King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

Summary: We posted the first of three parts of the King of the QWERTYs feature with the BlackBerry Tour and now are moving on to take a look at the T-Mobile Dash 3G. You can check out my earlier review for some other thoughts on the device since this feature will look at a few specific categories across all three forward facing QWERTY devices and won't cover the device in detail.

SHARE:

We posted the first of three parts of the King of the QWERTYs feature with the BlackBerry Tour and now are moving on to take a look at the T-Mobile Dash 3G. You can check out my earlier review for some other thoughts on the device since this feature will look at a few specific categories across all three forward facing QWERTY devices and won't cover the device in detail. The three selected devices are the RIM BlackBerry Tour, T-Mobile Dash 3G, and Nokia E71x. You can check out a few photos of these three in this image gallery.

Microsoft smartphones began a few years ago with non-touchscreen candy bar form factor devices that had a slightly different flavor of the OS compared to the Pocket PC OS. These smartphones were highly focused on phone calls, with data as a secondary need. We then saw more touchscreen Pocket PC phones launch alongside these non-touchscreen smartphones and over the last couple of years the trend in the Windows Mobile world has been on optimizing the touch experience. The T-Mobile Dash/HTC Excalibur was an extremely popular form factor and device across the spectrum of users. I know several serious mobile phone enthusiasts, who have access to just about every device available, that swear by the Dash and were very disappointed to see no apparent follow-up over the last two years.

I think all of these people, including myself, breathed a sigh of relief when we saw HTC announce the HTC Snap/T-Mobile Dash 3G device last month. The T-Mobile Dash was successful because of its form factor, battery life, optimized phone experience (smart dialing) and stability and I am pleased to see the T-Mobile Dash 3G improves on just about every area of the Dash, except for the display resolution. It turns out the display resolution (240x320 pixels) is a current limit in the Windows Mobile Standard OS so there is nothing else HTC could have done with the Dash 3G/Snap in this area.

Operating System

The T-Mobile Dash 3G runs the Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard operating system. It may be possible to upgrade to the upcoming 6.5 OS, but there appears to be very little changed in non-touchscreen devices with this update. Thus, I doubt carriers will be quick to provide an update to 6.5 for the Dash 3G, or other HTC Snap variants.

The Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard OS is highly optimized for phone functionality and has been one of the most stable operating systems I have used on smartphones. Most of the grumbling you hear about regarding Microsoft's mobile operating system is related to the Professional (touchscreen) operating system that is not as sleek and snappy as the non-touchscreen variant. The distinction should be gone with Windows Mobile 7.

Some of the phone optimizations include smart dialing (start typing a name from the home screen to call a contact), profile support (now being provided by HTC and others on touchscreen devices), and easy one-handed capability. If you like Windows Mobile I recommend a Standard device for heavy voice users and a Professional device for heavy data users.

Windows Mobile Standard includes quite a few utilities and applications in the OS, but one area that continues to drive me crazy is the inability to create new Word or Excel files in the Office Mobile suite. There is a free and easy utility (MoDaCo DoNew) you can add to enable this, but this should be provided out of the box by Microsoft or HTC.

Exchange email support is excellent with the ability to search your server, create appointments with attendees, and more. Internet sharing (tethering) is a provided utility on the device, but usage may vary by carrier.

The 6.1 Standard home screen sliding panels are very efficient at getting you to your data and status quickly and easily.

I with that Microsoft would improve the native shortcut capability of QWERTY Windows Mobile devices though since there are only a couple of keys provided that launch applications. The Samsung Blackjack II had excellent keyboard shortcut support that I would like to see implemented on all of these front facing QWERTY devices.

Similar to the 90s era Settings found on the RIM BlackBerry platform, Windows Mobile Standard still has a very basic look and feel to their settings. On the T-Mobile Dash 3G you will actually find five screens of available settings. This is great for the geek and tweaker, but may appear a bit daunting to a standard consumer and needs an overhaul.

