Is That a Phone in Your Pocket, or

by Dave Michels

Are you just glad to UC me?
T-Mobile launched the MyTouch 4G phone this week. Yet another Android phone is hardly newsworthy, but this one caught my attention. It has the usual specs that were inconceivable just a short time ago; 1GHz CPU, and 720p video capability, 3.8-inch,WVGA (800 x 640) touch screen, 8 GB micro SD memory card – all that is dull as some “older” models even blow that away. But The MyTouch has a few other characteristics that deserve some attention.

  • HSPA+
  • Front Facing Video Camera
  • Integrated Presence
  • Video Voice Mail
  • Speech Recognition

HSPA+ is T-mobile’s (and T-Mobile’s alone) definition of 4G, more accurately it is 3G on steroids. Ironically, the little carrier that could seems to be on track to have the nation’s fastest wireless network. High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) is what T-Mobile has offered as a third generation technology, but this upgrade is more of an extension or enhancement than true 4G. High-Speed Packet Access Plus (HSPA+) upgrades to a theoretical maximum speed of 21 Mbps. Users are realistically experiencing 5-9 Mbps speeds (a lot has to do with the distance to a tower). Neville Ray,T-Mobile’s chief network officer, says upgrades in 2011 will see that theoretical max increase to 42 Mbps. All of which are significantly faster than the sub 1 mbps speed most of us experience now.

Verizon is working on LTE – a more 4G-like non 4G solution, which will eliminate the separation of voice and data cellular traffic types (all data – think VoIP).
The MyTouch 4G is T-Mobile’s second HSPA+ device. Both it and the G2 are HTC Android phones. RIM also readied its Bold model for HSPA+, but T-Mobile has not announced plans to launch or support it (RIM who?).
The front facing camera is indeed interesting, and gives T-Mobile one of the first US Android phones with the ability to offer a FaceTime like option; but better. Better because video chat is supported on the T-Mobile HSPA+ wireless and Wi-Fi instead of just Wi-Fi as with FaceTime using Apple/AT&T.

Video chat is made possible by a client/service called QIK. The last generation of mobile phones got pretty comfortable with still photos and photo sharing sites. Coverage of the US Airways crash-landing in the Hudson legitimized Twitter and camera equipped phones, but Qik video promises an entirely different proposition. Check out this big budget Qik promo video to better understand how video equipped phones can help one obtain nirvana.

Nirvana might be a bold claim from a cell phone (video or not) – but clearly Qik has some compelling value. Many cell phones already will be able to receive Qik videos, and three phones can send/capture Qik videos: Sprint Evo and Epic (two other “4G” phones that are not 4G), and the T-mobile MyTouch [non] 4G (which isn’t compatible with the other non-4G phones).
Two powerful elements of Unified Communications are mobility and video conferencing. Another powerful component is presence.

T-Mobile integrated Qik into the Android address book. This means users can determine if contacts are available for a live video conference, and can directly initiate a video conference from the native contact application on the device. And if the contact isn’t available, no problem, just send a video mail. Video-messages can be sent to over 200 supported phone models, shared through social networks, or streamed live to the web.
Smile! (See Say Cheese).

I know someone on Twitter that live streams people at Karaoke bars  – at least they are consensually performing for an audience – are you prepared to be surrounded by live broadcast studios?  FaceTime, Qik, more to come – HD live-cams are coming to a hip or purse near you. Oh, and if you don’t want to be a director, you can always watch videos via T-Mobile TV – an application for live and on-demand television programming.
The MyTouch 4G also has a Genius button – as does the MyTouch 3G. I assumed this button was powered by Google’s speech recognition technology, but evidently it uses technology from Nuance. A press of the genius button allows a user to speak (directly or via a Bluetooth device) commands to the phone for a variety of tasks such as dialing, navigating, or texting. Voice interaction with cell phones seems to be all the rage: Vlingo InCar and StartTalking both recently launched similar functionality. Starttalking and MyTouch also offer hands-free operation that includes the ability to receive calls and texts with voice assistance (it will read the text or speak the name of the caller).

Sascha Segan of PC Magazine stated that although some of the myTouch 4G’s features are still a bit rough around the edges, the fact that those features exist earn the phone an Editor’s Choice award.
PC World’s Ginny Mies and Mark Sullivan gave the phone a rating of 4.5/5 and a solid recommendation.