T-Mobile Dash Smartphone

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INTRODUCTION

    Since Verizon started
offering the successful Motorla Q, T-Mobile and
Cingular had to pick up something similar in order
to compete. The HTC Excaliber was picked up by
T-Mobile USA and rebranded as the T-Mobile Dash for
such a purpose. Like the Q on Verizon, and the
BlackJack on Cingular, the Dash has a landscape
style Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition screen,
navigation hardware buttons, and a small thumb
keyboard… all of which are characteristic of this
new type of thin Windows Mobile Smartphone with
keyboards.

WHAT’S HOT

    I love the thinness, lightweight
formfactor, and non-slip rubber coating of the Dash. 
It's no slouch in terms of its
specifications either. It’s got Bluetooth 1.2, WiFi, 201Mhz TI
850 OMAP
CPU, 128Mb ROM, 64Mb RAM, Windows Mobile 5 (AKU 3),
320 x 240 64K color screen, Quadband GSM/EDGE and a
1.3MP camera.  

Device (no cover)
Size (inches)
Weight (grams |
ounces)
T-Mobile Dash
4.40" x 2.50" x 0.50"
120 | 4.20
4.37" x 2.28" x 0.87"
154 | 5.40
4.40" x 2.30" x 0.90"
180 | 6.40
4.44" x 2.34" x 0.61"
146 | 5.14
4.33" x 2.52" x 0.45"
115 | 4.05
4.80" x 2.79" x 0.86"
160 | 6.40
4.37" x 2.28" x 0.86"
154 | 5.40
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"
150 | 5.30
4.25" x
2.28"
x 0.64"
127 | 4.48
4.80" x 2.88" x 0.76"
186 | 6.56
4.60" x 2.79" x 0.82"

165 | 5.82

4.25" x 2.28" x 0.93"
160 | 5.64
4.92" x 2.81" x
0.71"
210 | 7.40
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"

150 | 5.30

4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"
175 | 6.20
4.60" x 3.21" x 0.58"

138 | 4.80

5.17" x 3.03" x 0.59"
187 | 6.60
4.50" x 2.80" x 0.64"
158 | 5.57


WHAT’S IN
THE BOX

    The T-Mobile Dash comes with all the usual
suspects; a USB sync cable, AC
adapter, stereo headphones with talk button/mic/volume
control, software CD and
manual.

THE DEVICE

   

    At the top of the device you see a
handset speaker slot which also houses some status
identifier LEDs. The silver brushed metal panel on
the front makes the device look even smaller than it
is, if not a bit bottom-heavy.

    The left side of the Dash is very
bare, save the silver power button at the top. You
would think pressing this while the device is on
would put it into suspend mode, but instead, it
brings up a menu where you can choose to power off
the device completely.

    At the bottom, you'll see a
microphone hole, the ExtUSB connector, and a soft
reset button. The ExtUSB
connector is used for everything including Audio,
charging, and syncing. If you want to charge the
device while also playing music through the car stereo, you'll need a
couple adapters and a Y-splitter. There's also a
little rubber flap covering the ExtUSB connector,
which is kind of annoying since you'll have to open
it up occasionally at least to recharge.

The right side is completely
smooth, and only includes the thing silver strip of
plastic while everything else is soft-touch
rubberized plastic.

However, just next to the edge of
the screen is the touch sensitive jog strip used for
controlling volume.

The top end is completely voice of
slots, ports, and buttons. Very clean.

On the back is the 1.3MP
camera, along with the reflection mirror, speaker
grill, external antenna connector and battery cover.
All of this is a rubberized non-slip material which
feels very nice in the hand.

Unlike most HTC phones these days
the SIM card isn't stuck beneath the battery. It
actually has it's own little slot just under the
battery cover.

    Also unlike most other HTC phones
these days, the MicroSD card has its own slot. The
slot is, however, located underneath the battery
cover, but at least you don't have to take the
battery out to swap memory cards.

    The thumboard on the Dash is
slightly more spaced out than the buttons on a Treo,
for example. However, the shape of the buttons is
more flattened, which makes feeling for them a
little more difficult. Unlike the Treo 750, the
keyboard's backlight comes on when any type of
navigation button is pressed, thus making the keys
easier to see in the dark.

