As you may have noticed by now, Rogers has released the HTC Dream on June 2nd (known as the T-Mobile G1 in United States). The HTC Dream was the first Android phone released as well as one of the first Android phone released on Rogers and in Canada. The phone goes for $149.99 on a three-year voice and data plan with a minimum combined monthly service fee of $45 or $599.99 for the no-term price. Rogers also threw the grandfathered $30/6gb plan back along with the release.
The HTC Dream is a full HSDPA (850/1900MHz) phone with a quick 7.2 mbps speed. It also includes a built-in accelerometer, GPS and Wi-Fi support along with stereo bluetooth and a generous 3.2″ 320×480 resolution fully touchscreen LCD, which is a tad smaller then the iPhone’s touchscreen LCD. The Rogers HTC Dream also has the new cupcake 1.5 firmware pre-installed.
Homescreen and Customization:
When you first start it up and click the menu button, it’ll reveal the home screen which is fully customizable. When holding an icon, you’ll feel a short vibrate feedback letting you know that the icon can be dragged around to be customized. Widgets can be added on the homescreen as well and can be downloaded from the android market. The homescreen is infact three different screens. Swipping to the left or right reveals two other screens which can also be customized by holding and dragging around icons. Dropping the icon into the tab near the bottom deletes the icon from the homepage. I’m starting to see a big resemblance with the iPhone and Macs.
Menu and Notifications:
When sliding up or pressing the tab at the bottom. The full menu is shown where all your applications are located. These applications can be saved on the homepage by holding it down which will then allow you to drop it on the homepage. To browse all the applications, scrolling the menu up and down with your fingers allows you to see them. The sliding and swipping movements used is good but lags at points where applications are running in the background. The trackball is also an option.
Sliding the top bar down reveals the notification menu. This menu shows all your text messages, emails, IMs and whatnot. The notification bar can be accessed almost anytime unless in a full screen application. Gotta love it.
Dialing and Call Quality:
Pressing the Call button accesses the dial-pad. Dialing is as easy as any other phone and the buttons are large. Android has integrated a dialing technique called “Smart Search” which quickly filters contacts by name or number. For example, finding a phone number that starts with “425″ by typing 425 or finding a contact named “Amy” by typing 269 (2=abc 6=mno 9=wxyz.) Easy enough. Pressing the end button ends the call of course.
Call quality on the phone is superb. I had no trouble hearing and neither did the person on the other line. Speaker phone is also great and doesn’t echo as much as other phones. I’d say call quality as well as speakerphone beats the iPhone but I’ve found that when using an application and receiving a call while in it freezes the screen and doesn’t allow you to pick up. The HTC Dream doesn’t support Rogers Name Display though which is disappointing but you can setup a display picture to a contact when someone calls.
Pushing the screen upwards reveals the full 5-row qwerty keyboard. As you can see, the LCD slides in a very different way which some may thing is a bit weird and cheap, but sliding mechanism is actually very solid and can take daily usage. The keys are nicely spread out and are fairly large, but they are very flat and barely have texture which some people might hate, especially since there’s no virtual/on-screen keyboard that is included in the Rogers HTC Dream, but a great thing about Android is that its an open-source OS so expect a virtual keyboard for the Rogers Android to be floatin’ around the web.
The Dream uses the Mozilla browser which is a full HTML browser. Every single webpage I have tested has been superb and quick at loading (of course, its 7.2mbps!) but if you get low signal (in my basement) you tend to not be able to send or receive data. The only way around this that I have found is to go into the settings and disable 3G network which unfortunately drops you down to EDGE. The browser also has WAP support which is great if you have a limited amount of data. It is very easy to scroll around through websites. You have a choice of using the trackball which will scroll through all the clickable links (like the sidekick) or you can scroll around using the touchscreen. When using the touchscreen to scroll, a mini-toolbar at the bottom of the screen is shown for zooming in and out. The browser can also view up to 8 pages at once by clicking the menu button, then pressing the windows button on the LCD.
The phone has an amazing music player that is pre-installed. It sorts your song by artists or albums or you can customize a playlist. To put songs in your phone, you would connect it to your computer using mini-usb and drag and drop your music files, easy as any other phone… well, besides the iPhone of course. The music player is very easy to use and the buttons are large and easy to press, but the phone is missing one big thing that every music player needs, a 3.5mm head-jack. The package does include a pair of usb headphones but it doesn’t fit everyone. USB-to-3.5mm plug is an option which can be bought separately.
The Android phone has a built in Gmail client which is fairly good. It can show all your mails from the past by scrolling down which will then load your old mails. Clicking menu, then view labels will show all the folders that come with Gmail as well as folders you have custom made.
You can also setup Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync as well as some other POP3/IMAP mail clients but without a Gmail account, you won’t be able to access the Android Market so there’s really no point in that.
The messaging application on the Android phone is good and very well laid out. It is full threaded text messaging exactly like the iPhone which is great. You are able to setup spell check and auto-correct but who really needs that when you have a full qwerty keyboard… besides me.
Battery and Camera:
Battery life isn’t the greatest on this phone. I was only able to squeeze out about 8 hours of usage but I also did a bunch of surfing as well as leaving meebo and connected, could be why. Charging daily is a must, like any smartphone, and leaving Wi-Fi off as well as GPS/Location Services is recommended when not in use.
The Dream has an amazing 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus but no flash. The camera can be started by holding down the camera button on the lower right side of the phone. The camera button is a 2-step button, pressing half-way down focuses the picture and pushing fully down takes the picture. There is also a video camera built in but when testing it, I noticed that the video’s were very choppy and not as clear. Here are some pictures taken from the HTC Dream
Overall, I think the phone is great. It as a lot of potential with the open source OS and I can see Android growing a lot larger. It is laggy at some points and it does tend to freeze a lot more then the iPhone but not nearly as bad as a Windows Mobile. The phone is a tad bulky in my opinion and it does seem cheap because it is completely made of plastic but there is some weight which makes it seem very solid. I was disappointed to see that Rogers has stripped down the Android OS from the original T-Mobile G1 but I wasn’t expecting too much considering this is the first-generation Android phone. Like it or not, its definitely a phone that you’d have to play with to know what its like but I suggest not to give up your brand new smartphone that you just purchased for this. That being said, I give it a 3.5 stars out of 5.