Having owned a T-Mobile Dash since July 2007 and using it as my sole device for the past two years, the recent release of the Dash 3G surely got my attention as a possible new phone upgrade. Faster processing speeds, upgraded looks, a seemingly more ergonomical design, and what surely must be a host of new features were all what I was expecting when walking into a T-Mobile store to check the device out for myself. Being my first Windows Mobile phone, the Dash has certainly given me a positive experience and was able to do much more for me than the previous phones I held before it (Samsung e105, Nokia 3220, Motorola t720!!) so I had high hopes for this newest addition to the Windows Mobile team.
What follows is my [very lengthy] in-store impression of the device. I will be outlining any immediately noticeable changes that Dash users can expect with an upgrade to the 3G version of their device. For those who continue to read on, please keep in mind that I have flashed my Dash to an up-to-date, non-branded ROM with WM 6.1 updates that never made it to T-Mobile’s official ROMs, so my point of view may slightly differ from those of you who are entirely stock. Nevertheless, I will attempt to put forth my opinion based on if I still had that lovely T-Mobile branding all over the place.
BONUS: David rants at the end with his iPhone-loving, Windows Mobile hating words of… wisdom? Well, I don’t think we should go that far, more like nuggets of bias and *cough*Apple fanboy-ism*cough*
I may not have had the luxury of getting a Dash 3G all to myself to play with, but I suppose that’s what T-Mobile stores are for, right? Picking up the phone and pretending it wasn’t strapped down with lanyards and on a short leash to it’s docking area, it felt pretty nice and I could imagine it was much lighter than the lovely blinking security device on the back would like to have me believe. The width of the phones seem pretty close in size, while lengthwise the Dash 3G is longer. Getting into the features on the outside of the phone, that stupid JOGGR touch-sensitive bar on the right side of the Dash has been completely removed and instead replaced with a solid bar on the left side of the phone that independently controls volume. Finally, no more sporadically turning the volume of calls up and down while you were ON a call using your ear or whatever finger happened to be in the way. Not that this was a problem if you downloaded special utilities to turn it off, or flashed to a version of the OS which allowed you to turn it off from the settings. But still, great way to get rid of a stock device problem!
So how did the keys feel? They felt a lot smoother with (obviously) a whole lot more “substance” to them than the original. Oddly enough, the keys are elongated more vertically than horizontally, so those bigger buttons do not translate to the best typing sensation ever; it’s an improvement and an interesting design twist but still slightly awkward for typing. Do this for me, look at your thumbs. Grab your phone and position them as if you were going to use them to type on a QWERTY keyboard (if your phone doesn’t have one, just pretend). For maximum support of the phone, you’re likely going to have it gripped on the sides, and with the positioning of your thumbs most of the “real estate” it takes up is horizontally – meaning you STILL have a bit of a “sweet spot” on your thumbs which you need to use to press on each key. Got it? If you hold your phone and can realistically type with your fingers completely lined up and down with the phone, good for you. Individual results will always vary
Enough of the physical stuff, what’s this baby packin’? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, for those running T-Mobile’s stock ROMs you are in for a treat because the home screen showcases what I like to call “Glass Panes” that showcase functionality like myfaves, new text messages (and previews right on the home screen), missed calls & voicemails, settings, etc. It’s a very clean look and really provides for a new experience from the original Dash. if you’re like me and already have flashed your Dash to a version of WM with this already on it… yawn fest, nothing new. The start menu is exactly the same, albeit having a few more items than the original did. They managed to have around 30 or so ringtones bundled that sounded quite pleasant (for the most part), but I wouldn’t necessarily say the sound was too much better on the new 3G. Moving around and selecting apps and programs was quicker and easier to get to with the new trackball – but one thing that seemed absent (I couldn’t find it at least) was the ability to set trackball sensitivity. Sometimes I found myself running my thumb over the trackball numerous times to get to the top of the screen while in Internet Explorer. Speaking of which, a major improvement over the original Dash is you actually get a mouse pointer to use for browsing! No more selecting every little thing on the page until you get to what you want!
Moving on, let’s focus on the top row of buttons, they feature the biggest change to the way Dash 3G users will operate the phone as compared to the old version. The red “End” button is now used to power on and off the phone, aside from ending calls obviously. If you’re upgrading from your trusty Dash, you’ll probably be like me and hold it down at least once to lock it – only to be prompted by a screen asking if you REALLY want to shut down the phone. A VERY worthy addition to the phone, an actual confirmation message before shutdown! Less accidents! So where did HTC move the “Lock” button if it’s not located on the End button? It’s got it’s own key, grouped at the “a” in the middle left of the device. Just hold down to lock – easy as pie. The Dash was in desperate need of a lock key not associated with the end call button. How many people have I hung up on while holding it down to lock at the same time of an incoming call? Note: I DO realize that pressing the power button and scrolling down one can lock the phone, but it’s not as easy a one handed feat and holding the button down too long will inadvertently shut down the phoneThe positioning of the Home and back buttons in circular form right next to the two circular “soft keys” for selecting options on left or right of the screen will take a LOT of getting used to. They’re so close together that it is very easy to go back to a previous screen rather than select “No” when you’re prompted. The size is nice, but the positioning is a bit off. I imagine that once you’re past the learning curve of training yourself to hit the correct key, it’ll be a lot easier to use than the current Dash. I found myself using the Home button a lot more on the Dash 3G than the original… it is way more accessible.
Would I buy it? Maybe if I was dependent on data but me personally… no. I’ve gotten by without a data plan for years, with the exception of a few months here and there, and wouldn’t really use it much. Don’t get me wrong, the Dash 3G *is* a nice device, but it doesn’t seem to offer much of an improvement to the original Dash beyond a little extra speed and power and 3G functionality. Remember, I have recently flashed my device to be non T-Mobile branded so the speed of my current phone is now much quicker than it was after years of being bogged down, and I got rid of that annoying pesky hog of an app called myFaves which was always running in the background somewhere. But if you utilize data (nevermind the fact that you HAVE to, now) and want 3G speeds, could use an actual mouse pointer for your browser, download and run lots of apps, and you stick with T-Mobile ROMs and would like a much better and more usable home screen (and other misc things such as multiple alarms) then you might think of this.
Now… David, you’ve used the device Have anything to say?
David: Truthfully, the form factor of this device is impressive. I love the feel of it in the hand, the rubbery feel of the device is awesome and I could only wish Apple had taken this as a design cue. The keypad, which I first thought had an almost laughable aesthetic look turned out to be quite functional in real world scenarios and while every message wasn’t done with perfection, I was quite pleased over all.
Overall, what can I say? It’s Windows Mobile… I’m sticking with my iPhone :D
[Images for this article courtesy of infoSync]