 Here you'll see from left to right,
the Qtek 8500 Smartphone, T-Mobile Dash, HTC P3300, i-mate JAMin,
and i-mate K-JAM.

Here you can see a
comparison of the thickness. On top is the Treo 750, then the HTC P3300, T-Mobile Dash, and i-mate JAMin. As you can see the Dash is
very thin compared to these devices.




INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

   The T-Mobile Dash features Windows
Mobile 5.0 with AKU 2.3 which includes the Messaging
and Security Pack. T-Mobile has added some excellent
software to improve access to their special service
features such as MyFaves, push email, WiFi Hotspots,
and instant messaging.


    T-Mobile provides a nicely customized default
Home/Today screen. This one has a miniature icon row
of recently used applications followed by an easy
access status bar for turning on/off WiFi. Then
there’s the "MyFaves" access row which gives you an
easy way to call you’re favorite people. Then
there’s a general messaging status row (which does
not specifiy email account names), and the calendar
appointments row. Below that (not shown) is a
Profile status switcher that lets you quickly change
the phone’s ringing profiles.

    Setting up your "MyFaves" is very easy. The
software even picks the contact photo out of your
existing contact database as synchronized from
Outlook! You have the option to change it at any
time of course, and you’ll probably want to since
the contact photos as synced from Outlook may be too
small to fill the "My Faves" circle frame.

    The MyFaves application is a cute animated program
that lets you quickly call any of your favorite
people. For those who are unfamiliar, the "MyFaves"
rate plans from T-Mobile allow you to pick 5 people
on any network with any phone number, and all your
calls to those people will be free no matter how
long or how often you call them. You can change your
5 favorite people once a month. Also, setting up
which people are your favorites requires a "MyFaves"
compatible phone.

    T-Mobile also included a nice "HotSpot Utility"
which makes it easy to log into any T-Mobile WiFi
Hotspot with your login information. The standard
T-Mobile internet plan now includes unlimited access
to the T-Mobile HotSpots.

T-Mobile added a few other nice 3rd Party programs
from ClearVue, which will let you open a variety of
Office documents such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, as
well as PDFs.

    The E-mail Triggers service from T-Mobile hasn’t
really gotten the attention it deserves. The Dash
has an application integrated that lets you
configure these E-mail Triggers. How is this
different than setting up your email account in the
regular Messaging program you ask?  Well, if
you do it through here it will also create a link to
the account on the T-Mobile servers. Then the
T-Mobile servers can be set to check your email
periodically and then automatically trigger your
Dash to download new messages as they arrive. 
Sounds just like any other push email service,
right?  If you log into the My T-Mobile
website, you’ll also see that you can configure the
Email Triggers to only go off when certain criteria
are set. So say you only really want push email for
important messages from your favorite people. All
you have to do is create Email Triggers for their
email addresses. You won’t be bothered with push
email updates from the other less important emails
you get all the time. Also, you should be sure to
have a decent Text Messaging plan to use this
service since the push email triggers are sent via
SMS.

In the About Screen, you can see the last three
digits in the Build number indicate that this is
using AKU 3.0.1.

    Pressing the "Start" softkey button on the home
screen brings you to the programs listing. Unlike
other versions of Windows Mobile Smartphone, the
Dash has a scrollbar and you can simply use the down
button to scroll through the listing. You can add applications to Speed dial or
create Voice Tags for them from here as well.

    The Comm Manager mainly handles
Phone, WiFi, and Bluetooth power settings. It also
has a button that toggles the audio settings to
vibrate mode. Then there’s an ActiveSync button that
simply launches ActiveSync.

The Bluetooth Control panel is
pretty basic. Accessing the device options is still
another screen away.

    This is where you can pair with other Bluetooth
devices. When a device that supports A2DP is added
and selected the "Set as Wireless Stereo" option
becomes available. If you shut off your device or go
out of range, in order to reconnect to Wireless
Stereo, you have to navigate back to this screen and
activate it again. There is no interface for
determining whether an A2DP device is connected or
not.

The Contacts program is similar to
the Pocket PC version and very well designed. You
can also easily ad Voice Tags and Speed Dial from
the Menu button.

    The phone dialer screen that shows up when you press
the talk button (or start typing in numbers on the
home screen) is nothing like that of Pocket PC
Phones. This screen immediately shows the list of
recent calls that you can easily select from as well.

