Beyond voice, a key form of communication on Dash 3G is, obviously, messaging. The smartphone features Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time message delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. You can also access your POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, and T-Mobile includes a set-up wizard for each of the popular e-mail clients, including AOL, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo. The phone also comes preloaded with five instant-messaging clients: AIM, Yahoo, Windows Live, Google Talk, and MySpace IM.
While the range of e-mail support is good, we're disappointed that HTC's Inner Circle feature wasn't included on the T-Mobile Dash 3G. Basically, Inner Circle lets your prioritize your e-mails by bringing messages from a preselected group of people to the top of your in-box so you can read and reply to them immediately. According to T-Mobile, its MyFaves feature serves this purpose. Fine, fair enough. However, we found the Inner Circle function most useful for managing work e-mail on the Sprint HTC Snap, and we wouldn't necessarily want those same work contacts in our MyFaves group, so a separate e-mail feature would still be nice.
GPS/A-GPS is also now offered on the Dash 3G, so you can get it via GPS satellites and cellular tower triangulation. Like a number of other smartphones, the Dash 3G also includes the QuickGPS utility, which aims to speed up the time it takes to find your location by downloading the latest satellite information via an Internet connection. Google Maps comes preloaded on the device, as does TeleNav Navigation. Both apps provide maps, text-based turn-by-turn instructions, business searches, and traffic data, but only TeleNav Navigation offers real-time voice-guided directions. Note that you get a complimentary 14-day trial of the location-based service; however, afterward you'll have to get a subscription plan.
The final upgrade comes in the imaging department. The T-Mobile Dash 3G gets a bump up from the Dash's 1.3-megapixel camera to 2 megapixels. There are several shooting modes, including video and panorama, and you get the option to choose from several resolutions and image qualities. To ensure that you get the best shot, there are white balance settings, brightness controls, and flicker adjustment.
We were pretty satisfied with the picture quality. Objects looked sharp and colors came out decent even under fluorescent lighting. Its video quality was passable. Not surprisingly, action shots were a little blurry, but the camcorder is a suitable stand in if you have nothing else and need to capture something. After you're done, you can share the images and videos with family and friends via e-mail or multimedia message, and there's even an Audio Postcard app where you can snap a photo and then add an audio recording to send with the image. You can also upload them online to T-Mobile Album or view them as a slideshow on your phone. We'd recommend storing photos and any other multimedia files on a microSD card as the Dash 3G only has 192MB RAM and 256MB ROM.
Beyond that, the smartphone is still running the same Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard operating system. We asked T-Mobile whether it would offer an update to Windows Mobile 6.5 when available, but the carrier said it has not announced anything at this time. In the meantime, you still get Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, Internet Explorer Mobile, and Windows Live integration, along with the basic PIM tools. A dedicated YouTube app is also thrown in for good measure as is the usual BubbleBreaker and Solitaire games. Of course, you can always download more games, apps, and utilities for your smartphone and Windows Mobile has no shortage of titles.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900; UMTS/HSDPA 1,700/2,100) T-Mobile Dash 3G in San Francisco using T-Mobile service and call quality was excellent. On our end, we heard no voice distortion or background noise and audio was very clear and rich. Friends also reported positive results and some couldn't even tell we were using a cell phone. The speakerphone offered plenty of volume, but callers on the other end could sound a bit tinny. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
The Dash 3G is armed with a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor, which kept the smartphone chugging along quite well. It wasn't quite as zippy as the BlackBerry Curve 8900, but still responsive for a Windows Mobile device with minimal delays and no major problems during our testing period. T-Mobile's 3G network also delivered in speed. CNET's full site came up in 45 seconds while CNN and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 4 seconds and 15 seconds, respectively. For comparison's sake, CNET's full site took 52 seconds to load, while CNN and ESPN's mobile site came up in 12 seconds and 5 seconds, respectively on the HTC Snap using Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network.
YouTube clips buffered within 2 or 3 seconds, and playback was smooth. However, with YouTube videos quality can vary, so we also checked out a couple of WMV and 3GP videos where the picture quality was much better. We also used the audio adapter to plug in our Bose On-Ear Headphones to listen to music. Audio quality was fine, but the adapter protrudes a good 3.75 inches from the handset's side, so that was annoying and certainly an eyesore.
Overall, we were happy with the smartphone's GPS capabilities. Using cell towers, the device was able to immediately find our location on Google Maps. Switching over to TeleNav Navigation, it took a handful of attempts for the built-in receiver to get a satellite fix. However, once locked in, the Dash 3G and TeleNav did a good job of tracking our position as we drove around San Francisco and provided accurate directions to our destinations.
The T-Mobile Dash 3G comes with a 1500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8.5 hours (GSM)/5 hours (3G) and up to 15 days (GSM)/20 days (3G) standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 7 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Dash 3G has a digital SAR rating of 1.47 watts per kilogram.