Haven’t been updating my blog for a long time. 🙂 Easier to rant on twitter, but I guess I have a new thing to rant.
Let’s start with the background, about wireless carriers in the US. There are only 2 GSM carriers in the US, AT&T and T-Mobile. Sure, you might find some no-name local/prepaid carrier, but in the end if they are using GSM, they are using AT&T or T-Mobile’s towers. The biggest problem with GSM in the US is the incompatibility between AT&T and T-Mobile for 3G. AT&T uses 850/1900 frequency bands, T-Mobile uses AWS (1700/2100) frequency bands. To make things worse, the number of modern smartphones that support 3G on both carriers are few and far in between. Nokia is the first one that put out a penta-band equipped phone, the N8, running Symbian. Android is the worst, as the OEMs are only interested in making their phones specific to each carriers (eg. HTC phones on AT&T would only have 850/1900 3G bands, while HTC phones on T-Mobile would only have AWS). It’s ridiculous and severely limit consumers’ choice.
Enter the G2x. It was advertised by T-Mobile to have quad-band 3G, supporting all of the bands above, 850/1900 and AWS. Every tech blogs and reviewers regurgitated the same information, claiming this to be a future-proof phone in the event AT&T bought T-Mobile. Naturally, I bought one, thinking that I can have it unlocked and use it on AT&T since my Nexus One is showing its age.
Let’s start with the goods. The G2x is a dual-core Tegra 2 Android phone, running 2.2.2 (Froyo). It’s basically the LG Optimus 2x, but with un-skinned Froyo + T-Mobile junk added. It’s fast. Android phones other than the Nexus’ are well known to be laggy. The G2x feel very snappy, even sometimes smoother than my Gingerbread running N1. The phone is sleek and nicely built. The front glass is curved, adding a neat design. The screen is a 4″ IPS screen, looks quite nice and vibrant without oversaturation like the OLED screen on the N1. Same resolution though as the N1.
The camera is great too, capable of 1080p video recording, definitely above and beyond the N1’s camera. Not only that, it has a 1.3MP front-facing camera, dwarfing most other phones that only have a VGA front-facing camera. Really, there’s a lot to like about this phone.
Another plus is the 8GB built-in memory. The internal memory is partitioned into two parts, with about 5.4GB set aside as an “internal SD card” storage. There’s still an ample amount of memory left for the main partition, about 1+GB free. This is a huge advantage over the Nexus One where it only has 100 something MB free on the internal memory, severely limiting how many apps you can put on the phone (not all Android apps can be installed on the SD card).
Now, let’s start with the ugly side. When I first set up the phone, I found out that for whatever reason, it refused to hand off data from the cell network to wifi, even with a solid wifi connection. The G2x insisted on using the 3G connection to do data. Not cool. This issue has been posted in T-Mobile’s own forum and XDA forum. Long story short, this happens since I don’t setup my Google account from the start, and the only way to fix it is to factory reset the phone and setup the Google account on the first setup phase. Annoying bug. I have no issues in setting up my Google account later on my Nexus One. To make things worse, that’s not the only culprit. Once you did this, the phone is more reliable in switching from 3G to wifi, but there are times that the 3G connection is still being used. Apparently it’s due to T-Mobile’s own My Account app that, for whatever reason, requires a cellular data connection instead of wifi. Highly annoying, but at least you could force the phone to use wifi by intentionally disabling cellular data in the settings. Still, it’s cumbersome and shouldn’t be an issue in the first place as handing off data from 3G to wifi and vice versa is the basic feature of the OS. I never have this problem at all on my Nexus One. This is extremely dangerous if you are on metered or limited data plan. Another proof that carrier junk really screw up the user experience of Android.
Another ugly side is stability. Users are reporting that the phone freezes/reboots. This happened to me once, when the phone just rebooted itself. Hard to see if it’s the phone or the software. My Nexus One also experienced random reboots prior to Gingerbread, so my guess it’s the OS.
Now, the bad. Remember how I bought the phone thinking that it has quad-band 3G support? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, guess what, it doesn’t. Yup, the phone actually only supports T-Mobile’s 3G, AWS. No 850/1900 3G support, contrary to T-Mobile’s own website. I should’ve realized this as the box itself only listed 1700/2100 as the supported HSDPA frequency bands. People on XDA forum that got their G2xes unlocked only got 2G when they used AT&T SIM. Even LG’s own service manual for the phone only listed the phone as dual-band WCDMA capable. So why did all the tech bloggers and reviewers not mention this? Well, this kinda proves to you that these tech bloggers are not doing thorough reviews. Even Engadget, a well known tech blog site, failed to point this out on their review, and even after they updated it, they still think that the phone might be quad-band.
So, that kinda defeats my purpose in purchasing the phone. Extremely disappointed. I want to like the phone, but alas, I guess it’s not meant to be. After using it for a couple days, I returned it. Back to my Nexus One. It’s unfortunate that today, in 2011, US phone selections still sucks, with phones that only work with one carrier.