I was lucky enough to receive a review model of the HTC Dream from Loff International a few weeks back. I was exceptionally excited since this was the first Android based mobile phone I was reviewing. Being a complete geek and getting my little paws on this just after release was really amazing. My only problem? I had to give it back after 2 weeks! This usually is not an issue but with the HTC Dream, it was very difficult!
Look and Feel:
Being an HTC almost automatically pushes a mobile in the “business phone” segment so the HTC Dream is a little bigger than most phones. Instead of giving you the size in inches or millimeters let me describe it in relation to other mobiles.
The Dream feels similar to the iPhone, except its a little thicker and heavier. Another comparison would be to compare it to the Samsung Pixon. It has a large screen that is a TFT capacitive touchscreen which supports 65K colors and is about 320 x 480 pixels in size. So it basically the same size as most new business modeled mobiles.
The touchscreen is amazingly responsive and I would say it is 100% on par with the touch of the iPhone. This is where most touchscreen mobiles fall out the bus when trying to compare to the iPhone. It also has a trackball that is available for navigation. I honestly question the need for the trackball since I cannot remember using it once!
The keyboard takes some getting used to. The right side of the keyboard is blocked off a bit by the trackball and main “answer / deny” buttons. It is only uncomfortable for the first few days, and once you’re used to it, you can really type quickly on the keyboard. It is exceptionally responsive and I was generally impressed with the keyboard.
The HTC Dream is an Android phone and so it comes preloaded with a number of Apps. The most important features of which is the integration with Google Services. Within minutes my GMail, gTalk and Google Calendar were all set up on the Dream.
This is what made the phone absolutely awesome! The Dream would generally receive my email of chat message quicker than my PC at work would. The emails downloaded quickly thanks to the HSDPA onboard modem and typing in the chat conversations was quick and easy thanks to the full QWERTY keyboard.
The in style of dealing with Text Messages (SMS) was very different to most mobiles though. Using if you receive 3 SMS’s from a person, they would appear in “separate messages”. On the HTC Dream, it opens all three in the same screen.
Once you decide to reply to a message, it then includes your message that you sent in the page. So in essence, you SMS messages appear the same as your IM conversations on Google Talk and most other IM’s do. This is so useful when trying to find something someone sent you in an SMS a week back!
The GPS did not impress me though. 9 times out of 10 when I tried to find my location it could not pinpoint my location. The Google Maps aspect of every still works but the GPS does not really function. I’m not sure if this is because Google Maps doesn’t fully cover South Africa yet but it is an annoyance.
The camera is a 3.2Megapixel camera which isn’t amazing but its not bad either. The imaging tools included in the Dream is pretty good as you can crop and edit images on the go really easily. My biggest problem I had was the lack of a “PC Studio” like Nokia, Samsung and pretty much every other manufacturer has. I couldn’t use the HTC Dream as a modem for my PC which I can do with most other phones out the box.
The built in web browser is amazing though! So much so that I didn’t even install Opera. It loaded anything and everything I could think of throwing at it and it loaded it quickly, even when limiting the phone to use GPRS only. This is no minor feat and HTC / Google need to be congratulated for that!
The battery life on the Dream is a little sketchy. Here it comes down to the configuration of the Dream. With the GPS, HSDPA, gTalk and Gmail active for most of the day, the battery didn’t even last the day. However, once I limited the phone to GPRS, I disabled the GPS and stopped using gTalk entirely and only used it for SMS / Voice calls and email, the battery lasted me almost 3 days! So the difference is pretty huge!
Brilliant mobile phone! Only 2 small niggles I had was the keyboard for the first few days and the battery life. The huge problem not being able to use it as a modem. However these are problems that are easily overcome. The biggest thing holding the HTC Dream and Magic back is the fact that the official app store is not available in South Africa yet!
This is rumored to be coming in soon but at the moment there is only the “OpenMarket” and that only has a very limited selection of apps. I must say its the hardest review model I’ve had to give back and is the first review phone to surpass the Samsung F480 in that view. I would recommend this mobile to anyone and everyone!