Of course, there have been many other Android phones in between, but the G2 is as good a milestone as any to assess how far these Google phones have come.
The G1 stood for Generation 1, or Google 1 or even Geek 1, with the three descriptions summing up how this was very much a first attempt by Google to design a new operating system and interface, with its initial appeal mainly confined to geeky early adopters.
There is a lot of affection left for the phone itself, with its odd chin sticking out below the screen and its very usable slide-out keyboard. There were those initially unfamiliar Android home, back and menu buttons to press and a trackball that seems quaint now that touch controls have replaced such features. The 3.2Mp camera was no more than functional, but 3G speeds were decent.
With the G2 chinless wonder, 4G has arrived in the shape of T-Mobile’s blazingly fast HSPA+ network if you’re lucky enough to be in a coverage area. T-Mobile gave me a list of locations of the “coffee shop on the corner of Van Ness and Sutter” variety to try to catch these speeds, but web pages still loaded like lightning right at my desk.
Using a speed test app, I was getting 2 megabits per second download speeds deskside, although the “H” symbol on my status screen did not specify if this was plain HSPA or the + version, but I suspect it was probably the former.
A demonstration of Flash movies and games at m.flash.com was particularly impressive with quick rendering of full-screen video – don’t try this on an iPhone or a Windows Phone 7 handset, Flash doesn’t work with them.
While the G1 began with Android 1.0, the G2 has the latest 2.2 version and very tight integration with Google services. Google Voice can be set up through the phone rather than on your PC and your existing mobile number can become your Google Voice number. An Inbox for transcribed voicemails then appears.
Voice commands have also been improved so any US business can be called by name. Pressing the voice-search microphone icon on the home screen and saying “Call Fairmont Hotel” automatically rang that establishment in San Francisco (although it misunderstood my accent and “call” became “cool” at the first attempt).
If the G1 was for geeks, the G2 could extend its appeal to geeks and corporate users. It has a solidity about its construction and the gun-metal grey colour speaks serious business. The camera is a much better 5Mp version with digital zoom, autofocus and LED flash. Battery life was excellent until I installed (and then quickly removed) a power-devouring Skype app.
Two negatives on the phone – T-Mobile has not enabled the ability to become a Wi-Fi hotspot made possible by Android 2.2, although it could open this up in future.
The phone also went completely dead on me at one point. A colleague, who had suffered the same problem with his G2, showed me how to remove the battery, count to ten, replace it and depress the power button for longer than usual to revive the phone.
Other than that, the G2 is an impressive revival of the original. The keyboard is again excellent, the build quality from HTC is far superior, Android is seen at its very best with the level of integration and the speeds are the fastest I’ve experienced on a smartphone.