A month with the MyTouch 3G and Android

I love my phone. I think it’s great, and I don’t regret purchasing it (though had I known Oprah was going to let me have $100 off the purchase price had I waited a few weeks, I probably would have waited).

That said, I think T-Mobile did a lousy job launching this product. On the bus, I see people with iPhones and Blackberries. I even see quite a few folks with G1 phones (the first Android phone T-Mobile released here in the US). I have seen zero other MyTouch users out there. Why is this? Well, there are a few factors involved:

  • Pricing. Most people don’t realize they’d ultimately save money on a smartphone using T-Mobile as opposed to AT&T. They look at the price tag of the initial subsidized phone purchase instead of how much the total of a two-year contract will be paying X dollars per month. So with the iPhone 3GS the “same” price and sexier-looking, a lot of people might favor the iPhone over the MyTouch, even though they’re paying more over the course of two years. T-Mobile should have subsidized the initial purchase price more by offering the phone at US$99 instead and maybe charging a little more per month for the phone contract. Lowering the price now to US$149 is too little too late. It also does no favors to the people who bought the MyTouch 3G the first month it was out.
  • Advertising. So there were some skydivers in San Francisco on launch day for the MyTouch… uh, apparently. I didn’t see any. No one I know who works in San Francisco mentioned anything about them. I don’t really see how skydivers are even a good advertisement for a smartphone, anyway. Oh, and then a month after release, some random commercials show up with Whoopi Goldberg and… and two guys whom I guess are probably famous, but I don’t recognize them. Oprah offers some $100-off promotion, and yet sales still don’t skyrocket. Maybe Oprah’s better for book sales?
  • Branding. MyTouch? Really? In other countries, it’s called the HTC Magic. Sometimes it’s referred to as Sapphire. MyTouch? Oh, do you want to see my MyTouch? That just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? How about a better naming scheme? The Hero sounds great. The Palm Pre sounds great. The iPhone sounds great. The Blackberry Storm sounds great. The MyTouch 3G… not as slick-sounding.
  • Speaker placement. Okay, I know you could make the case this is HTC’s fault and not T-Mobile’s, but if Sprint can get HTC to remove the “chin” on the HTC Hero for the US release, why couldn’t T-Mobile have gotten HTC to move the speaker to the front of the phone? If I’m watching a YouTube video on the front of my phone, I don’t want sound coming out the back of the phone. If I am listening to my T-Mobile or Google Voice visual voicemails on speaker, I don’t want to press the message on the front and then turn the phone over to listen to it. This is about the dumbest engineering I’ve ever seen. Did some industrial designer out there actually think a speaker on the back of a phone was a good idea? I can still hear it, yes, but not as well as if it had been on the front of the phone. This has to be my absolute #1 annoyance with the MyTouch 3G.
  • Differentiation. Even though the iPhone is in many ways a superior phone, there are actually some cool things my phone can do that my wife’s iPhone can’t. You can have a contact (like a wrong number who keeps calling you) go straight to voicemail. Your phone comes with a little bag. Google Voice? Android has an app for that. iPhone doesn’t. Instead, the ad campaign for the MyTouch focused too much on trying to get people to buy skins for the phone and repeating vague phrases about making the phone “customizable” without giving a lot of concrete examples. How about just saying “Want a picture of your cute cat behind your apps? The MyTouch has that”? Or even “Works with Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X” or “Doesn’t require specialized software to transfer music.”

The worst part is really the timing, though. Yes, I’m an impatient sort who wanted to see the G1 first before buying the second-generation Android phone (the MyTouch 3G). A lot of people go for third-generation or even fourth-generation. The buzz has been that the Hero is supposed to be the best Android phone, and Sprint recently announced they’d be selling the Hero. Verizon is apparently going to have an Android phone as well. There are lots of Google Android phones on the horizon. Launching the MyTouch right before the Hero was not a savvy move on the part of T-Mobile’s marketing department.

All that said as an explanation for why others don’t have a MyTouch 3G, I still have one myself. And I like it. And I generally like T-Mobile. Its service is much better than the Sprint service I used for years. I actually have coverage. Sure, customer service isn’t available 24 hours (it should be), but when I called after stupidly PUK-locking my sim card, I got through to a customer service representative quickly, and he was very helpful (he also had the same first name as me, which was funny). And, of course, the price per month for a reasonable number of minutes (I don’t talk much) and an unlimited data plan is only a little more than half what my wife pays for her iPhone plan with AT&T.

Google has some Android issues to iron out certainly.

I think the biggest problem with Android right now is web browsing. There are a lot of great things about all the different web browsers available on Android, but there is no one web browser that is fully satisfactory.

Browser is the name of the default web browser Android comes with. It also is the best browser available for Android right now. Its one (and huge) shortcoming is its insistence on refreshing pages every time you switch windows or wake the display up from sleep. You can read all about it here (I’m not the only user who has a problem with this behavior). This kind of behavior completely defeats the purpose of having the ability to load links in background windows. It also doesn’t recognize that users of phones are often on Edge or 3G networks and not necessarily connected to a fast wireless connection. And even if we are, why reload the whole page? Do you really think the page has changed that much in the last two minutes? Shouldn’t you leave it up to the user to decide when to refresh the page?

Other than that major deficiency, Browser functions well. Pressing the search button brings up the search screen, you have the ability to load tabs in the background, the keyboard recognizes if you’re typing in a URL bar or in a regular form and will include or omit the .com button as appropriate. The double-tap zoom works great. First of all, the browser is pretty good about squeezing pages into a narrow format, but even if it doesn’t, you can double-tap on a paragraph and the size will automatically adjust to fit the paragraph to the width of your phone. This is a lot easier than pinching the webpage with two fingers to try to adjust the zoom to the right size (nevertheless, I’m glad rooted versions of Android include multi-touch).

Steel is a very popular browser among Android enthusiasts. Great things about it are its speed (it downloads pages a lot faster than Browser does and, more importantly, does not auto-refresh them for you), its fullscreen mode… and that’s it. Two really annoying things about Steel are the search button not bringing up the URL bar, and the Menu key bringing you directly to settings instead of to a menu of other options (and window management). Worse yet, there is no option to open links in background windows.

Coco Browser uses tabs but will display tabs even if you have only one tab open. It also doesn’t allow you to access the address bar directly or go directly to search. To get to a new page directly, you have to open a new tab and then close the old tab. After I realized this, I gave up on Coco very quickly.

Opera is probably a great browser if you have a hard-key QWERTY keyboard on your phone, but it sucks for phones that have only touchscreen keyboards. That’s all I have to say about that.

Some hackers have created a specialized version of Browser called Better Browser. It allows you to use the regular browser in fullscreen mode. Unfortunately, it changes the double-tap zoom behavior to zoom in and out to an arbitrary degree. I like the default Browser’s double-tap to zoom-to-fit instead.

I’d love to see Google fix the Browser or port over Chromium. It’d also be great if Firefox created an Android browser, or if Opera recognized that touchscreen keyboard phones could benefit from a properly tweaked Opera Mini.

All in due time. Meanwhile, I’m just waiting for pages that have already loaded to autorefresh…

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1 Comment

  1. The Browser zoom all button location was on the lower right with the zoom in/out button on the lower left when I first started using my myTouch (lol). But now they are reversed and I don’t know what I did to make that happen, so I would like to know how to do this. Can you help me? Thank you.

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