HTC Dream

Google's Android is awesome, but the Dream needs work. Parts of this handset are superb, but its lacklustre design and poor battery life hold it back significantly.


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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Editor's note: HTC has not announced an outright price for the Dream. Exclusive carrier Optus is only selling the Dream on contract at launch. Check out our Dream vs. iPhone pricing comparison for more information.

Calling its latest phone Dream is an interesting move by HTC. It strikes an image so far removed from the buzz words of consumer tech, like Xpress, Bold and Pro, and yet it seems to sum up our long wait for Google's Android platform — a system which has been but a dream for us tech-heads in Australia until now.

Design
When you visit your local Optus store to see the Dream, brace yourself for an underwhelming first contact. The overall aesthetic of the Dream is a lacklustre step backwards for HTC, who've been busy designing some of the industry's sexiest handsets in the last 12 months. It's the company's take on function over form with the matte charcoal finish and rounded edges that lack the sharp, sexy design of the Touch Diamond and Touch HD.

The centrepiece of the Dream is a 3.2-inch 320x480-pixel touchscreen display. While this resolution isn't as rich as the Touch HD's WVGA (480x800) screen, it is no less impressive and is great for everyday use.

Alongside the touchscreen, the Dream has a variety of input options. Just below the display is a panel of mechanical keys and a trackball for basic navigation, and under the slide the Dream sports an excellent full QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism moves the screen sideways in a small arc motion, which reveals five rows of well spaced keys.

Features
Worst things first: the Dream is not the business phone it should be. Short of a few unreliable third-party solutions on the Android Market there is no MS Exchange email support, which seems a major oversight. This means no native access to business email or syncing with Outlook and no access to your company intranet.

The paradox is that the Dream's real strength is its online connectivity. Without any application downloads the handset has pre-installed apps for GMail, Google Maps, YouTube. To keep the data coming quickly, the Dream supports HSDPA transfers on a 2100MHz network — as used extensively by all the carriers in Australia except Telstra. We found that after tinkering with the web we'd have loved to use this phone for more serious business.

The HTC Dream uses Webkit as the basis for its browser, which is also the core of the Safari browser on the iPhone. It uses full HTML browsing and has Java support, plus you can surf almost every website; except ones that use Flash. You can pan across the screen with your finger, and though you can't zoom in by pinching as you can on the iPhone, you can bring up on-screen zoom controls at the bottom of the display. Similar to the iPhone, you can also double-tap on a web page to zoom in on a particular section.

Multimedia
While Apple had the unenviable task of incorporating a full-blown iPod-like music player into the iPhone, the T-Mobile G1 has been made as more of a mobile phone than a music player. That said, the music player on the G1 is robust for what it is, and will satisfy most casual listeners. Songs are organised by Artists, Albums, Songs and Playlists, as you'd expect. You get the typical music player functions like shuffle, repeat and the ability to create playlists on the fly. And even though there's no CoverFlow, you can still view album art in a list format. We especially like that you can instantly convert any song to a ringtone directly from the music player.

You can also upload any of your own music files — it supports MP3, M4A, AMR, WMA, MIDI, WAV, Ogg Vorgis formats and has 192MB RAM and 256MB ROM. The 1GB microSD card comes preloaded with 11 songs, and the expansion slot can support up to 8GB cards. But the most disappointing thing about the music player is hardware related: the G1 doesn't have stereo Bluetooth, and the lack of a 3.5mm jack says to us that the G1 isn't meant to be a music player replacement.

YouTube clips took quite a while to load via 3G, and quality wasn't the greatest. Though images and audio were synchronised, it was blurry — but then again we were watching low-res versions since we were on T-Mobile's network instead of on Wi-Fi.

The 3.2-megapixel camera beats the iPhone's 2-megapixel camera, but you can't record video. Worse, there are no camera settings, such as white balance, effects and shooting modes. And taking pictures was a challenge. You have to have a steady hand to get a clear shot, as the slightest movement will result in a blurry image. We took about 10 or 12 pictures before we could get a satisfactory shot, and by the end, we were frustrated. Picture quality was mediocre — objects on the outside had sharp definition but they got soft in the middle. The images also had a yellowish hue.

Android
While this is a review of the HTC handset, the fact of it being the first phone in Australia to run Google's Android operating platform can't go unnoticed. Like the iPhone 3G, this is a landmark release.

We're still digging deeper in the platform, but so far we've been very impressed. Unlike the releases of new Nokia and Windows Mobile platforms, Android is a system built with touchscreen displays in mind, and this really shows in the finger-friendly design of its interface. A good example of this is the way notifications, like new SMS messages, are displayed in a drag-down menu at the top of the screen, an area on-screen shared with network coverage and battery life.

HTC's Dream isn't the most powerful phone around at the moment, but this doesn't stop Android from running exceptionally smoothly, with performance to rival the iPhone. Every finger gesture, swiping and scrolling, is met with a smooth and instant response. Android doesn't multitask, in the traditional sense, but instead appears to store an application's last active status for the next time this application is opened. This keeps things running lag-free, whilst allowing you to use several apps seamlessly without losing your place.

