T-Mobile's Sidekick mobile phone/PDA hybrid comes with removable rubberised bumpers and a $150 price tag in the US. You can pick one up for around £300 online in the UK.
The latest member of T-Mobile's Sidekick family of mobile phone/PDA hybrids for people who'd just as soon type as talk targets a youthful, budget-minded crowd.
The T-Mobile Sidekick iD is basically a low-rent version of last summer's Sidekick 3. This one has no camera or SD Card slot; and in place of the Sidekick 3's metallic case, the iD offers gray snap-on plastic bumpers and back pieces, which you can exchange for optional sets in black, white, yellow, bright blue, purple, or glow-in-the-dark orange.
The T-Mobile Sidekick iD's rather beefy dimensions are virtually unchanged: It's a tad taller (63mm), but width and thickness hold steady at 129mm and 23mm, respectively. The US price, however, has slimmed down to $150 with a two-year contract. Without a contract, the Sidekick iD is $300 - about £150 - compared to $400 for its predecessor.
Like other Sidekicks, the T-Mobile Sidekick iD is T-Mobile's name for the latest version of the Hiptop, a software/hardware platform designed by Danger and manufactured by Sharp. We tried out a shipping unit and were (as usual) most delighted by the instant messaging and email features.
Not only does the well-designed keyboard - concealed by the T-Mobile Sidekick iD's swivelling screen until you need it - simplify input, but Danger's attention to user experience makes even routine address-book entries and IM service setup a pleasure. (You get clients for AOL, MSN and Yahoo services.) On the email side, the Sidekick iD supports several variations on POP and IMAP, both with and without SSL, which should cover most people's accounts.
Navigation is done via a small trackball on the T-Mobile Sidekick iD's righthand side and four buttons - one on each corner - which, clockwise from the upper left, invoke drop-down menus, cancel changes to screens or dialog boxes, move back through previous screens (or accept data entry), and return to the main menu or jump screen. The trackball seemed a little slippery - it sometimes inadvertently moved to submenus instead of cycling through jump-screen icons - but generally the system worked well, and it took us only a few moments to master.
Making calls to numbers in our address book was easy and didn't require swinging out the display. But anytime we had to key in a number, we did have to get to the keyboard; once the number rang, we had to swivel the screen again to hold the device to our ear, which we found a bit awkward. Voice call quality was solid in our limited tests.
The T-Mobile Sidekick iD's washed-out-looking display remains a weak point, though it's a lot more palatable given the Sidekick iD's very reasonable price. Sidekick screens have never been as gorgeous as the displays on higher-end devices (think almost any recent BlackBerry or Windows Mobile smartphone). But this one is fairly readable in all lighting conditions.
You get a basic datebook application to go with the address book. And despite the absence of an expansion card slot or camera, the T-Mobile Sidekick iD comes with photo album software; a concise and helpful printed manual suggests that you might use it to save .jpg images received as email attachments.
You have room for some content, too. The T-Mobile Sidekick iD ships with 64MB of SDRAM and 64MB of flash ROM. But a message on the upper left of our empty photo album screen reported that we had only 1.7MB of space remaining, and when we downloaded a couple of ringtones, the device warned us that we didn't have room for many more.
It's possible to download games and applications, but there's no music or video player, and the device's earbud is a single- ear model. Web browsing was sluggish, and the T-Mobile Sidekick iD's reformatting scheme isn't particularly attractive. We would advise against getting this Sidekick iD if you're looking for any multimedia features.