Earlier this month, T-Mobile announced the latest addition to its myTouch family, the myTouch 4G Slide. The specs look pretty standard for this summer's slew of high-end smartphones: 4G connectivity, a 3.7-inch Super LCD display, Android 2.3 and a dual-core processor. All of this is great and everything, but what really caught my eye were the camera's specs. In fact, T-Mobile claims that the Slide 4G has the most advanced camera of any smartphone available. So how does the Slide 4G hold up as both a phone and a camera? Read on to find out.
As the name implies, the HTC-built myTouch 4G Slide has a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard in addition to a 3.7-inch WVGA super LCD touchscreen. For a slider phone, I was surprised with how thin the Slide 4G is at only 0.54 inches thick. For comparison, the keyboard-less myTouch 4G is 0.43 inches thick. It weighs a manageable 6.5 ounces.
The keyboard's keys are nicely spaced and large enough, but unfortunately they are a bit too flat for my liking. I found myself using Swype on the touch keyboard more than the physical keyboard.
The Slide has an 8-megapixel camera and an HD camcorder that can shoot video in up to 1080p. It also has an array of advanced features. As phones beat editor, my camera knowledge is pretty basic, so I went to our cameras beat editor, Tim Moynihan, to decipher some of these specs and features for me.
The Slide supposedly has zero shutter lag, which sounds good on paper, but it is something we definitely needed to put to the test. According to Tim, the autofocus system has to be pretty fast in order to capture non-blurry images without any delay. Looks like T-Mobile's claims are true; the Slide's camera was perfectly snappy and smoothly handled every subject we threw at it.
The camera has a backside illuminated sensor, which is fairly standard in the most recent crop of point and shoot cameras these days, which works well for low-light situations without need for a flash. The Slide's F2.2 lens is a wider aperture than many recent cameras, which also translates to better low-light shooting without the flash.
The SweepShot mode is similar to Sony's Sweep Panorama mode, which is very cool. You press the shutter and move the camera from right-to-left, and the camera stitches together a panoramic image instantly. This mode is incredibly fun to play with and the photos look pretty good (see example) though sometimes they don't stitch up accurately.
The ClearShot HDR mode is a lot like the iPhone's HDR feature. It snaps a group of photos in rapid succession at different exposure levels, then "stacks" them in the camera to bring out highlights in shadowy areas and create an HDR shot. In my opinion, HDR can either look really cool or really bizarre and blurry. It is fun to play around with, though (take a look at the example).
BurstShot is a really unique feature for a phone camera. This mode takes pictures in rapid succession as you hold the shutter button down (paparazzi style). BurstShot is useful for snapping photos of quick-moving objects, like kids and pets.
Macro mode lets you take close-up shots of objects like the Furby, pictured here. You can get as close as about three inches to your object before the camera starts to lose focus. Tim says that this is pretty good, but there are point-and-shoot cameras that can shoot even closer.
Image quality is excellent for a phone camera. A lot of camera phones have a difficult time handling colors (many of the phones Tim said that it is on par with $200-$300 standalone point and shoot cameras. According to Tim, the camera's interface is the best touch interface he's seen on a camera. It is easy to navigate, responsive, and provides helpful information for shooting in various environments.
Video quality was very good as well. In my casual tests, the Slide handled quick-moving objects without any distortion or pixelation. We'll have full camera and video test results posted next week.
Sense and myTouch Come Together
The user interface is sort of a mash-up between the latest version of HTC Sense and the custom-built UI we saw on the T-Mobile myTouch 4G. According to T-Mobile, the myTouch rocks the same version of Sense (Sense 3.0) as the HTC Sensation (also on HTC). The latest version of Android, Gingerbread, is running underneath Sense.
You get a new customizable lock screen, which works similarly to the newly announced lock screen in iOS 5. You can pick a theme for your lock screen (the phone offers quite a few of them to choose from) and then select four apps that you visit most frequently. When you turn on your phone, you'll see the four apps at the bottom of the screen. To unlock the screen, simply drag the circle into position over an app, at which point you'll jump straight to that app. Thanks to this feature, you don't have to go through multiple menus to reach your e-mail or other frequently accessed items.
The new version of Sense has a spruced-up Walls system, too. Rather than having to flick back and forth between your walls, as you do in the stock Android operating system, you can flick the Slide's screen to make the walls spin. The effect is reminiscent of a rotating carousel. And like the older version of Sense, you can pinch anywhere in your homescreen to see thumbnail-size images of your walls.
The myTouch 4G Slide comes with a few preloaded apps including T-Mobile Video Chat powered by Qik for the front-facing camera and Group Text by Bobsled, which lets you send and receive text messages with groups of friends.
Call quality over T-Mobile's network in San Francisco was reliably good and I did not experience any dropped calls. My friends on the other end of the line reported my voice sounded a bit distant, but clear with no distortion.
T-Mobile's HSPA+ network is weak where our office is located so I tested the Slide in a number of different locations around the city.
The Slide's dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (the same you'll find in the HTC Sensation and the HTC EVO 3D) easily handled all the apps and media-heavy sites we threw at it. We also tested the phone using Qualcomm's new benchmarking app, Vellamo. The Slide scored an 803, placing it right behind the HTC Sensation, also on T-Mobile.
When I hear about phones with a single headlining feature, like say a really powerful camera, I worry that the rest of the phone isn't up to snuff. This isn't the case with the myTouch 4G Slide, however. The Super LCD touch display, slim design and software place the Slide at the top of this year's mega-smartphones. Of course, if you're a serious photographer, the camera on the Slide probably won't cut it for you. But if you snap a lot of photos with your phone or don't want to carry both a phone and a standalone camera at all times, the myTouch 4G Slide can get the job done.
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