2011 Complete Guide to 4G Mobile Phones in the US: T-Mobile Edition, with Samsung Exhibit II, HTC Amaze and Radar, more
The word "4G" was brandied about by the major and minor mobile carriers in the US as if it is some sort of talisman to ward off competitors. Frankly, the term '4G' had lost its meaning when ITU allowed it to be neutered and downgraded. However, what we got is what we go, so here is a guide to what is available on each network, and how the phones stack up.
This guide will discuss T-Mobile, one of the first companies to push their 3.5G as "4G". Stay tuned for guides covering the other carriers, such as
Let's get started with the first carrier to claim their 3.5G network is 4G...
NOTE: Prices named are always subject to change
Updated 26-OCT-2011: added Samsung Exhibit II 4G, HTC Radar 4G, HTC Amaze 4G, Samsung Galaxy S2 4G, removed obsolete entries, general updates
New "Value Plans" still offers unlimited data
T-Mobile announced new "value plans" that offers unlimited data, call, and text for one low price. You can even choose to "layaway" your phone if you prefer NOT to weigh yourself down with a contract. See Engadget article and the related T-Mobile Press Release
T-Mobile: First to Dubious "4G" claim
T-Mobile is the first 3G carrier to market their HSPA+ (3.5G) service as "4G", claiming their HSPA+ is as fast or faster than Sprint's WiMAX "4G". The actual speed varies, T-Mobile claims they will finish deploying HSPA+ 21 to entire nation by end of 2011, and already covers 200 million people (as per their website). Here's what HSPA actually means:
- HSPA -- theoretical maximum throughput 14 Mbit/s down and 5.76 Mbit/s up
- HSPA+ 21 -- theoretical maximum throughput 21 Mbit/s downlink
- HSPA+ 42 -- theoretical maximum throughput 42 Mbit/s downlink
T-Mobile have HSPA+ 21 for now, and claim to have rolled out HSPA+42 at 56 different markets, and HSPA+42 phones have hit the market.
T-Mobile is the first to push video chat capabilities over their phone. Furthermore, most of their smartphones are "WiFi Calling" compatible, meaning they can send phone signals over WiFi instead of through cell towers if they can log into local WiFi networks. This both saves airtime minutes and provides better call quality.
T-Mobile has no less than 8 different "4G Phones" available, more if you count the color variations as well. The following "4G" phones (actually HSPA+ phones) are available on T-Mobile:
- Samsung Exhibit II 4G -- slightly faster CPU and refresh
- T-Mobile MyTouch 4G (made by HTC) -- front-facing camera, 1 GHz CPU
- T-Mobile Sidekick 4G (made by LG?) -- front-facing camera, 1 GHz CPU, hard keyboard
- Samsung Galaxy S II 4G -- HSPA+42, 1.5 GHz dual-core
- T-Mobile G2x with Google -- dual-core 1 GHz CPU, 1.3 MP front cam, 1080p video cam
- T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide -- hard keyboard, dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU, front-facing camera, FM radio
- HTC Radar 4G -- Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango), coming soon
- HTC Amaze 4G -- dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU, front-facing cam, 4.3 Inch screen, HSPA+42
- Blackberry Bold 9900 4G
- T-Mobile MyTouch Q 4G (coming soon)
These phones have been replaced...
- Samsung Galaxy S 4G -- replaced by Samsung Galaxy S II
- Samsung Exhibit 4G -- replaced by Samsung Exhibit II
- HTC Sensation 4G -- replaced by HTC Amaze 4G
So let's get started...
NOTE: All prices are OFFICIAL Carrier Prices. Online retailer prices can be different and are often $50 or more lower. Check Wirefly or Amazon Wireless for discounts before committing.
Samsung Exhibit II 4G: mid-low Android phone
- 1 GHz CPU
- 3 MP back camera, VGA front camera
- 3.7 Inch screen
- $29.99 w/ 2 year contract (after mail-in rebate)
The Exhibit II, which came out merely 4 months after the original Exhibit, really has no special features. The Front camera is VGA only, and the rest is so average and vanilla it's boring. In fact, its back camera is only 3 MP.
The best feature? Low price. It's so low in price, it's being launched in Walmart. Yes, Walmart.
If you want to jump into Android world, at a good price, this is not a bad place to start. However, there are better phones available for the price (albeit, not on T-Mobile).
T-Mobile MyTouch 4G: good, but not great
- 3.8 Inch screen
- 1 GHz CPU
- 5MP back camera, VGA Front camera
- 720p HD camcorder
- $99.99 w/ 2 year contract (after $50 mail-in rebate)
Known as the HTC Panache in the rest of the world, this phone used to be the top of line for T-Mobile, but had since been eclipsed by the dual-core phones.
Available in 2 colors, this is one of the first T-Mobile phones built for live video chats, with front and back cameras. Furthermore, it can do video chat with just 3G, unlike Apple iPhone 4's "Facetime", which is WiFi only. The HD camcorder can record in 720p, and directly stream contents to DLNA compatible devices (including computers, TVs, and more).
Still a viable phone, though it is showing its age.
T-Mobile Sidekick 4G: the only physical keyboard for now
- 1 GHz CPU
- 3.5 inch screen
- 3MP back camera, VGA front camera
- 5-row physical keyboard
- Unique Sidekick look and feel
- $79.99 (with 2 year contract) NOTE: Special sale may go lower!
