March 17, 2007 11:33 PM PST
After terrible customer service from Verizon after years of patronage, I decided to look for a new cell phone provider. I couldn't resist this deal on the T-Mobile Dash
. One year contract, highly rated smart phone with Wi-Fi and Keyboard, cheap family voice plan and a free 512M memory card.
There are plenty of reviews on the Dash online, so I'll just focus on a few of the questions I still had and the Microsoft smartphone platform.
- Phone is very small and thin for a full keyboard and 320x240 screen. It comes with a nice set of extras like a faux leather case, wired earphones and mic, 512MB micro SD card, usb cable and charger. Phone is quad band and uses a SIM card, so you can buy prepaid SIM cards and use it in other countries from what I understand.
- Sound quality on calls is great. Don't have enough experience with it yet to know about the phone crashing, dropping calls, etc. So far it's been fine.
- I love the keyboard. A num lock key would be nice, and TX9 is a little annoying, but other than that, the key action is great.
- The Wi-Fi works totally without a data plan. At my home and office I'm able to run Pocket IE, etc. at reasonable speeds. Setting up with WEP keys was no problem, although determining the MAC address of the phone is a bit of a pain for my MAC filtering router. I ended up removing the MAC filter, connecting, and then looking at the DHCP clients table to determine the MAC of the phone. WPA is also supported for enhanced security. Wi-Fi is set to automatically turn off when the phone is inactive, to save battery life which is a useful solution, but doesn't allow the phone to be alerted with incoming data via Wi-Fi.
- Skype apparently does run for VoIP calls over Wi-Fi once the phone is overclocked from 200mhz to 250+mhz with a software application. I have not tried this yet, but now that calls in the US are not free with Skype, it probably only makes sense to use for overseas calls.
- Opera Mobile did not work well for me - I tried two versions for various phones and neither rendered properly or didn't crash. The included PocketIE is OK, however, and does render sites better than I expected. I'm hoping Opera will be fully supported in the future because I'm interested to see what the Opera Mobile Widget platform might bring to the phone.
- Media such as MP3, DiVx and Xvid are playable through the CoreMedia/CoreCodec product which is free, although the site is down now.
- MP3 ringtones are supported natively - just select an MP3 file as your tone for any of the many sound events on the phone.
- Google Mobile is really nice, and the GMail application and Maps applications work well. I wish the GMail application was not reliant on Java, as it doesn't run natively, and you have to launch it via Java each time. It's not clear why it wasn't written natively, since the Maps application is, and works so well. I'm looking forward to Google further integrating their applications with mobile phones, and if the rumors end up being true of a "Google Phone", I have high hopes for it's success.
- The phone supports IM and POP email, with HTTPS. I haven't been using the IM, since I don't haven't bought an always-on data connection (and GTalk isn't supported). Although the POP email seems to be full featured, I get far too much spam via my POP accounts to handle on a mobile device, so I forward everything to GMail and use it on my mobile to check email. GMail has far and away the best spam filtering I've seen. There are a few limitations to sending mail from another account on the Mobile GMail, but when replying to an email, it does get sent from the account which it was received.
- There is supposedly an SSH client that works, however it did not properly recognize my keyboard or screen format, and basically wouldn't work right.
- Inexplicably, the phone doesn't come with a "notepad" application. Sure, you can record voice clips, photos and movies but there is not basic place to take notes with the built in keyboard! Unfortunately the GMail mobile client doesn't support access to the Drafts folder, so that doesn't work either.
Overall, I'm quite happy with the hardware so far. The MS smart phone OS though still reminds me of Windows 3.1. Microsoft has really dropped the ball on promoting and improving this platform. It doesn't look much different than the last time I used it 4 years ago on iPaq. Not only could applications have a lot more polish, but it just seems like the whole metaphor isn't quite worked out. The soft keys are on opposite sides in different apps, and it seems like some type of smart use of overlays and context sensitive keys could really improve things.
I'm hoping that the Apple iPhone, and simple but slick apps like those from Google push Microsoft forward. People try to excuse Microsoft for lack of innovation, claiming it's just good business sense to follow. However, I think it actually comes down to a fundamental problem in their culture/hiring or management practices that continually stifles "coolness". XBox group excepted.
Let me know if there are other cool apps or tricks out there for Smart Phone.