    When using the number pad to type
out a persons name or dial a number, the possible letter combinations
are searched and resulting names are displayed
below. Once the name you want is selected, press the
Talk button the phone will dial away.

   
When you’re in a call, the screen shows the time
connected along with the caller’s photo, name and
number. The menu button gives you access to
pertinent commands like turning on speakerphone,
hands-free, hold, etc.

    The Dash also includes T-Mobile’s
nifty Instant Messenger program that works with AOL
IM, ICQ, and Yahoo Messenger. Take note that this
program uses text messages for each message or
log-on, log-off command so make sure you have a good
text messaging plan.

Pressing the power key brings
up the quick list menu with some useful options. It
does not put the device into sleep mode like I would
expect.

The Messaging application also
uses Contact photos for emails and text messages. In
the message listings though, you can’t select
multiple messages for deletion like you can with a
Pocket PC.

    Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone offers
suggestions for words you’re typing in xT9 mode, but
it doesn’t offer match suggestions when entering a
recipients name like the Pocket PC Phone version
does. Instead, you have to type the name and then
choose Menu>Check Names. I don’t like having to
do that at all.

    With AKU 3.0, there’s a new feature in the Messaging
application that lets you copy selected text
messages to your SIM card. This is a great feature
if you switch your SIM card into new phones alot, or
just want an easier way to save Text Messages.
Unfortunately, the feature does not work with Text
Messages in your Sent Folder.

Pocket MSN is pretty much the same as the Pocket PC
counterpart. This is where you have to go to access
MSN Messenger.

MSN Messenger works great.

The MMS integration on Windows
Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition is much better than on
the Pocket PC Phone Edition.

    Media Player syncs with Windows
Media Center just like the Pocket PC Phone edition
version of Windows Mobile 5.0. But unlike the Pocket
PC version, you can actually navigate the Library
view using the hardware buttons!

Watching recorded TV and videos on
a screen area the size of my thumb isn’t really that
much fun, but it works!

You can use the Pictures & Videos application to
take your portfolio or family photos with you where
ever you go.

Internet Explorer works quite well. The One Column
view is great for making scrolling one dimensional.

    The Calendar application is basically the same as
the Pocket PC version. The Agenda view seems to be
much more useful on the Smartphone though since the
Today screen only displays the next upcoming
appointment. The Agenda view shows all of today’s
appointments and you can switch to other days
quickly using the left and right directional
buttons.

The File Manager is easy to navigate, but selecting
multiple files is impossible.

A Midlet Manager is included for running Java Apps.

    One thing I miss is that the Windows Mobile 5.0
Smartphone edition does not synchronize with the
Notes in Outlook 2003. Instead it has only got this
very limited Voice Notes application where you can
record voice memos.

    In the Accessories folder you have some useful
applications. The Clear Storage program will return
your device to factory settings. The SIM manage lets
you manage the contact entries on your SIM card.

Of course you get the standard Windows Mobile games.

    ActiveSync lets you configure an Exchange Server to
sync with. You can also sync via Bluetooth from
here. If I wasn’t already connected to ActiveSync,
the above menu options would not be grayed out.

    There’s actually a "Task Manager" designed by HTC in
the programs listing, which is quite nice. You can
use this to close certain programs instead of
letting Windows Mobile manage your memory by itself.

You can also access system info from the Task
Manager.

I like the camera application much better than the
version found in HTC’s Pocket PC Phones. Mainly
because the soft key menus are available and usable.

However, the menu structure in the Camera
application can get awfully complicated pretty
quickly.



HELP SUPPORT

   

HTC doesn’t really offer support for devices that
are rebranded, so in this case you’ll have to get
your support from T-Mobile USA
.
That’s not a bad thing at all, since their customer
service is available 24 hours a day. All you have to
do is call and most likely you’ll get a
representative who’s more than willing to help. If
you don’t get one who’s friendly and helpful on your
first try, just hang up and call again.

