Coming at T-Mobile's Sidekick 3 with no preconceptions, it's difficult to know who it's aimed at.

Previous Sidekicks, comprising phone, web browser and emailer, have been hugely popular with bright young things. The Sidekick 3 ticks all of these boxes and adds digital audio (after a fashion), but its design is a little clunky and it feels plasticky and brittle in the hand. Visit PC Advisor's Mobile Advisor website for reviews of the latest mobile phones.

At 130x59x22mm and weighing a mighty 182g the Sidekick 3 is neither small nor light. But then, with a squarish 2.6in screen and a full qwerty keyboard, you would expect nothing less. At the touch of a button, the Sidekick 3's fascia spins through 180 degrees to reveal the screen and keyboard.

When you're placing a call, the Sidekick 3 can be held to your ear like any other mobile phone. Call quality is solid enough. But most functions are accessed with the flip-out screen, well, flipped out as described above. In this mode it looks like a miniature typewriter or one of those portable games machines you could buy in the 1980s. In other words, not cool.

The screen continues this retro theme. With 240x260-pixel resolution it barely merits the term screen (if you like impressionistic painting this is the phone for you). But the paucity of the display at least softens the blow when you boot up the web browser. Mobile phones rarely do the internet well. In fairness to the Sidekick 3, this is not the fault of this particular model, and some websites are better prepared for mobile browsers than others. On the other hand, the Sidekick 3 is a tri-band GSM device, and you gets what you pays for.

With the Sidekick 3 in front of you in full qwerty keyboard mode, you have three main controls under each thumb. To the right there are the by-now traditional green and red phones, to start and finish calls. Between them is a tiny trackball that's quite fun to use.

Under your left opposable is another, square navigation pad, which is also a speaker. More important is the button below. Like the iPhone's homepage switch, this always takes you back to the main function menu. It's a real boon. Above is a switch that takes you to a contextual drop-down.

The Sidekick provides AIM instant messaging and an email address that belongs only to the phone (as well as the potential for three further POP3 accounts). So if you live your digital life only via the Sidekick 3 you're in luck, but don't expect it to operate as an office PC peripheral.

You can, however, access T-Mobile's calendar and contacts via the web. Online is increasingly becoming a favoured option. Naturally, T-Mobile's software nothing like as sophisticated as Outlook, but it may suffice for non-business users. And for the uninitiated, the Sidekick 3 makes hooking up with this web-based data a cinch - although it's by no means a speedy process.

NEXT PAGE: digital audio player and verdict > >

With the Sidekick version 3, T-Mobile has added MP3-player facilities and a speaker. To be honest, it might as well not have bothered. The headphones require a 2.5mm socket, so you'll need an adaptor for your earbuds. And music tracks must be MP3s, and play only from a MiniSD card. At least the battery life is healthy and you do get a memory card, albeit only 64MB.

The 1.3Mp camera is, well, everything you'd expect a 1.3Mp camera on a phone to be. Shutter lag is measured in aeons, and 1.3Mp is no longer a sufficient resolution even for a cameraphone. Plus the onboard storage is tiny. Suffice to say you won't be using the Sidekick 3 to capture a dear friend's wedding, but it will do sterling service on boozy nights out. Or whatever the youngsters get up to these days. Visit PC Advisor's Mobile Advisor website for reviews of the latest mobile phones.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Specs

  • Tri-band GSM device with GPRS
  • 2.6in, 240x260-pixel screen
  • 130x59x22mm
  • 182g
  • 1.3Mp camera
  • MP3 player
  • qwerty keyboard
  • 64MB SD Card
  • Li-ion battery and charger
  • carrying case
  • hands-free kit
  • USB cable
  • Tri-band GSM device with GPRS
  • 2.6in, 240x260-pixel screen
  • 130x59x22mm
  • 182g
  • 1.3Mp camera
  • MP3 player
  • qwerty keyboard
  • 64MB SD Card
  • Li-ion battery and charger
  • carrying case
  • hands-free kit
  • USB cable

OUR VERDICT

Put brutally, we don't like the T-Mobile Sidekick 3. Couched in kinder terms, this may because we're old enough to be its father. The Sidekick does a lot of things, not always very well. But it will appeal to teenage users with no PC of their own - and no need for sophistication.

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