T-Mobile Dash Hands On

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As smartphones make their way into the mainstream, we’re reminded why they were long relegated to the hip holsters of Road Warriors and the hopelessly email-obsessed. Their operating systems, with rare exceptions, were too overpowered for the average consumer, their set-up screens were convoluted, and their price tags were stratospheric when compared to the average clamshell.

T-Mobile knows something the rest of the carriers apparently don’t. They know that data in the form of email and IM is probably one of the best ways to sell 3G service to high school kids, soccer moms, and the rest of the demographics who once thought they needed a QWERTY keyboard like a hole in the head. Look at their current offerings – the SideKick 3, the Pearl, and now the Dash. These phones are aimed squarely at the folks who are interested in this whole BlackBerry thing but don’t want to get their office IT department involved just to read a few email messages.

The Dash, manufactured by HTC for T-Mobile, is a Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone that is about as thin as the Motorola Q and includes quite a few user friendly features. Full disclosure: I don’t like Windows Mobile 5.0, but that bias isn’t enough to dissuade me from reviewing what otherwise is an excellent, slim, smartphone.

<img src="http://tctechcrunch2011.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/IMAP mailbox set-up and AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ IM built-in. Not bad so far for a $199 phone with 2-year contract.

Look a little more closely, however, and you'll be surprised to find Wi-Fi and a 1.3-megapixel camera built into the miniscule phone. The Wi-Fi is a lifesaver when you don't have or want to use EDGE access and the camera is quite nice, producing clear pictures that most phones can only dream about. Add in a data plan that includes full T-Mobile hotspot access and we might just have a winner.

Now for my pet peeves. This opinion does not reflect on the hardware itself – God knows Symbian and Palm OS have their issues – but ActiveSync doesn't work with OS X without MarkSpace’s excellent Missing Sync for Windows Mobile. Waa waa, you say. You can’t get your smartphone to work with your Mac. Well, Symbian had almost seamless compatibility with OS X and Palm has some compatibility. The least Microsoft could to would be to offer something that doesn’t require Outlook and XP to sync. This is why I turned my Compaq iPaq handheld into a Linux PDA back in the day and this is why I still don’t like Windows Mobile OSes.

. Getting anywhere in this phone requires two or three clicks. Deleting messages, for example, requires this strange, two handed Menu and 1 key pressing combo for which a simple press of the Delete key would do. It’s small things like odd button combinations and multiple click requirements that have soured me on Windows Mobile 5.0.

One excellent feature is MyFaves. This was an amazing addition to the phone and made calling mom, dad, the wife, and my bookie quite simple. The phone updated itself over-the-air and offered my MyFaves as a feature that appeared right on the main screen. Because all calls to and from MyFaves are free, you’re encouraged to call grandma more often, provided she’s still alive.

That said, if you use Windows at home, school, at work, please don’t let my whining dissuade you from considering this phone over, say, a standard cellphone sans smart features. The IM and mail functions are quite easy to use and a breeze to set up. The PIM functionality is acceptable in general and, with Outlook, ideal. Finally, the phone is slim, staid, and eminently portable.

You’ll be able to get yours for $349 by itself, $249 with a one-year contract, or $199 with a two year contract. The Dash will be available at T-Mobile retail outlets nationwide on October 25, but you can sign up for yours today on T-Mobile.com or the Dash’s own special pre-registration site [http://www.t-mobileregistration.com/dash/].

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