T-Mobile’s MyTouch Q, taking a photo of the MyTouch. Both handsets are built by Huawei. Photo: Peter McCollough/Wired
T-Mobile’s MyTouch smartphone line isn’t aging well.
On August 8, T-Mobile will begin selling the new MyTouch and MyTouch Q handsets built by Huawei, a still little-known Chinese gadget maker looking to capture a chunk of the U.S. phone and tablet market. The handsets combine an entry-level price point of $100 (or $50 after a mail-in rebate) on a 2-year data plan with software and hardware that’s straight-up disappointing.
A little more than a year ago, T-Mobile placed its MyTouch branding on the fantastic MyTouch 4G Slide, an HTC-built handset that featured an 8-megapixel camera. Back then, the MyTouch 4G Slide offered one of the sweetest smartphone cameras and photo-taking apps available. It debuted at $200, but featured beastly camera tech that wasn’t matched on Android phones until recent arrivals such as the HTC One X, One S, Evo 4G LTE and Samsung Galaxy S III.
Over the last two days, I’ve spent quality time with the new MyTouch and MyTouch Q, and can now report they’re both a far cry from HTC’s MyTouch 4G Slide in just about every way.
Huawei’s MyTouch phones are now two generations behind the curve, which means newer apps might not run on the handsets, and Android usability advancements are off the table.
T-Mobile is methodically making its way down the manufacturer food chain as it partners with hardware vendors for its MyTouch line. HTC delivered a premium experience, but then T-Mobile turned to LG, a lower-tiered player in the mobile market, to deliver the MyTouch phones. And now the MyTouch partnership goes to Huawei, a company that’s all but unknown to general consumers, and considered a hardware bottom-feeder among tech enthusiasts.
The new Huawei phones share much of the same specs that appeared in the pair of handsets that LG built, which were also called the MyTouch and MyTouch Q, and were released late last year. This is a big problem. Smartphone tech advances every month, so by maintaining specs over such a long time period, the MyTouch line is actually regressing — and that’s a bad thing for all those price-conscious T-Mobile customers who might buy these phones after hearing an in-store sales pitch.
Huawei’s MyTouch and MyTouch Q are exactly the same phone save for one notable difference — the Q version sports a keyboard that slides out beneath the display, making the whole package palpably thicker. A physical keyboard is a smartphone rarity these days, so T-Mobile’s offering is a nice nod to disaffected BlackBerry users who are looking to migrate to Android. Nonetheless, keyboard or not, the phones are neither good nor an accurate representation of Android’s capabilities.
The MyTouch phones have always been designed as easy-to-use entry points for first-time Android and smartphone users. In the past, T-Mobile’s user-interface changes dumbed down Android, but were arguably welcome as Google’s OS could be difficult to use. But as Android has matured, it’s no longer the puzzle it used to be. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) made a huge leap forward in terms of usability, ushering in a level of simplicity that’s competitive with iOS.
But the MyTouch and MyTouch Q don’t run Ice Cream Sandwich. They run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), which made its debut back in December of 2010 — this era is practically smartphone pre-history!