HTC Dream smartphone
Can Australia's first Google Android-powered mobile phone trump the iPhone 3G?
- Full QWERTY keyboard, responsive touch screen, Google Android provides ease of use, potential for future upgrades and new applications, notifications and status bar, excellent integration with Google services, Android Market app store, polished Web browser
- No auto-rotate, no on-screen keyboard, design flaws, no 3.5mm headphone jack, mediocre non-Gmail e-mail support, no document editor
The HTC Dream is a strong smartphone effort overall and the Google Android OS has a lot of potential. As it stands this phone is missing some critical hardware and software features that prevent it from being a standout product. Early adopters and gadget freaks will be excited by the new device, but business users and multimedia buffs will not find enough reasons to justify upgrading their current devices.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
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It's been a long time coming, but the first Android-powered phone has finally hit the Australian market — the HTC Dream. Sporting a full-slide out QWERTY keyboard, a touch-screen interface and a trackball, the response to HTC Dream is largely positive but it has a number of hardware and software shortcomings that prevent it from being a great phone.
Aesthetically, the HTC Dream is a real mixed bag. It is chunkier when compared to the Apple iPhone 3G, but it possesses a physical keyboard and a smaller display. The matte black finish is rather plain and gives it a more business feel than the glossy iPhone. Accessing the keyboard is a little unorthodox, as the screen slides up and around in an arc motion and in the process reveals the keyboards' plastic hinges. We think this detracts from the overall look and feel.
The keyboard itself is well designed. Each key is slightly raised, they are easy to press and are spaced a comfortable distance apart. However, the design of the handset detracts from the useful keyboard, as the bottom section of the phone — housing the trackball and other controls — tilts outwards. In our tests this chunky section of the handset gets in the way of your right hand while typing and is an uncomfortable annoyance. It also makes it practically impossible to type one-handed. Unfortunately, there is no on-screen keyboard, so you have to flip open the screen each time you need enter text. Pleasingly, this will be corrected in the near future by the way of Android's "cupcake" software update, which will be pushed out to the HTC Dream when it is available.
Google Android interface
The main attraction is obviously Google's Android interface. The HTC Dream is a full touch screen device, but it also has a trackball that works quite well for general navigation. The touch screen is responsive and easy to use, but it lacks the Apple iPhone's multi-touch so you can't pinch the screen to zoom in, for example. An accelerometer is built-in, but the screen orientation is only rotated when you slide out the keyboard and not by simply tilting the handset. Below the display there are a number of controls including answer call, home, back, end call and menu buttons. The menu button function depends on the application you are using — for example pressing menu while you are messaging offers compose, delete and settings options.
The home screen is split into three pages, which can be accessed by swiping your thumb sideways. Customisation options are plentiful — you can add any icon from the main menu onto the home screen simply by pressing and dragging it. You can also add widgets, though at present you can't create your own. The on screen graphics are rather cartoon like — this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is certainly easy to use.
The best part of the interface is the notification and status bar. On the right hand side there is a clock, as well as regular mobile phone icons including the battery meter, reception indicator and connectivity status including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
On the left of the screen, notification icons appear for most applications including new e-mails and SMS alerts, voicemails and calendar reminders. Dragging the status bar downwards reveals a full screen of your latest notifications. These remain on screen with the full details until you clear them. Intuitively, this drop down screen is available wherever you see the status bar, making it the best notification system we have seen on any mobile phone to date.
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