BUGS AND WISHES

   

 The
most innovative part of the T-Mobile Dash is also
the most problematic. The touch strip along the side
of the device seems like a good idea, and it works
quite well under some circumstances. By default it
only affects the in-call volume. That makes it
difficult to figure out how to adjust the system
volume since there are no in-software controls for
that. You actually have to change the behavior of
the touch strip using the settings in order to
change the system volume.  Perhaps the reason
that T-Mobile forced this strip to only control
volume might be the issues you’ll see when you use
some 3rd party software to enable the original
function of the touch strip. The original functions
as designed by HTC for it to be a scroll bar. In
addition, tapping the top, bottom, and middle areas
would invoke other functions. The problem with this
was that if you were to just pick up the device
while it was turned on, you could inadvertently
activate a function of the touch strip. However, if
you change the functions of the top and bottom ends
to be "back" and keep the middle one as "ok", the
touch strip actually works quite nicely as a
scrolling mechanism. Of course, the downside to
having it act as a scrolling mechanism is that you
suddenly have no way to control the system volume.

    
I bought an ExtUSB Y-Splitter from HTC along with an
ExtUSB audio adapter, so that I could plug my new
HTC devices into the car stereo while also having
recharging capabilities at the same time. The
problem with using this with the T-Mobile Dash was
that my music on my 1Gb MicroSD card would not play
properly. It kept skipping as if the processor was
being overloaded. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a
problem with my memory card since I put the same
card in my HTC P3300 and Qtek 8500 with no problems.

    
As with most Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphones, I dislike how incoming text messages do not
display the actual message on the screen right away.
All it does is play a sound and then you have to go
to the text messages folder and open the message in
order to read it. I don’t like that at all. With a
Pocket PC Phone, all I have to do is glance at the
screen to read the message… I can do that while
driving if it’s mounted on my dashboard. Not so with
the Smartphone.

PURCHASING

   

The T-Mobile Dash

can be ordered through the

T-Mobile website
, or it can be bought at just
about any T-Mobile store. The normal price is
$349.99, but if you order it online with a new
contract, you get a $100 discount and a $50 rebate,
which brings the price to $199.99 

PROS



  • Thin, small and lightweight


  • Rubberized body feels great in the hand


  • Touch strip can be used for scrolling with
    3rd party software


  • Mini keyboard for thumb-based text entry

  • Quadband 850/900/1800/1900mhz GSM/EDGE
    with WiFi and Bluetooth

  • Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone AKU
    3.0


  • Enhanced T-Mobile software



  • Thin, small and lightweight


  • Rubberized body feels great in the hand


  • Touch strip can be used for scrolling with
    3rd party software


  • Mini keyboard for thumb-based text entry

  • Quadband 850/900/1800/1900mhz GSM/EDGE
    with WiFi and Bluetooth

  • Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone AKU
    3.0


  • Enhanced T-Mobile software


  • Thin, small and lightweight


  • Rubberized body feels great in the hand


  • Touch strip can be used for scrolling with
    3rd party software


  • Mini keyboard for thumb-based text entry

  • Quadband 850/900/1800/1900mhz GSM/EDGE
    with WiFi and Bluetooth

  • Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone AKU
    3.0


  • Enhanced T-Mobile software

CONS

  • Touch
    strip can be activated accidentally very easily
  • Playing
    music in the car through an adapter tends to
    overload the processor
  • No 3G UMTS/HSDPA
  • Rubber
    flap covers the charging/sync/audio port
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The T-Mobile Dash, like the Cingular Samsung BlackJack, is a reaction
to the Motorola Q being released on Verizon
.
The Dash has a similar size, keyboard, and uses the
same Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition operating
system. Though I
haven’t had much experience with the Motorola Q or
Cingular Blackjack, there’s a few things I really
like about the Dash that set it apart. For one it’s
got WiFi built in. I know the Q and Blackjack have
3G, but you also have to pay for that.
Theoretically, you could get the Dash without a data
plan and still have fast internet access in your home and
office.  Another thing is the smooth black
rubber body. It really feels great in the hand. It’s
very well built and feels quite sturdy.  Also,
I love the added software that T-Mobile has supplied
with the Dash. The E-mail Triggers, Instant
Messenging, MyFaves, and WiFi Hotspots features are
excellent additions.

     If you’re
looking for one of these new thumb keyboard type
Windows Mobile Smartphones with push email and
Exchange syncing while keeping to something slim and
low-profile, the T-Mobile Dash is a great contender.
Of course much of your decision will hinge on what
mobile network you’re chained to.




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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!