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Review: T-Mobile's Sidekick 3 Launched, Reviewed, and Videoed

Review by Michael Oryl on Tuesday June 20, 2006.

t-mobile sidekick 3 · t-mobile · smartphone reviews · t-mobile news · smartphone news · michael oryl

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Back some years ago Danger Inc. designed the original Hiptop, the reference design that would later go on to be the first T-Mobile Sidekick. The original Sidekick was positioned as a data centric device, and as such was offered with plans that, while they offered unlimited data, included only a handful of voice call minutes per month.

But things have changed in the 3+ years since the original Sidekick was released. Now in its 3rd iteration, the Sidekick 3 is a fully functional phone and offers far more data connectivity than was available in the original. This new device builds upon the design of the Sidekick II by upgrading the camera and keyboard, adding a new trackball controller to replace the old roller, adding Bluetooth and EDGE data, and giving the design a much sexier and polished look. Of course it also has a music player and memory card slot, as well.

If you want to get a quick overview of the T-Mobile Sidekick 3, jump right to the Sidekick 3 Video Demo page to see it in action.

Physical Aspects

While the Sidekick 3 bears a very strong resemblance to the Sidekick 2, most aspects of the physical design have been updated in some way. At 182g (6.4oz), it is roughly the same weight as its predecessor, but the body is now a millimeter longer and thicker, while being 7mm narrower. These changes may seem insignificant, but the new 131mm x 59mm x 23mm (5.2" x 2.3" x .9") dimensions give the Sidekick 3 a significantly more phone like feel when used for voice calls.

As in previous Sidekicks, the display on the Sidekick 3 can be flipped out to expose the QWERTY keyboard. To me, the action of the spring-assisted flip seems pretty much the same as on the older models. A push on the bottom left corner of the display housing causes the entire unit to flip up and around 180 degrees, exposing the new QWERTY keyboard. I say "new" because, for the first time, the Sidekick's keyboard is made up of individual buttons rather than the rubber over chicklet style keyboards that have been on past models. This change, along with the Sidekick's wide form factor and generous key spacing, has made the Sidekick 3 the best device on the market for QWERTY text input.

But the Sidekick 3 handles other input very well, too. While a d-pad controller can still be found to the left of the display, it is the new trackball control that replaces the older up/down roller wheel that has really impressed me. I found that the d-pad worked fine, but that the trackball is what I used all the time. It makes moving quickly through the UI and lists of messages and such fast and painless, and I love how the trackball itself can glow various colors. The speed/sensitivity of the trackball can also be adjusted, so that it should work out well for most people. The typical green and red call control keys are found inconspicuously wrapped around the trackball.

As with previous Sidekicks, there are dedicated buttons for the jump screen (main menu) and context sensitive menus located on the left, on either side of the d-pad. On the right, straddling the trackball and call keys, are the cancel and done buttons. The gray rubber shoulder buttons on the top edge of the prior Sidekicks have been replaced by more conventional buttons that are a bit harder to find by touch alone, but are also far more attractive. The bottom of the device is home to similar volume and power keys, as well as a headset jack. On the right edge of the device, near the trackball, is where the miniUSB cable connection, the charger port, and the lanyard loop can be found. A rubber like rear cover surrounds the 1.3 megapixel camera's lens and assist light, as well as conceals the memory card slot and user swappable battery. The rear cover must be removed to swap memory cards, but the device itself need not be powered off since the battery does not have to be removed.

I was not a real fan of the physical design of the prior Sidekicks. While functional, they were ugly and a bit clumsy. This new Sidekick 3, however, changes all that. It looks well thought out, polished, and is quite innovative. Sidekick fans are going to rejoice.

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About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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