The Android Market is Google's answer to Apple's overwhelmingly popular App Store, though to call this a store would be incorrect considering every single application is free. We've spent a lot of our review time searching deeper and deeper into the Market, finding new apps and seeing what they do. There may not yet be the 15,000 apps found on Apple's Store, but there is more than enough to keep you amused for a very long time.

Performance
Android's zippy performance has made the Dream look very good in action, though parts of the phone unrelated to the operating system are less impressive. Battery life is abysmal, with only a day between charges with low-to-moderate use. While browsing the Android Market and the internet, the Dream lasted for less than eight hours before the battery died.

Also, call quality has been questionable, due perhaps to a weaker than usual radio antenna. Many of the calls we made were plagued with break-ups, and the phone lost its connection to the mobile network altogether on more than one occasion.

Overall
We came to our conclusion from the moment we started to test the Dream and little has changed as we continued: Android is awesome, but the handset needs work. Parts of the Dream are superb: the touchscreen, the QWERTY keyboard, the phone's performance in regards to menu navigation and applications. But, the shocking battery life and frequent disturbances during calls, plus the phone's daggy appearance, make the Dream a phone for early adopters only. 2009 will be a year full of sexy Android phones, so it might be best to wait for the next generation.



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harryhampster
1
Rating
 

"Dream? Only if you are a mascohist."

harryhampster posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Unreliable - should never have been released

I don%u2019t ask much of a phone. I%u2019m not interested in listening to music, playing games or watching videos. All I need is a phone that works reliably and SMS. My old state of the ark Nokia monochrome screen does this admirably. But on moving cities recently I thought it might be handy to have access to maps and a GPS facility. I am an old school guy so I wanted a phone with a real keyboard, I am no fan of touch screens, I mean how how many people use touch keyboards on their desk top computers. Anyway I bought this so-called %u201CDream%u201D, and boy whaat a nightmare from start to finish.

Honestly there are so many things wrong with it it is hard to know where to start. Let%u2019s start with the simple, no-brainer things. Getting the back cover off to access the batteries and SIM requires ripping your fingernails off, so much so that I see on ebay some enterprising soul is advertising what look like guitar picks to be used for this very purpose. This may seem like a small point, but trust me, you will be taking out the battery on at least a daily basis, more on that later. The SIM is easy enough to get in, but now try and get it out %u2013 there is not enough fingergrip space to do it without effort. The Camera button is practically impossible to use and pretty much guarantees that in the effort to use it you will move the phone and end up with a blurred camera. The volume control is equally impossible to use when making a call, but that is largely irrelevant because the volume of the phone on its maximum setting is not nearly loud enough for ordinary use %u2013 forget about using your phone anywhere there is background noise such as traffic.

Android? Forget about it. You need to be a tech-head to get anywhere with it. Unless you understand arcane words like Armon Ra, nand, Cyanamod, version this, upload this, Gingerbread, éclair and the like, forget about it, you%u2019re in big trouble. The net is full of mysterious threads and forums, none of which make an atom of sense to you or me, I mean all I want to do is make a phone call not redesign the universe from the smallest atom upwards. I%u2019m an electrical engineer and even I can%u2019t be bothered with it.

As found by many other users the battery life is terrible, to the point that users should be able to take legal action on incorrect specifications. This phone will flatten its battery from full charge to nothing in 6 hours, while just sitting there. Try and actually do something with it and the battery will die in 2-3 hours. If you actually want to use it on a day trip, actually using it for its intended purpose you will have to take 2 -3 spare batteries. If it is fully charged when you go to bed when you wake up in the morning it will be dead.

As I say, all I want is a reliable phone. But this one isn%u2019t. You will find that most time you want to use it it will tell you there is %u201Cno service%u201D or %u201Cno SIM%u201D. You can be blithely waiting for a call, check your phone and find that for the last 4 hours it has put itself out of service. To fix this you will have reboot the phone, possibly many times. Sometimes taking out the battery will be sufficient. Other times a %u201Creboot%u201D is required. Still other times a %u201Crecovery%u201D is required. If all else fails you will have to do a factory reset, which of course wipes all your data and you start from scratch with your phone as if it was straight out of the box. Hopefully your Chinese is good because the phone factory resets in Chinese and you will have to figure out how to get it back into English. Pretty handy huh. Oh, I forgot, before you do that you will have to trawl the internet to find out how to do all these resets, and/or pay a phone repairer to so it as I did.


I am told there is a screen auto-rotate on this thing, but it does not work no matter how your tweak the setting. Also you will find that when you press the space key on the built in keyboard it often does not work, meaning you get to the end of a sentence only to find you have written a single word 300 characters long. Just for variety at other times pressing the space key does give you a space but usefully adds a fullstop as well just for good measure.

The Dream does have an on-screen keyboard (at least in some functions, not for messaging as far as I have been able to find) but of course the on-screen keys are too small to use, you can forget about using that.