Let's check out the Hardware »

Hardware

There are currently three variants of the HTC Snap device with the T-Mobile Dash 3G and Sprint HTC Snap being the two most similar to the HTC branded Snap device. The Sprint HTC Snap does remove the trackball in favor of a more traditional directional pad. The Verizon HTC Ozone not only alters the replaces the center trackball navigation controller, but alters the keyboard quite a bit. For purposes of this feature article I will be using the T-Mobile Dash 3G as the device to lead the pack since I have personal hands-on experiences with it and after reading several articles it has the best QWERTY keyboard of all three of these devices.

The most obvious improvement in the Dash 3G over the Dash is the redesigned QWERTY keyboard. The keys have a soft touch coating, are quite large, curve up to a crowned raised center, and have good positive feedback. IMHO, the Dash 3G keyboard is a close second to the BlackBerry Tour and some may like the soft touch finish enough to consider it even a better keyboard design.

The Dash 3G also now supports T-Mobile's 1700 MHz 3G network, has a decent 2 megapixel auto-focus camera, has plenty of available memory with 256 MB ROM and 192 MB RAM, has integrated Bluetooth and WiFi radios, has an integrated GPS receiver, and a rather high capacity 1500 mAh battery.

The form factor is awesome with a large soft touch stylish back cover, glossy plastic on the front with pearl-esque highlights, and large hardware buttons above the keyboard. I have come to enjoy the trackball and find the one on the Dash 3G to perform well, especially with the sliding panels home screen. There is a volume control bar on the upper left side, but that is about it as the Dash 3G is a simple, focused device.

While the display doesn't have the highest resolution available on smartphones today, it is very bright and for most situations looks excellent. This is definitely a messaging focused device and not a multimedia powerhouse.

HTC uses their ExtUSB port for syncing, charging, and a headset which does let them reduce the size of the device. An audio adapter is provided and with the limited focus on multimedia I really do not have much of an issue with use of this port.

What about the carrier selection? »

Carriers

As discussed in the hardware intro paragraph there are three slightly different variants of the HTC Snap, depending on the carrier that offers the device. The focus of this article is on the T-Mobile Dash 3G, but if you are with Sprint or Verizon Wireless you can pick up a device very similar to this as well.

T-Mobile may be the smallest of the four major wireless carriers, but they regularly win awards for customer service, have some of the lowest rate plans, and I was very pleased with them for over 6 years. They are a GSM carrier so you can pop in your SIM card and use their devices or other unlocked devices.

With a 2-year contract and online instant discount ($180) you can pick up a Dash 3G for $169.99. Full price (may apply to you if you are an existing customer with no upgrade discount available) is $349.99. Individual eligible voice plans start at $39.99 with unlimited voice for $99.99. T-Mobile unlimited data is available for $24.99 or $34.99 if you want unlimited text messaging included. Unlike the other three major carriers, T-Mobile really doesn't have a lot of extra subscription service offerings such as streaming music or TV.

If you are a Sprint customer then you can find the HTC Snap available for $149.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate and $150 instant discount. Sprint is one of two major CDMA carriers in the US and has been reported as having one of the fastest networks available. Unlike Verizon, Sprint has the BEST pricing options available for those looking for lots of minutes and unlimited data. Their EVERYTHING plans give you unlimited data, texting, phone calls, Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV and more all in one low price (compared to other carrier unlimited plans). I found the coverage to be about the same for Verizon and Sprint so if that is the case for you then Sprint is the way to go for more full featured plans that should save you some serious cash. The Tour is also available for $199.99 from Sprint after rebates and activation of a 2-year contract. Unlimited Everything is only $99.99 though compared to almost double what you pay with Verizon to get the same carrier features.

You can also find a variation of the HTC Snap on Verizon Wireless known as the HTC Ozone that appears to have a ridiculously low price of just $49.99 after a $70 online discount. Voice plans start at $39.99 with unlimited voice for $99.99. Unlimited data is available for a whopping $44.99 per month (may be why the phone initial price is so low), Visual Voicemail is $2.99 per month and text messaging measures from $5 to $20 per month.

