T-Mobile Sidekick 4G Review
The original Sidekick was one of the first mobile phones to become a gadget icon. That said, it was really the Sidekick 2 and 3 that took off, and before you knew it, all the cool “kids” had one. We’re talking about the likes of Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton, back in the day when they were still cool. I myself was a Sidekick user and owned the Sidekick 1, Sidekick 2, and Sidekick 3. I loved the Sidekick because it allowed me to constantly keep in touch with my friends via instant messages and texts without the need for any complicated software. It was the first “smartphone” made for the masses with tons of teen appeal, and it was super simple to operate, except that it wasn’t truly a smartphone. On the other hand, T-Mobile’s Sidekick 4G is a new beast altogether. It might sport a similar form-factor to the original Sidekicks, but under the hood you have got a 1Ghz processor, a 3.5″, a 3MP camera, and Android 2.2 (Froyo).
The latest sidekick measures 5 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches and weighs 5.7 ounces. With a dedicated flip out screen and hardware QWERTY keyboard, the Sidekick 4G definitely shows off the heritage of it’s ancestors. This time around the Sidekick’s hardware feels more solid than ever. And its flip out screen looks like it wont have any issues, unlike the issues that some previous Sidekicks had with their displays. Apply some pressure to the bottom of the Sidekick 4G’s display and it will pop out and rest at a low angle. This low angle is more comfortable on the eyes than the straight angle that devices with similar form-factors sport, such as the T-Mobile G2. The device also has a optical pad for navigating around the user interface. This is something that more and more Android devices are leaving out. It’s a nice touch to have, although by all means not a necessity. Then there are the buttons – located on the left of the display are the home and Jump buttons, while on the right are the Menu and Back Buttons. On the side of the device you’ll also find a dedicate camera button, volume control buttons an the Power button. Overall there are a lot of buttons all over the place, so it gets a bit of getting used to getting accustomed to them.
The 3.5″ display on the Sidekick 4G sports a 800×480 resolution resolution. The display is bright, and sharp with good color reproduction. It is a very good display, and definitely one of the better displays out there, just not top of its class.
Like its processors, the keyboard on the Sidekick 4g is spacious with plenty of space in between keys. The keys themselves are rounded and made of rubber. The keys are also backlit. That said, it does take a bit of significant pressure to push down a key, but overall the typing experience is comfortable and solid. On the other hand, the onscreen keyboard experience is just ok, since the keys are a bit on the small side. The onscreen keyboard also sports Swype.
The Sidekick 4G is a solid performer. We found operating the device to be comfortable with mostly no lags. The device earned a Quadrant score of 993. That helps prove that it is faster than the Samsung Galaxy S and Nexus One, but slower than the Motorola Droid X, HTC Evo, Droid X 2 and Nexus One. In a nutshell, the Sidekick 4G has about average performance amongst other Android smartphones on the market right now. Overall, the device offers a healthy amount of performance, but it’s not one of the fastest devices out there.
Software & Apps
The Sidekick 4G may be running Android 2.2, like so many other smartphones, but it also has some extra touches courtesy of the Sidekick overlay that T-Mobile has thrown on. That includes a theme changer which lets you choose from a selection of hip “Sidekick style” themes, and you can even change the font style. There are also a total of 7 homescreens available to you. A group texting app is also thrown in for keeping in touch with all your homies. The app lets you send text messages to an entire group. You can also share your attachments like pictures and videos, along with your current GPS location. The contact library is also able to pull social media identities across different networks like Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.
Plus, a pretty neat Cloud Text feature lets you send and receive text messages from your home PC via the Cloud Text web app at cloudtext.sidekick.com. Cloud Text wirelessly syncs your messages with your Sidekick so the conversation thread stays up to date. DriveSmart is also preloaded on the device, this app is able to send messages directly to voicemail. However, in order for the device to detect that it’s in a vehicle on it’s own, it will cost you $4.99 a month.
Other non standard apps include Facebook, T-Mobile Highlight app and Widget, Samsung Media Hub for purchasing movies and TV content, Media Room with Slacker, Mini Diary, T-Mobile TV, a task manager, Telenav GOS Navigator, Thinkfree office, WiFi calling, Universal Composer for posting updates to Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, Amazon MP3,and Qik video chat.
We found the web surfing experience on the Sidekick 4G to be very speedy. As a matter of fact, it did even better than some of the other T-Mobile 4G handsets we have tested. This might have to do with the fact that the Sidekick 4G has support for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network with support for speeds of up-to 21mbps. This could also be due to the fact that T-Mobile has been aggressively building up their 4G network since we last tested their other 4G devices.
The Sidekick’s 3MP camera takes pretty good photos, especially for photos taken outside. Photos taken outside tend to be sharp with good color reproduction and not too much grain. However it’s easy to get a blurry shot, especially indoors. Indoor shots also tend to be grainy and washed out. Plus, there is no flash, so that makes taking indoor shots even more difficult in a dark area. The camera offers control over exposure settings, white balance, effects, auto focus and more. The rear facing camera can also record videos, but it’s nothing to write home about and videos are somewhat below average. Plus, there is also a front-facing camera which can be used with the bundled Qik app. of-course, the inclusion of a frontfacing camera is important here since it will be undoubtedly popular with the Sidekick’s targeted audience – teens, tweens and college kids.
Battery life is pretty much on par with other Android smartphones, if not a little bit better than some Android handsets out there, which means it’s not great. We got about 7 hours of battery life with frequent use.
Volume gets nice and loud on the Sidekick 4G. Our calling experience was also very good – we could hear callers loud and clearly, and they said the same of us.
The Sidekick 4G has come along way from the previous generation Sidekick running the Danger operating system. The device is not quite as simple to use as the original Danger OS, but it’s also a heck of a lot more advanced. There is pretty much nothing that the Sidekick 4G doesn’t do well. That said it certainly isn’t the fastest or flashiest smartphone on the market, but it’s definitely a well rounded one. Is it a hip phone that all the cool kids will like? With such stiff competition from other Android smartphones, we’re not sure if the Sidekick can ever relive its former glory, but T-Mobile has done a good job of keeping the brand alive. Furthermore the device is still cool enough that young people on a budget, will choose it over another a more ordinary or business-like smartphone. The T-Mobile Sidekick retails for $99.99 with a 2 year contract, but you can get it for just $0.01 on Amazon with a new contract. It’s also available in two color schemes – matte black or pearl magenta.
The Good: Fast 4G Speeds, durable hardware, solid performance, great display, camera lacks a flash, solid multimedia and social media integration.
The Bad: A bit on the heavy side, no built-in memory, doesn’t come running Gingerbread, interface and plethora of buttons is a bit confusing to operate.