The provided applications (Maps, Navigation, GPS, browser, etc) generally work but they are unreliable and often go off into the weeds and need to be shut down. This even happens frequently on such basic functions as messaging, the messaging application will suddenly throw its hands up in horror and freeze. Of course there is no way of knowing what applications are running (short of going into the %u201CManage Application%u201D function a few layers down the %u201CSettings%u201D menu tree), so you think you have turned off Maps (for instance) only to find later that it has churning away in the background gorging itself on your precious battery power. You will also find that after using any of these applications that you phone function will cease to work requiring you to reboot, as per above.

I%u2019m sure I have missed 100 points of frustration along the way but you get the idea. I highly recommend this device to masochists and people who have nothing to do with their time. A far as I can see its main use in life is an expensive paperweight or a projectile to hurl at walls or small animals.

zic
7
Rating
 

zic posted a review   

am really about to swap my nokia 5800 with this phone(htc dream).i will like to know whether it be advisable for me to go in for that. i guess all that you guys are saying relates to the batt.well i guess with dat i really have no problem since iphone is of all the quality.i just want to know.jux tell me.YES or NO.
please email me ecrepton@gmail.com

 

SEXpal posted a comment   

The Good:screen, market, keyboard

The Bad:BATTERY, glitchy, too delicate

its a good phone,but it lacks in batter life. It probably lasts up to about 3 hours talk time, if the brightness is high i can watch my battery come down. Keyboard is great, nicely laid out keys, good screen response time

 

Just Me posted a comment   

This is my 5th HTC dream that has been sent to me in less than a year. I will never buy a HTC ever again. Constant freezing. No network connection. Rogers is my provider and they suck as much as this phone does! Never again!!!

Ghost
6
Rating
 

Ghost posted a review   

The Good:Android OS, QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen

The Bad:Lag, Battery Life

I have had my HTC Dream for about 8 months now, since just before cupcake (v1.5) rolled out. At the time it was an excellent phone, aside from the battery life being rather short.

However, with each update of the OS it seemed just that bit slower, and it now lags fairly often, even with a OS restore every month or so.

Recently a few of the keys on the keyboard (zero, p and space) and the scroll wheel have started to act up a fair bit, as well as the battery dying after a few short hours, even with only 2g/no sync settings.

Overall, a decent phone when released, but there are better alternatives for your android fix.

 

( . Y . ) posted a comment   

The Good:Responsive touch screen, fast browsing

The Bad:Battery, camera is terrible, no flash, ugly, glitches.

I baught this phone when it first came out for a total of 1, 030 it has **** me off so much that i baught the blackberry curve 8520 mid entry phone and it does everything the htc does it even has a better camera.

snowy27
9
Rating
 

snowy27 posted a review   

The Good:Totally customizable. Practical phone that can do so much. nice size screen.

The Bad:bad battery life, bad internal memory, no flash for the camera

I had found the reviews on this site about the phone just after I bought it off ebay about 2 days ago. From what I had read made me feel that I made a mistake buying this phone. I have been a Apple tech for 11 years and was going to get an iPhone but didn't wan't to spend so much on a phone as I tend to lose a phone at least 2 times a year. I received it this morning and played around with the different software available. Cut a long story short this is the best phone I ever purchased thanks to the Android OS and the dedicated community supporting Android. Sure the iPhone is a sexier phone but this one is practical and can do everything once the correct software is installed including video recording. It is so customizable. The issues are there is no flash for the camera, the internal memory is poor but expandable with a flash card, the battery life sux (it ran out of power in 2 hours after some heavy usage) but can be updated to a 2400mAh bulkier battery.

Noodles
2
Rating
 

Noodles posted a review   

The Good:keyboard

The Bad:everything else

Worst and slowest phone I've owned. I have a huge list of things I don't like about this phone. Big mistake getting this one.

 

ihaveag1 posted a comment   

The Good:keyboard,touchscreen,market,barcode scanner

The Bad:charge,toughness

i have had my white g1 for just about a year and it has broken i dropped it and the speaker you put in your ear doesn't word, good but not a strong phone

HTCDream
5
Rating
 

HTCDream posted a review   

The Good:Qwerty Keyboard

The Bad:Ugly, freezes,

Already over this phone, buying the blackberry pearl 8220


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User Reviews / Comments  HTC Dream

  • harryhampster

    harryhampster

    Rating1

    "I don%u2019t ask much of a phone. I%u2019m not interested in listening to music, playing games or watching videos. All I need is a phone that works reliably and SMS. My old state of the ark Nokia m..."

  • zic

    zic

    Rating7

    "am really about to swap my nokia 5800 with this phone(htc dream).i will like to know whether it be advisable for me to go in for that. i guess all that you guys are saying relates to the batt.well ..."

  • SEXpal

    SEXpal

    "its a good phone,but it lacks in batter life. It probably lasts up to about 3 hours talk time, if the brightness is high i can watch my battery come down. Keyboard is great, nicely laid out keys, g..."

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