3rd Party Applications and final thoughts »

3rd Party Applications

There are not many 3rd party applications loaded on the T-Mobile Dash 3G by default since the Windows Mobile OS provides most all of the essentials you need to use the device. However, there are a few handy applications, including T-Mobile My Account, Java client, Microsoft Voice Command, Voice Recorder, OZ Instant Messaging clients (AIM, Google Talk, MySpace IM and Yahoo! Messenger), Handango InHand, Google Maps, Windows Live Search (now labeled Bing Search), YouTube, and TeleNav (subscription GPS software/service).

Even though the Marketplace for Mobile store is not yet available, there are thousands of applications available from various vendors and developers for Windows Mobile devices. I have been able to always find a Windows Mobile application to fulfill my needs and think there are more than enough for you to choose from. Gaming is not a huge part of the T-Mobile Dash 3G so don't expect to see much in this regards.

Final Thoughts

For those T-Mobile customers who enjoyed using the T-Mobile Dash I think you will all love the Dash 3G with the improved keyboard and solid design. T-Mobile Dash fans now get GPS, 3G data, and a better camera on a super pocketable and powerful Windows Mobile smartphone. The Dash 3G is priced a bit high compared to other smartphones on the market today, but is still much less than I paid in the past for such a powerful phone.

Windows Mobile is getting a bit dated, but the non-touchscreen Standard variant of the OS has always been pretty lean and optimized for the phone experience so I really don't think people will have much to complain about with the Dash 3G operating system. I would like to have seen a higher resolution display, but it is quite bright and very visible. I don't think we will see many more of these forward facing QWERTY smartphones running Windows Mobile so you may want to get a Dash 3G before they can no longer be found.

While the BlackBerry Tour QWERTY keyboard may be the best of the three we are taking a look at in this series, I would still take the T-Mobile Dash 3G over it due to the integrated Exchange experience, super thin and pocketable form factor and inclusion of a WiFi radio.

Go back to the beginning »

Topics: Mobile OS, Hardware, Wi-Fi, Telcos, Software, Smartphones, Operating Systems, Mobility, HTC, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

12 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • denial

    you microsoft sheeple and "serious mobile phone enthusiasts" really live
    in deep denial. a phone with a tiny screen, an ancient os and a myriad of
    tiny plastic buttons glued all over it? unbelieveable that they are still
    produced. let alone that someone is buying garbage like that.

    and winmo 6.1.? you must be joking.
    bannedfromzdnetagain
  • RE: King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

    After reading your review.. I replaced my Palm Treo (AKA Treboot) 800w. I have never had a Blackberry for personal use, and I went out and got a Sprint Blackberry Tour 9630. This thing is SWEET. The speed is just unreal. And it multi-tasks without even a hitch. Listening to music, the phone rings, answer it...hang up.. music resumes... Wow...that would have either A) caused a missed call B) caused the Windows Mobile 6.1 to freeze and need yet another Treboot. .. Not on the Blackberry.

    Setting up the multiple email accounts I have on the blackberry literally took 5 minutes and they are all perfectly configured and pushing in the email.

    The blackberry app store is SSOOOOSSOOOO slick...and the crackberry.com app store is too!

    I am working it over today, I left my iPod at home after syncing up 6GB of music from iTunes. Let's see how the battery survives me listening to music on it all day...and using it for email and calls.

    So far so good.. halfway through the day, and haven't even lost a dot of battery life.

    Thanks for the great review!
    condelirios
  • The Adobe Flash support is nice too

    Unlike the Blackberry Tour or Nokia E71x, the Dash 3G also includes native Flash support in the included Internet Explorer. It doesn't support the latest Flash 10, but most web designers create Flash animations to be compatible with older versions anyway.

    It's also interesting that everyone always complains about the iPhone, Palm Pre, Android, and Blackberry not having Adobe Flash support, yet no one realizes that Windows Mobile devices have included it in new devices since the Sprint Treo Pro was released early this year.

