I want an old T-Mobile smartphone
October 8, 2010 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I want an outdated T-Mobile smartphone, preferably Android-based. I don't even know where to start.

I've decided to get a smartphone. I'm locked into a T-Mobile family plan until 12/2011, at which point I will switch the family over to AT&T and get myself an iPhone. But for now I need a T-Mobile phone.

I can't really afford anything current as all the current phones require either re-contracting or dropping ~$350 and I don't need the thing that badly. So I've decided to go with a refurbished/used phone.

I'm not sure where to start. I've never been a big gadget/phone guy. I'm using a 5-year-old flip phone which still serves me perfectly well, but Adult Life is creeping in and I really need more functionality.

What's important:
Easy typing. (Seriously, that's the single biggest thing.)
Google Calendar.
Non-frustrating browser.
Slim form factor.
Not a BlackBerry.

So, what are your picks for older-gen T-Mobile smartphones that won't cost me an arm and a leg? Where can I buy one and not get ripped off? What's the pricing look like? I know where to find reliable reviews, but there's just so much so much stuff out there I need someone to hold my hand for the first few steps.

(NB: I don't want to hack or jailbreak anything. I am aware it is not particularly difficult.)
posted by griphus to Technology (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
T-Mobile G1's are about $150 on eBay. That's your only choice if you want an older, keyboard-having android phone.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:23 AM on October 8, 2010

I have a G1 in bronze that you can have for the cost of me buying a box and shipping it if someone tells me how to remove all of my info off of it.
posted by amro at 7:24 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

My sister has a T-Mobile G-1, which was released a few years back, doesn't run the most recent android version (I think hers is only up to 1.5?).

It was discontinued in July of this year.
posted by Lucinda at 7:25 AM on October 8, 2010

I also use a G1, and love it. The keyboard is easy, even for my extremely sausage-y fingers. The screen is great, and the swing-out portion of the phone has held up a lot better than I expected it to. I've had it for a year, and I'm planning on continuing to use it until it stops functioning.

I did install a custom ROM on it, in order to make using it a little more enjoyable, though. Specifically, I installed Super E. It's based on Eclair (Android 2.1), and is faster and more stable than the official 1.5 or 1.6 ROM that comes with the phone. I get 2 days of normal use out of the battery (which is a year old), as opposed to barely 1 with the stock ROM. Also, I can tether, which is a nice touch when I'm traveling with a netbook. I know you said that you're not interested in hacking/modding, but seriously, the improvement over stock is like getting a new phone.

The one thing the G1 is not, however, is slim. Because of the way the screen/keyboard is designed, it's pretty chunky, compared to the MyTouch/Nexus/everything else. For about $100, though, it's hard to beat.
posted by god hates math at 7:40 AM on October 8, 2010

The G1 was replaced by the MyTouch 3G about a year after it was released. The MyTouch goes for $150 or less used on ebay. The price difference between the G1 and the MyTouch isn't that high and the MyTouch is the superior phone. Also the hacker community has been running Android 2.1 on the MyTouch for some time. If you're willing to root your phone you could have a decent 2.1 smartphone for a really low price.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:42 AM on October 8, 2010

amro, check your MeMal.

The one thing the G1 is not, however, is slim.

Does it fit in your pocket if need be? Comfortably? (Follow-up: What kind of pants do you wear?)
posted by griphus at 7:43 AM on October 8, 2010

Oh, the MyTouch doesnt have a hardware keyboard, but I find the virtual Android keyboard as good as the iphone keyboards. There's a MyTouch with a hardware keyboard if you must go the bulky route.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2010

amro (and others who find it later),

Here's how it works:

1.Power off the G1
2.Hold Home Key + End key for 20 seconds or until you see a "triangle with an exclamation point and a picture of the G1"
3.Open the QWERTY keyboard and hit Alt+W

Stolen from here.
posted by deezil at 7:52 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does it fit in your pocket if need be? Comfortably? (Follow-up: What kind of pants do you wear?)

Yeah, it fits just fine. It's a touch bulky, mostly when it rotates out of the North/South orientation that I prefer. I wear jeans all the time.

The G1 is 17mm deep, the Nexus One is 11mm deep - basically the Nexus One is the depth of the non-screen portion of the G1. The latest iPhone is 9mm deep, for comparison.
posted by god hates math at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2010

I get that you don't want to drop $350 on a new phone with no contract (actually, I think you'll end up paying more than that), but take a look at how much more you're going to be paying for that data plan to support the smartphone over the course of the next year on top of the T-Mobile family plan. You'll be paying what, an extra $40-$60/month for the web?

I bring this up because affordability is the focus of your discussion. Smartphones are expensive, but the plans are much more so.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2010

in addition to the instructions that deezil provided you will want to make sure you remove any data that is saved to the sd card or remove it all together. after performing a restore i noticed that all of my photos and music were still on the sd card.

on a side note. a g1 without a contract still sells for $100-$150.
posted by phil at 9:35 AM on October 8, 2010

Here's another vote for the G1 - the only caveat being that it is hard to find chargers, batteries, etc for them since most T-Mobile stores don't carry them anymore. I have had the phone for 2 years and love it to death - the slide out keyboard is super handy for typing emails or anything longer than a sentence.

I just upgraded from a G1 to a G2, so if Amro's offer doesn't pan out, let me know.
posted by tryniti at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2010

I just got myself a data plan in anticipation for amro's phone (thank you amro!) Apparently the only data plan T-Mobile sells is unlimited for $30. This seems strangely inexpensive for unlimited data, but the exceptionally perky sales rep told me its all on the level. Are there some hidden caveats I'm not seeing?
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on October 8, 2010

Nope, I'm pretty sure my T-Mobile unlimited data plan was $30 too. Actually, I thought it was $25, but I may be remembering wrong.
posted by amro at 11:22 AM on October 8, 2010

My T-mobile data plan is $25, I guess they raised the price.
posted by kanemano at 11:24 AM on October 8, 2010

Ah, so maybe my memory is better than I thought.
posted by amro at 11:25 AM on October 8, 2010

Tryniti, the G1 uses a standard Mini-USB connection for charging. pretty easy to find. Not to be confused with the increasingly more standard micro-USB.

G1 is literally the oldest Android phone, since it was the first. It's been officially updated to Android 1.6, but can be flashed with a custom ROM to get up to 2.2.

My wife has been using my old G1, which I replaced with a Nexus One. Still a good phone, but needed a replacement battery a few months ago. I occasionally miss the really good keyboard. 2.2's voice input makes up for it though.
posted by jrishel at 11:50 AM on October 8, 2010

Yeah, T-Mobile's data plans are ridiculously cheap. I believe mine is only $20/month.
posted by !Jim at 5:36 PM on October 9, 2010

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