 4G Slide is also capable of recording video all the way up to 1080p HD thanks to its dual core processor. Unlike phones such as the Samsung Galaxy SII, said 1080p video isn't cropped (and therefore zoomed) so you get the full picture when filming. Video recording is smooth thanks to the 30fps recording but the audio is decidedly average at best, like most camera phones. While videos look pretty good, it looks like that still picture quality was a priority with the camera design. You can view sample video here and here.
Friend Stream is a social networking aggregator app which can be found on every modern HTC phone with Sense. You can link your Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter accounts with it so you can see updates from all three services in one list. Personally I find this quite overwhelming, preferring to see them in their own lists in their own apps but it can be useful for people who extensively use and update all three services.
While it may have a keyboard, no phone today is complete without some decent media playback capabilities. The 4G Slide has all that in one place rather like BlackBerrys, instead of individual music and video etc apps in your menu. In the 'Media Room' you'll find music, videos, FM radio, and screen share. The T-Mobile TV and Slacker Radio options are only available over in the states so unfortunately I wasn't able to try them out. Music playback works with a variety of formats such as mp3, wav, and AAC, and features the usual functions you'd expect such as shuffle, playlists, and equaliser support. More unusually, there is also SRS sound enhancement. While you can certainly tell the difference, I can't decide whether I prefer it or not - it will likely come down to personal taste whether to have this enabled. Music can also be played remotely through WiFi to compatible players.
The video section simply presents you with a Gallery-like view, and you simply have to just tap one to play. It will play various video files from MP4 to WMV, and it handled the (admittedly few) MP4 1080p video files with ease. If you have more uncommon video files there are more versatile media players available on the Android Market.
The myTouch 4G Slide runs Gingerbread, but even since the beginning of Android, the browser has always been a strong point. Now at version 2.3 (for phones), the browser is still very good - pages load and render quickly, especially on a device with this 1.2GHz dual core processor and 768MB of RAM. The screen means that text even at its most zoomed out level is readable, and I've yet to find a page with more than just a tiny rendering issue - what you see here is what you'd see on a full desktop browser, right down to the java and flash components. Said Flash content runs smoothly (with the 10.3 plugin) and without hiccups - only multiple HD Flash objects seemed to choke the hardware slightly. Nevertheless, the browsing experience here is on par with the fastest mobile browsers around, whether that be from iOS or webOS.
The Calendar app on the 4G Slide is yet another which has been customised to Sense standards by HTC. All the functions of the vanilla app remain however, which includes full synchronisation with a multitude of popular services such as Exchange or Google Calendar. Adding appointments is easy, and there are the usual day, week, month, and agenda views for the Calendar. Being an HTC device, it will work with HTC Sync, their own desktop application which opens up the sync options even more, including MS Outlook support.
Maps & Navigation
The myTouch 4G Slide, like every other (newish) Android phone comes with both Google Maps and Navigation, both of which are excellent tools for your wandering needs. Maps is just what you'd expect with support for various layers including satellite and traffic views. You can get directions and pin point your location, then use Street View to see exactly where you are. Navigation is the app for true GPS guidance, and the size-zero price tag really makes its functionality all the more invaluable.
There's always some nice extra value apps which are useful. The one that's particularly nice is the Flashlight app. Not only does it look good, but it also works well, just as good if not better than the Market alternatives. There are three different brightness levels which are easily toggled by the single button; simple but useful.
Another nice one is KidZone, which is nice if you're uncomfortable with letting your kids lose on your shiny new phone. This allows you to give restricted access to your phone - you choose which applications and features are available to the young ones, whether that be just games or everything except emails. Exiting the app requires a password of course, so you can be sure they stick to what's allowed.
There's no doubting the success of Apple's iPod, and so many people find themselves with a problem when they want to use other non-Apple devices to listen to tunes. With all your music painstakingly organised on iTunes, how can you sync other devices? Thankfully, the popular doubleTwist app features on the 4G Slide, which allows you to transfer and synchronise your iTunes library onto your Android smartphone. And it's not just your tunes either - doubleTwist will work with photos and videos too.
doubleTwist is also available for other Androids on the Market, which incidentally has been given a recent make over. It's now much easier to discover apps as there's more ways of sorting other than the old Top Paid and Top Free. This new Market is a huge step forward in terms of usability, nd hopefully it will encourage users to find and download more useful apps.
Just to get this out the way: benchmarks are only a rough estimation of how fast and smoothly a phone runs; sometimes it is plain inaccurate. However, it does give us a rough estimation of the power behind these devices, and more importantly, how well the stock ROM can translate that power to actual usage. Now that's said, here are the benchmarks:
Benchmark PI: 790 ms
What is interesting here is that the myTouch 4G Slide runs a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 768MB of RAM, yet the only device with comparable specs - the Samsung Galaxy SII - can double the Quadrant and Smartbench scores this achieves. What causes this huge gap is unclear, but we can assume it's down to the HTC rom as the Sensation also underperforms when it comes to benchmarks. Both this and the Sensation though run very smooth and very fast, which makes this even stranger - maybe it's the way the rom handles strenuous tasks or maybe it's Sense? We'll likely never know for certain, but this underlines a fact we should remember - the benchmarks aren't everything as the 4G Slide is very fast with no real lag anywhere.
The battery life is never an easy topic to review let alone describe, and the myTouch 4G Slide doesn't change this. I found that varying usage makes a huge difference on the life span of the phone - watching a couple of films in a row is enough to completely drain the 1520mAh battery. But on extremely conservative use, I managed 34 hours. Mind you, that was literally a few texts and emails, that's it. I'd expect that nearly everyone will have to visit a power plug at least once a day - the battery definitely isn't a strong feature of the 4G Slide. The average user will probably get through a days use (based on around 50 texts/emails, 20 minutes of calls, and 90 minutes of general fiddling/web browsing).
HTC have created a solid Android smartphone with the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide even if its form factor is not for everyone and its name is a bit of a mouthful. Although HTC have made better keyboards in the past, the 4G Slide is equipped with one that is still very usable and still on par with other landscape qwertys such as the Milestone/Droids and HTC's own Desire Z.
That being said, I feel as if it has a slight identity crisis. The sliding keyboard appeals to business types; the outstanding camera appeals to photography junkies; the power appeals to gamers and power users; the Sense UI appeals to smartphone newbies - who is this really for? It could be argued that these features means it appeals to all these types, but in reality, a do-it-all may not be as useful to people as something that does only what they want, except better. Even if I don't know who this is right for, I'm sure there are many out there looking for a powerful qwerty slider with an outstanding camera, which is exactly what the myTouch 4G Slide is. For Yanks, this is well recommended if you can cope with the below average battery life. Is it worth importing for us in the UK? I'm not so sure - considering the costs, the keyboard just isn't quite excellent enough to justify it.
Reviewed by: Vince