I’ve had a number of cell phones in my life, probably more than many people. Typically I’ve just grabbed a low end phone that serves as a phone and does a good job there. However as I’ve traveled more over the last few years, and have a need to be connected, I’ve been looking for a more advanced phone.
A year and a half ago I got a T-Mobile Dash, which runs Windows Mobile. I ran through 3 of those in about a year, having issues with their durability, and eventually moved to a Sidekick 3. Then earlier this year that phone started to die and I settled on a T-Mobile G1, the new phone made with Google’s Android OS. Since then I’ve been thrilled with it and decided to do a comparison based on my experiences. Especially after a little exchange with Buck Woody.
All of the phones I’m looking at here are made by HTC, and while I think the Dash was less durable than the others, the others were well made and worked fine.
My first impression of the Dash, which I got with Windows Mobile 6, was that it was a huge step up from my previous phones. It had a full QWERTY keyboard, and was relatively small. It is a little wide, and had all the familiar Windows type features. Overall I was thrilled and was quickly up and running with this phone, browsing the web and viewing attachments. The ability to read Word/Excel documents was nice, but it didn’t happen a lot for me. They seemed to render well when I viewed them, but this wasn’t something that was critical.
Windows, however, wasn’t as stable as I’d like. If I switched tasks, it seemed that anything I put in the background didn’t run as well. There were more crashes than I’d like, and it was relatively slow to render things on the web. I had this OS freeze numerous times over the 9-12 months that I used it, and I don’t think I stressed it a lot. SQLServerCentral, ESPN’s mobile site, Twitter, Slashdot, Google, Joel on Software, these were my main sites.
The browser was a POS as well. So many pages didn’t render well, and it was hard to scroll around using the interface on the Dash. I’m not sure that’s as much a Windows Mobile issue as the Dash layout (no trackball), but I wasn’t thrilled with it. Email worked well, which was nice for me. I used POP and IMAP and things seemed to work well.
Adding ringtones and downloads wasn’t something I did much, but there was no central way to add applications to the phone. It was cumbersome and I was a little worried about random add-ins since there wasn’t a central source.
The radio, however, didn’t seem to work well. Granted I’m comparing this device 6-9 months ago to the other ones, but it seemed to have less hold on the signal. Again, not sure if this is a Windows Mobile issue or hardware, but I noticed that the signal across my other phones, a RAZR, a Nokia, the Sidekick, all was about the same.
I liked this OS pretty well at first. It has tight integration with the T-Mobile network, but it flaked quickly for me. The device has a full keyboard underneath a rotate/flip out screen. There are multiple buttons that control various aspects of the OS.
Email worked well for POP, but I couldn’t get IMAP to work on this OS. Text messaging was fine with the standard inbox/outbox format, but browsing the web was very slow. Even on an Edge connection, and when compared to the G1 in the same places.
Ringtones, and other downloads worked well, and were easy to find.
Navigation wasn’t great. The trackball makes it hard at times to ensure that the OS receives a left v an up. I know that’s the hardware more than the OS, but they’re tightly integrated here.
It’s easy to jump back to the home screen and quickly choose a new area. The OS didn’t multitask, but it did allow me to quickly move between items. It also was limited in that I couldn’t easily add items or shortcuts to the screen. Learning keyboard shortcuts, however, was invaluable.
The one thing here was the stability of the OS. In 7-8 months of using this device it never locked up on me. Updates came down smoothly and occasionally asked for a reboot, but it never locked up. There were network issues in that I lost my contacts sometimes. I’m not sure this was OS or network since a reboot sometimes would bring them back. Sometimes I had to wait, but that was the biggest hassle.
However the OS is just solid. I haven’t had any crashes of the OS. Updates do come down periodically, and they’ll reboot the phone (I accept them first), but when I go over 6 applications, it just closes something. I have had Twitroid crash a few times. But it easily starts right up.
The touchscreen is great, and it’s very handy for scrolling around web pages. This is supposed to be the same technology as the iPhone, and it’s worked great for me. I touch the screen and can move it around with my finger, and zoom in/out buttons appear at the bottom, allowing me to change the size of the screen.
The integration with a marketplace is great. I can easily see reviews, download items, and they just install. It’s the smoothest process I’ve seen.
I get a little multitasking, or it appears that way to me. I can easily move from an email to a Tweet to a web page, and those apps keep running in the background.
One annoyance is that my applications run 6 at a time, and while I can easily switch between them, or start a 7th), I can’t control which one closes. That’s a hassle, especially when I’d like to shut down Twitroid at times.
Notifications are handled well in the upper bar. They appear, I can easily clear them, view them, etc. Adding/removing items from the main screens is easy. Integration between apps and the OS is consistent and works smoother than on any phone OS I’ve seen.
Durability was an issue with the Dash. One break was my fault, but in another the phone dropping from my car seat to the floorboards and the screen cracked. Another one was me leaning against the sink, and not hard IMHO, but another screen cracked. The Sidekick withstood numerous drops and always seemed to work, but the trackball was dying, not accepting clicks and so it became impractical to use.
The G1 is clearly the best phone I’ve ever owner. It runs smoothly, has the best radio and reception, handles data and voice smoothly, and even integrates multiple apps, and the data in them, better than even my desktop.
If you get the chance to use it, I think you might agree. I’d still like to use an iPhone for a month or two and then decide, but for now I’m sticking with my G1.