Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two weeks with the Dash

Well, after two weeks what is my opinion of the T-Mobile Dash?
It's not perfect but I like it. The screen is bright and the phone feels good in the hand with a rubberized exterior.

I wasn't a fan of previous Windows Mobile/smartphone interfaces but this one is pretty good. It didn't take much to get into it, although I have used earlier versions of Windows Mobile Pocket PCs fairly extensively. With no touchscreen, the Windows Mobile Interface on the Dash relies on Menus and icons, which are selected using soft keys and a Navigation Control. The icons with captions of the most recently used applications right at the top of the Home screen are really handy, and reduce the amount of time spent looking for applications in the Start Menu.

The Dash is easy to use as a cellphone - typing is anything while on the Home Screen starts a search of contacts. From there making a call is simple. The speakerphone works well and pairing with a Bluetooth headset was easy enough.

Treo and Dash

The Dash compared to my previous phone, the Treo 650 - keep in mind that the Treo is 2 years older than the Dash, has a totally different OS, and weighs 2 oz more than the Dash.

As for email, setting up email accounts was a snap. All I needed was my email address and password for Yahoo, GMail, AOL and Hotmail (now called Windows Live). I didn't set up Instant Messaging as I don't really use it that much anymore. I liked that I could select weblinks within email messages and they would open in the web browser. Word or Excel attachments can be saved and edited as well. Browsing the internet is not too bad on T-Mobile's EDGE network, I wasn't expecting a high speed connection. Once Wi-Fi is set up and a connection is made the browser uses the Wi-Fi connection, which is obviously faster.

Battery life on the Dash hasn't been bad - when I first got it and was playing with it a lot I recharged once a day - but keep in mind that I usually do not let the battery level of any device go below 60% before recharging it. Since then I have gone for six days without recharging, although I do not keep the Dash on all the time, especially on work days. One thing I have noticed is that it takes quite a while to boot up, but that doesn't really bug me. I've disabled the volume touch strip, and the other con of the phone, is the camera interface - CNET's review of the Dash says "The camera interface is also confusing" and I have to agree.

Typing anything on the Dash is quite easy. There is an intelligent auto-complete feature which remembers any words you have typed in. I'm actually considering doing some blogging from the Dash.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Touch not really phone-less iPhone

The iPod Touch - not really an iPhone without the phone.
I was quite excited when the iPod Touch was announced. Now it is being released this week and the big tech sites have had time to play with pre-release models and write their reviews (see the CNET review here)

As well as being slightly smaller and lighter than the iPhone, the iPod Touch is also missing features like Google Maps, the email client and the Notes application, along with built-in speakers, microphone, camera and other mini applications. It is kind of understandable not to include Google Maps - if you really need to use it you may not be near a wireless hotspot. To leave out email and Notes just sucks. Sure you can use web-based email, as the Safari browser is included, but the email client would have been useful. Even more so, leaving out the Notes application on the first iPod (excluding the iPhone) to have a virtual keyboard is just reducing functionality.

Somehow I suspect these omissions are not accidental, but carefully selected. An iPod Touch which had all the functionality of an iPhone except the phone could very well hurt iPhone sales, something Apple wouldn't want.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dash vs Blackjack

Here's some of the background research which lead to the choice I made in the "What, No Hunt?" Blog Entry.

The total contract price was not the only reason I went with the T-Mobile Dash instead of AT&T's Samsung Blackjack. If the Samsung Blackjack had really appealed to me I may have bit the bullet and gone with it, even with the two year contract. I had come across a review of the Dash and made a mental note of it before the hunt had even begun.

Interestingly enough, CNET reviews give both cellphones the same rating (7.3), but on the Dash has a slightly higher user rating.

Elsewhere referred to as not photogenic, the Dash looks far better in real life than it does in photos (see this article "Editor's Corner: T-Mobile Dash (HTC Excalibur)") on

The Dash has built-in Wi-Fi, a real nice-to-have feature. The only AT&T smartphone which I looked at which had Wi-Fi was the AT&T 8525, a Windows Mobile Professional phone. This would have previously been known as a Pocket PC phone before Microsoft renamed them in an attempt to resolve the "Windows Mobile Smartphone edition" and "Pocket PC Phone Edition" confusion (see "Windows Mobile Editions Get Less Confusing Names..." on Gizmodo). I really didn't want a more powerful "Windows Mobile Professional Phone" which also happened to weigh more than the Treo 650, and cost more.

Just looking at specifications, the Samsung Blackjack appears to be a winner. It is smaller and lighter than the Dash (and the Motorola Q). However this comes at the cost of screen size (2 inches versus 2.4 inches) and a more cramped keyboard. After mentioning that some of the buttons on the Blackjack are a bit slippery, the CNET review gives the warning "...some design and performance issues trip up this otherwise sexy device."

