The new curvy design language doesn't feel like a strict departure from the G1, despite the many differences, instead the phone seems like a continuation of the "friendly" design nature of HTC's Android phones. We like it plenty, with a shiny look that doesn't make the phone look or feel too "plastic."
The rollerball is hardly a departure from the G1, and in fact, none of the internals are different either. HTC has tweaked the camera slightly, so it should be more responsive -- along with the video recording functionality courtesy of Cupcake. That also means that the pesky ExtUSB jack has popped up again, since this phone has been in the pipeline since before HTC discovered that 3.5mm jacks are a Pretty Good Idea -- though we get the impression they've learned their lesson, and won't be bothering us with these adapters for too much longer.
The phone is notably thinner than the G1, thanks to its lack of keyboard, but we wouldn't call it *incredibly thin -- the iPhone still bests it by a wide margin. Still, it's plenty pocketable, and is very comfortable in hand, if just a teensy bit heavy.
HTC swapped parts on the screen, so it's the same resolution and size, but has a slightly different color temperature and might be a smidgen brighter than the G1.Software
Cupcake is a good update, but might need some improvement, since we managed to crash the software keyboard without too much trouble. The keyboard's methods of notification for key-presses includes sound, vibration and these odd "fireworks" letters that pop up in seemingly random locations instead of directly above the keypress. The portrait keyboard is certainly cramped, but the inclusion of proximity correction and the word guessing games and auto-correction Android includes should ease the pain.
The landscape keyboard is blissfully typable, but as far as we can tell, the interface covers whatever you're working on -- you can see your selected text input field, but that's it. Hopefully this will be improved in the future.
Cupcake also brings built-in video recording and playback. We tested it and it works fine, but playback of recorded video is not exactly awe-inspiring in the frame rate or quality department -- perhaps there was a reason Google didn't put video recording into the first generation. Still, it's video, and it works.
We weren't able to check out Cupcake's new Gmail app on the phone, since the phone hadn't been set up for a Google account, but we hear good things, including checkboxes in the list view for mass archive and delete functions.Wrap-up
Overall, we love the phone -- it's pretty much exactly what keyboard-hating, touchscreen-addled folks (like this particular editor) have been waiting for in an Android phone, other than the ones hoping we'd see Android on a Touch Pro2, that is. HTC is keeping the look and feel of its Android devices distinct from its Windows Phone lineup, and that's looking like an increasingly good idea. We could use a bit more slim, and some of the other more advanced hardware features of those Windows Mobile-running brethren, but this is still a great phone for the time being. Unfortunately, it's only in Europe for now, and the lack of US 3G bands means it'll probably be in Europe for the foreseeable future, so folks stuck Stateside are currently out of luck. We await your next move, HTC.