    Granted, if you try to visit a Flash site that takes up too much memory, and you're running a phone with 256Mb of RAM, it might be like trying to run that site on a PC from the mid 90s... but still, I love being able to click links in Twikini and easily view the Flash videos on the Dash 3G. Also works great for visiting restaurant websites that are all in Flash.
    AdamzP
  • For the hater in you...

    As painful as this may sound...

    Drinking digital beer, looking at wobbly boobs, and playing with your compass is not what people who use these phones care about. They are looking for a messenging device to get business done and not a toy for downloading 99 cent applications. There's something to be said about the novelty that is the iPoon. It's a cute little device - very nifty, but when I want to pound out emails, text message like crazy, open up word, excel, powerpoint documents sent to me... even present from my phone by connecting it to a projector... nothing on this earth beats a WM device. I can search the global address book in my company. I can schedule meetings seemlessly and get information on contact availability. I can securely send encrypted emails back and forth... these are business phones.

    Yes, I know, touch screens are all the rage since the iPoon but WinMo and mainly blackberry have ruled the roost in this space for a long time.

    Nothing beats a qwerty and as far as WinMo 6.1 goes... the non-touch screen version is probably not for you so go and buy some toys for your phone while the rest of us get to work.
    jessiethe3rd
    • touch the future

      you can do all what you describe ad sooooooooooooooo much more with
      an iphone, a pre or htc touch. no need for tiny plastic buttons that can't
      change layout when your task changes. why would you want a tiny
      screen and an os that is from the 90ies?

      do yourself a favor and upgrade to 2009. it doesn't even have to be an
      iphone :-) oh and you will type as fast on a touchscreens device if not
      faster in no time than on your beloved 1998 "business machine".
      bannedfromzdnetagain
      • Hardware buttons are an advantage

        With hardware buttons that don't change layout when your task changes, you can actually build motor memory for those buttons and navigate your device with much higher efficiency.

        Since the hardware buttons don't require visual feedback, you can use them only for input and the screen can be used only for output. This also improves efficiency since there's no user-mode-switching between trying to use the screen for input which impairs the use of the screen for visual output.
        AdamzP
    • Mo is less

      WinMo... when mo is less.
      dogbreath1
  • King of the smartphones: iPhone

    *NM*
    dogbreath1
  • RE: King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

    I had a T-Mobile Dash for several months and liked it, but I wasn't happy with the screen resolution. I then got hold of a Blackberry Curve and I love everything about it. Yeah, the screen size is the same, but the resolution is much better. My next choice will be either another BB, the MyPhone (I want to check out the Android OS), or the Dash 3G. A lot will depend on if T-Mobile will pull down the prices on their data plans (the provider I was with was bought by T-Mobile. Have a great price for my voice plan and their BB plan was WAY cheap!)
    russdwright@...
  • RE: King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

    Sorry to say, but the Blackberry 8800 is still my favorite. I do miss having a camera... but my Blackberry to me is my conection to home and office while in the field. Fundamentally, while games and apps are very nice... I want flawless email and texting first and foremost. While most of the office has gone to the iPhone 3G and battles daily with their email and thinks two sentences is a long email... I can type just perfect on the Blackberry 8800 and get back to people with a lot more then: : "Got it. Will make meeting. Do what you said. Bye."

    My ability to communicate is my strength in business. It is my advantage. If I would not talk that way to you in person, why is it acceptable to text to you in five words?

    To me, you are important enough to warrant a full answer, Mr. Customer or Vendor. Thanks to my Blackberry 8800... YOU are getting everything I need to convey!
    RobertbEZ
  • RE: King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

    May be king of the key board, but what about us fat fingered folks?
    lyellfl@...
  • RE: King of the QWERTYs: T-Mobile Dash 3G

    I have the 3G Dash this is my 2nd dash in 3 weeks. I think the 3G dash is the worst phone I have ever bought.
    Rissapoo757