Sidekick was one of the best messaging phones around. First launched in 2002, Sidekick is one of the first phones with a slide-out screen and physical keyboard, with full e-mail capability. It was featured in a Jay Z music video, and it took off from there. However, the brand, owned by T-Mobile, went out with a whimper in 2009 when onslaught of smartphones and lack of research and development prevented them from keeping up. In 2011, T-Mobile contracted Samsung to make a new generation of Sidekick, with the familiar form factor, but with latest Android guts, and the result is Sidekick 4G.
This is the only 4G phone on T-Mobile with a physical keyboard, and it is a GREAT keyboard. The keys have big gaps between them so you can't mash more than one at a time. There are dedicated keys for emoticons, @ sign, voice activation, and more. PC Magazine called it one of best 10 mobile phone keyboards available.
Its other features includes TV-Out (with optional cable), and panorama mode.
Weakness? Only 3MP back camera. It's basically a Galaxy S in a different package.
If you do a LOT of texting, or insist on a hardware keyboard, this is definitely your best choice. However, its weak camera may be an issue for some.
Samsung Galaxy S 4G
- 4 inch Super AMOLED screen
- 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera
- HD Camcorder
- 1 GHz CPU
- $99.99 w/ 2 year contract after $50 mail-in rebate
Galaxy S 4G is T-Mobile's HSPA+ version of the phone that had been launched in South Korea many months ago. This phone retained the original name, and it's actually no longer state of the art (that'd be the next version, the Galaxy S II).
- 4 inch screen, with a secondary screen
- Physical slide-out keyboard
- 1 GHz CPU
- 5 MP back camera and VGA front camera
- $99 w/ 2 year contract (after $50 mail-in rebate)
LG Doubleplay seem to be inspired by Samsung Continuum, which has a second small one-line "ticker display" below the main screen. This one fits a half-sized screen between the two-halves of the keyboard for task-switching.
HTC Sensation 4G
- 4.3 inch qHD (950x540) screen
- 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU
- 8 MP back camera and VGA front camera
- 1080p camcorder
- $199 w/ 2 year contract (after $50 mail-in rebate)
HTC Sensation is the top-of-the-line camera for T-Mobile right now, with the largest and highest density screen (Most phones are about 800x480) and fastest CPU available in Android phones thus far. It can also do 1080p camcorder.
Other than better specs, it really has no special features. T-Mobile put in some video streaming apps HTC Watch (for movies) and T-Mobile TV (for TV shows) to make them more enticing.
NOTE: Sensation was replaced with Amaze, which is basically same phone repackaged with better camera with HSPA+42.
T-Mobile G2x: great game machine
- 4 inch screen with Gorilla Glass
- Dual-core 1 GHz CPU
- 8 MP back camera and 1.3 MP front camera
- NVIDIA Tegra 2 video chipset
- DLNA / microHDMI out
- $99.99 w/ 2 year contract (after $50 mail in rebate)
T-Mobile G2x was built by LG and features some very impressive specs, esp. the video subsystem by NVIDIA. Dual-core CPU is great, and the excellent video chipset means this is a great portable game machine. However, it doesn't compare to Sony's PSP Phone in that regard. In fact, it doesn't even quite compare with the other 4G phone, the HTC Sensation 4G, which features even faster CPU but no special video chipset.
T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide: flagship
- physical keyboard (4-row only)
- Dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU
- 8MP back, unknown front camera
- FM Radio
- advanced software camera (HDR, burst mode, panorama mode, and more)
- $199.99 (or so) with 2 year contract (mail in rebate may be needed)
Otherwise known as HTC Doubleshot in the rest of the world, the MyTouch 4G Slide has been released and is the new king-of-the-hill for T-Mobile.
What I don't like about the phone is the 4-row physical keyboard. The Sidekick 4G has a much better keyboard, so all you gain from this is a better camera, and dual core CPU.
HTC Radar 4G: Windows Phone 7.5
Microsoft's mobile phone was a bit late to catch up, but the latest phone is actually quite competitive, esp. when it's customized a bit by HTC.
The phone will be released on November 2nd, 2011, and will likely be $99.99, after $50 mail-in rebate with 2-year commitment. Features are a bit iffy, but it should be a 3.8 Inch screen and 1 GHz CPU.
Samsung Galaxy S II 4G: good!
- 4.52 inch Super AMOLED screen
- 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera
- HD Camcorder
- Dual core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon CPU
- HSPA+42 capable now
- $229.99 w/ 2 year contract
Samsung Galaxy S II 4G, which replaced the original Galaxy S, is now at the top of the food chain at T-Mobile, with top-tier specs and competes with HTC Amaze 4G for the top spot. The T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide got bumped off the top very quickly.
HTC Amaze 4G: A better Sensation?
HTC Amaze 4G is a repackaged Sensation 4G, now with HSPA+42 support, improved camera, but otherwise, not that different from the Sensation.
- 4.3 inch Super AMOLED screen
- 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
- 1080p HD Camcorder
- Dual core CPU
- FM Radio
- HSPA+42 capable now
- $259.99 w/ 2 year contract (after $50 mail-in rebate)
Blackberry Bold 9900 4G
T-Mobile have added the Blackberry Bold 9900 4G to their lineup. It is your normal BB Bold, albeit with HSPA+ support.
T-Mobile MyTouch Q
Appears to be a customized version of LG Optimus line, with mid-pack specs (3.8 inch screen, 1 GHz CPU, 5 MP camera) this appears to be for the mid / low end market. No detailed specs are currently available.
Expected price is $49 after mail-in rebate.
T-Mobile has a lot of phones in their 4G lineup, from the very cheap (under $100) to expensive (almost $300) even with 2-year contracts. It does offer something for everyone. However, the "top of the line" phone seem to be a bit confusing, with no clear "flagship" product.
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