The worst feature of the Dash is the volume touch strip. Fortunately, being forewarned, it does not bug me although it really does suck. The good thing is that it can be disabled entirely.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What, No Hunt?

Instead of boring my reader(s) with continual updates of weeks of hunting for (yet another) cellphone I'll cut directly to the trophy.

I have bought a T-Mobile Dash smartphone with a one-year contract.

My hunt was spurred by the desire to get a lighter and less bulky cellphone than the Treo 650. I also wanted to be able to check my email on the cellphone without paying outrageous data plan rates. The ability to store some information was a nice to have. Of course I could get various data plans with the Treo 650 on Verizon, but the prices were ridiculous. Even though their coverage is good, and their customer service very good, any new phone from them would be locked into their ridiculous pricing structure. Also I was looking at a GSM carrier because of an upcoming overseas trip , and the ease of switching to a backup phone if necessary. A smartphone appealed to me, not just because of my "techie" nature but because I already carry a regular cellphone for work and wanted some of the additional features available on a smartphone.

With this in mind my top choice was an AT&T 3125 smartphone - the only clamshell style Windows Mobile smartphone I could find. One of its advantages - apart from small size and weight - was that it came with a $5 per month email data plan. When it came down to placing the order though, the person at corporate sales told me it had been discontinued - just her disinterested manner put me off arguing that it was still available on the AT&T website. Unfortunately, to get the sizable corporate discount I would have to buy from her or not at all.

The only other AT&T smartphone available which was on my short list was the Samsung Blackjack. It was currently free "on special", but the data plan was $39.99 on top of a $39.99 voice plan for a two year contract. Even after the corporate discount this was more than I had anticipated paying. I decided to think about it.

One of the other phones on my shortlist was the T-Mobile Dash. Also a Windows smartphone, the T-Mobile Dash was not free, but when I initially priced it the data plan was $29.99 on top of a $29.99 voice plan for a one year contract. The only corporate discount was a waiver of the activation fee. That made the total cost of the two phones over two years pretty close. Although I had initially wanted to go with AT&T because they have better coverage, the slightly better reviews of the Dash, as well as T-Mobile's good customer service - from previous experience, as well as dealing with their Corporate Sales people and the flexibility of just a one year contract helped me make my decision.

There was a pleasant surprise when I actually placed the order for the cellphone. The data plan had dropped to $19.99 per month when purchased with a voice plan!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Early Adopter Blues and iPod Touch!

Last night I was having a look at The Unofficial Mac Weblog and reading the comments on "Apple lowers price of 8 gig iPhone to $399". These comments were posted before Steve Jobs decided to give early iPhone buyers a $100 credit. There seemed to be two distinct responses - the positive "That's the price you pay for being an early adopter" and the "Apple did me wrong" (in rather angry and sometimes unrepeatable language).

This must be one of the highest profile examples of the fact that all technology drops in price over time. Unfortunately Apple had to do damage control because it happened so soon.

To think of it, the second generation 8GB iPod Nano I bought late last year for almost $250 has been replaced by a a third generation iPod Nano with more features at a lower price (the new 8GB Nano goes for $199). However, this was only a $50 price drop after a year as well as a new generation.

After the iPhone price drop I was eventually convinced by my wife that I really don't want an iPhone. It took me a while to agree after I realized that a newer generation of the iPhone is very likely to be released while I would be still tied to a two year contract to AT&T.

The iPod Touch is another matter entirely. Basically an iPhone without the phone (and without the contract) I've long thought that it would be pretty cool if it was ever released. Of course an MP3 player with built-in Wi-Fi is nothing new. CNET's Crave blog's First Look at the iPod Touch mentions the Archos 605 WiFi. However, even the smallest capacity Archos 605 weighs 9.2 oz, in comparison to the iPod Touch's 4.2 oz. Admittedly, the Archos 605 series features a 4.3 inch screen instead of a 3.5 inch screen, and the capacity starts at 4GB and goes all the way up to 160GB. For less than the price of an 8GB iPod Touch (why do I struggle not to call it the iTouch?) you can get a 30GB Archos 605.

A quick comparison:
iPod Touch dimensions: 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.3 inches.
Archos 605 dimensions: 4.8 x 3.2 x 0.8 inches.
The Archos 605 has a whole slew of accessories which can turn it into a DVR.
The iPod Touch is almost as revolutionary as the iPhone, and just as cool...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So long, Foleo

Palm announced today that they were canceling the Foleo Mobile companion - see this entry in the Official Palm Blog and "Palm Cancels the Foleo" in Palm InfoCenter.

The Foleo - a small notebook device running Linux - was intended to be a companion product for the Treo line of smartphones. The idea just did not make much sense. Why carry a Treo and a Foleo when you carry a Treo and a laptop anyway?