Friday, July 15, 2005

Review of T-Mobile Sidekick

You know when you're a gadget geek when you have more than one gadget that does the same thing. I have been a Palm owner for 9 years now starting from a Palm III and now owning a Zire 72. About a month ago, I experimented with owing a Pocket PC. I decided to try an older unit and get it off eBay. This way if I was dissatisfied, no big loss. So I got a IPAQ 3630 running Pocket PC 2000. It set me back $50.00. I started filling my Pocket PC up with everything ranging from different Today views to games to voice recognition. I concluded that the Pocket PC may have the edge over the Palm with games such as Street Duel: Underground Racing out there. However, my Zire 72's high resolution screen was no match for the resolution the 3630 had. I then decided to upgrade my Pocket PC 2000 to Pocket PC 2002. There was a glitch, though. My Pocket PC was not able to sync with my PC running Windows XP. I learned a Bootloading process normally reserved for running Linux on a Pocket PC. It somewhat worked but I was not able to finish to the end due to another communications glitch. Being somewhat annoyed now, I gave up and happily went back to using my Zire.

Then just last week, I read an article about a gadget called The T-Mobile Sidekick (also being marketed as the Danger Hiptop). Reviews were good. So I decided I MUST try this as well. Besides I was paying $60 a month using my prepaid phone and a basic phone plan with T-Mobile would cost me $30 a month (giving me the same minutes I was using with the prepaid). I went back to eBay and ordered the Sidekick with the camera attachment for $120.00. There is a newer model out there, The Sidekick 2. I am reviewing the original model as the 2 was more expensive (runs about $200). The Sidekick is a fun loving device. In my humble opinion, it is more useable and clever in certain ways than I hear the PalmOne Treo is. The Sidekick is best termed as a converged device, some might call it a Smart Phone, but in general that term is reserved for a business type of tool. The Sidekick is a converged device that provides the following built-in functionality:

Cell Phone (GSM, uses a SIM card)
E-mail device, send and retrieve email wirelessly.
Web surfing device, browse anywhere on the web using the built-in GPRS radio
Instant Messenger device using built-in AOL IM software
Optional attachable camera allows you to snap photos and then email them to yourself and friends.
Basic Personal Information Management (PIM) device. Not half as robust as PDA software on the Palm OS or Pocket PC platform, but built-in Calendar, Address Book, Notes and To Do list provides the basics.
Gaming device, you can play a basic space shoot 'em up or purchase other games by downloading them wirelessly.

The Sidekick is an uniquely designed device. The flip up screen rotates clockwise after giving a little lift at the bottom. I still get a kick out of flipping the screen, the geek in me is tickled each time I do this, if you like attention it'll also get people looking at you and asking questions too. By rotating around, the screen is able to take on a form factor of being somewhat external to the device as you type on the built-in keyboard while browsing the web or instant messaging friends.Overall the device looks somewhat like a cross between a digital camera and a handheld gaming device.The web browser on this device is decent and has nearly all the basic functions you'd need. It offers bookmarks, favorites, forward and back browsing of course. It does not offer JavaScript support, but since most of the sites you'll visit will need to be optimized for mobile devices anyway, this isn't a big drawback. Using the built-in AOL IM application you can sign on using an existing screen name and see all the buddies you have on your normal PC based AOL IM application. Since this is a GSM based device it uses a SIM card so you can import contacts from your old phone simply by dropping the SIM card into the Sidekick and then importing them using a procedure outlined in the instruction manual. What's really nifty and made me decide to keep the Sidekick is it's ability to wirelessly sync with your PC's Microsoft Outlook. This feature is not included and would have to be separately purchased for $20.00. It's worth every cent. Syncing takes a second and is hassle free with no cable connection. Sweet!!! You might be wondering what about the phone? Yes, it also has a great phone with voice mail. The other party's voice comes out crisp and clear and the volume control is sufficient enough for people who have a slight hearing problem (like me). For people who are deaf, the phone comes with an optional (free) relay feature and TTY. The jog wheel even lights up and is customizable in every way. In fact, every caller can have it's own sequence of multi-colored lights. And if lights don't grab you, what till you see what variety of alarms and ringtones are offered. Today I purchased a dolphin ringtone for only a buck and a half. The Sidekick comes with many ringtones. I just happened to stumble upon the dolphin one in the catalogue. In conclusion, The Sidekick is a fun converged device with a lot to like. It's easy to use, has a great keyboard, the form factor is innovative and can keep you connected in various ways to your friends and family.

Just when I thought the waters were safe, good ol' Tam introduced me to the Fossil Abacus Wrist PDA. That review is next. Be a geek and stay tuned!