Impressions: To Dash or not to Dash (3G)?

IMAGE_0081Having 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.

For full images and to get a better idea of what Mystic is ranting/raving about head over to infoSync, see their review of the device here!

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?

dash_vs_iphone1

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]

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  • Texan

    +1 for david, thanks for the great review Mystictrust , i fumbled around with the device and it was plastic junky to me. I use to work at Tmo so i have had plenty of hands on Dashes and they are good base line data phones. I wouldn’t spend $2 on this one though.

  • http://www.netechsol.com Mike

    Indeed. I upgraded to the Dash 3G on launch day, but have decided after using Garmin Mobile XT on this thing (which works FANTASTIC, btw), I would rather have the nicer/larger screen, touch screen capability, and because of my fat sausage fingers, I think I would like the larger more spaced out keys on the TP2 better. I have gotten pretty good on the Dash 3G, but occasionally fat finger things, and don’t think that would happen on the TP2.

    Overall its a very fast/solid device and has a much nicer feel and more usability (I think) than the original Dash.\

    Anyone have any knowledge of what the full upgrade price on the TP2 is going to be? I’m trying to decide if I should keep the Dash 3G until 8/12, get an unlock code from TMo and sell it myself (eBay, Craigslist, etc.) to put towards the full retail/no contract price of the TP2 (since I’ve now used my upgrade eligibility), or return it and get my full upgrade eligibility back. I have until 7/22 for my “buyers remorse”.

    TIA.

  • efjay

    Rule number 1: NEVER give a WM device to a self-confessed WM hater, you will never get an objective opinion of the device. I previously thought this site would be different from the rest of the WM hatng tech world, somehow equating it to T-Mo’s openess with having any device on thier network. Sadly I was mistaken but somehow not surprised, seems everyone and their grandpa wants an iphone and are just full of MS hate.

  • Adam

    I like the Dash 3G a lot. It should tied me over until the Touch Pro 2 comes out. :)

    The keyboard is better than the Q9, and that’s saying something. I also like the Flash support in Internet Explorer. I can click on any link that the twitter people post from Twikini and watch the Flash video’s they’re talking about.

    The price should’ve been $99 like the Samsung Jack though.

  • WXman

    I’d just like to know if you can opt for the 9.99 data plan with the Dash3G?

  • Dasher

    I’ve been using a DASH since Oct. 2006. I decided against the DASH 3G because of the small screen. I’m also going to switch to android i think, because i’m tired of always being behind on WM OS releases unless i flash my device with a cooked ROM. I don’t want WM 6.1 with 6.5, 7 already here or on the very near horizon. I’m very interested in the Samsung Bigfoot. My DASH literally saved my life almost 2 years ago so i will always consider it a worthy and underrated phone. The DASH 3G basically has what the original DASH should have had years ago and should be much cheaper. JMO from a life long DASH lover.

  • Rajesh

    I own old dash, sda, 2g unlocked iPhone and G1.

    I loved my dash that even after my love of 2g iPhone faded I carried dash and boasted how it could do things iPhone could not.

    It slowly changed for me, I started liking bigger screen, better browser and apps started catching up. Android was a big disappointment.

    I waited and waited for htc touch version, xperia etc but nothing with bigger screen came to tmo. Finally I decided it was enough and jumped ship to AT&T.

    I would not lock up for another 2 years with spotty 3g coverage and pay $25 for data where for $30 I can get better 3g coverage, devices.

  • Samer

    I have had my Dash for almost 2 years. I love it. Does (almost) everything I need. The few things it was missing were GPS and a faster processor, more memory. That’s what I thought at least. After seeing the resolution of the 8900 screen, I realized it’s missing one more thing. So I’ve been waiting patiently for the new Dash. Saw the Snap at CTIA and other than the color scheme, it was the perfect phone. Now I’ve been spoiled with the awesome screen on the Blackberry. Don’t know if I should take the plunge or wait for the Touch Pro 2.

  • JP

    The original dash DOES HAVE A LOCK BUTTON other than the hang up button…It is on the Z key. If you hold down the Z button on the home screen, the phone will lock.

    I actually used this button when I first bought the phone, but realized that the hang up button did the same thing. Because the hang up button is a lot larger than the Z button, I used that button all the time.

  • Mystictrust

    I can’t wait for the Touch Pro2 :)

  • Kloc

    Send it back and get the touch pro 2, touch flo + touch screen is awesome i’ve been using it on a 6.1 rom for the MDA and love it. I can’t wait till till August 12th so I can finally lay my 3 year old tired MDA to rest. He logs to retire.

  • Kloc

    Send it back and get the touch pro 2, touch flo + touch screen is awesome i’ve been using it on a 6.1 rom for the MDA and love it. I can’t wait till till August 12th so I can finally lay my 3 year old tired MDA to rest. He longs to retire.

  • WSE

    My ADR says it’s an All-in-One phone so TMO requires either the $24.99 unlimited data or the $34.99 unlimited data/messaging for the life of the contract.

  • Mystictrust

    Maybe you were commenting for another blog? I’ve owned a Windows Mobile phone (original Dash) for the past two years (as stated in the beginning) and didn’t bash the operating system at all. Please read before generalizing the site based on an article you apparently misread.

    An iPhone is also far, FAR away from anything I would EVER want. David is on the opposite side of the spectrum, he’s anti-WM, and while he may have his own personal feelings – that does not affect the impression that I gave throughout the entire article.

    This site has both sides of the spectrum. Thanks

  • http://www.netechsol.com Mike

    Well, thats a given. I know I’m going to get the TP2, its just “how”. Does anyone know if I would be better off keeping my full upgrade intact, or selling the Dash 3G and paying full retail? Or would it be about 6 of one half a dozen of the other?