T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Conclusions | iLounge Backstage


T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Conclusions

After the last three Sidekick 3 updates (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), which mostly focused on Danger’s new feature additions and their performance, there are still a few details worth sharing with you: my big-picture impressions and opinions.

Over the past year and a half, the Sidekick 2 has garnered a very specific reputation: it’s perceived as the data-ready cell phone of choice for celebrities and younger users. Danger and T-Mobile have done just about everything possible to cultivate this image, seeding Sidekicks to the likes of Paris Hilton before the Wall Street Journal, for example, and creating ad campaigns that look more like cartoons than lifestyle or serious pitches. So despite the device’s seriously impressive technology and interface, there’s been one obvious and very unfortunate consequence: many adult business users pooh-pooh the platform without even trying it.

What I’m here to tell you is this - believe these words or discount them, but here they are - I used my Sidekick 2 as much last year as my personal iPod, which is to say, “every day, several times or more.” Many of the articles you’ve seen on this web site were originally typed on a Sidekick 2. Numerous pages from last year’s Free iPod Book and two Buyers’ Guides were written on the Sidekick 2. I could go into much more detail on this point, but it should suffice to say that the Sidekick 2 was the single most valuable business tool I owned last year - more than my laptop computer. My personal experience is part of the reason that three iLounge editors currently use the SK2 actively, with another one or two on the fringe of becoming converts.

And it’s important to note one other key fact: unlimited data service for the phone has cost me only $20 per month - good luck saying that with a company other than T-Mobile, or even coming close. What the $20 has bought me is AOL Instant Messaging and e-mail access from almost everywhere I’ve traveled. It’s let me send unlimited text messages to my girlfriend’s cell phone - and receive them from her - even when neither of our phones are in great reception areas. And it’s let me access the Web in a highly readable, convenient way for everything from iLounge to world news to movie listings. Plus, it’s a legitimately great phone when I want to make actual phone calls. All of these disparate features are tied together with a simple, nearly intuitive interface; it takes a lot to make a hybrid data and cell phone that even Paris Hilton could understand.

Simply put, the Sidekick 3 is better - much better - than last year’s model. I’ve laid out a number of the reasons in the past three reports, but to recap the key points, it feels faster, lets you navigate its menus faster, and actually accesses the web, e-mail, and related data services faster than before - each at about 2-4 times prior speeds, which weren’t bad before. It adds Bluetooth 1.2 so that you can use popular wireless headsets, a 1.3 Megapixel camera for superior still photography, and a music player - if you want to use it. The inclusion of a miniSD memory card slot (packed with a photo- but not music-useful 64MB card) and user-swappable battery improve the package even more. Each of these features worked, and well, during my testing.

It’s of lesser but not trivial importance that Danger has improved the SK3’s aesthetics, too. With much more black and brighter silver surfacing, plus the taller, thinner design, and glowing integrated track ball, the new Sidekick looks better than the SK2, and more professional, in every way. It has retained the prior model’s illuminated keyboard, six face buttons and joypad, but made them look less conspicuous than before, without compromising their functionality in any way. In fact, the keyboard is a little easier to use, thanks to superior plastics and slightly better key spacing. Overall, it’s not as breathtaking visually as what people have expected from the much-rumored Apple iPhone, but in every other way, if there was an Apple logo on this product, people would be knocking each other over to try it.

There are most certainly ways that Danger and T-Mobile could have improved the Sidekick 3 even further. Some reviewers have griped that the camera should be able to record videos, and there should be even more user-installable applications. Others have lamented its phone-only Bluetooth utility and its lack of functionality as a wireless modem. In my view, these features would be nice, but they’re frankly not necessary. A higher-resolution, brighter screen would have been great, but I can live without it given the unit’s solid battery life, size, and fully adequate web functionality. Given three fixes, I would have cast my vote for a part-time cover for the camera’s lens, meatier top and bottom buttons - the only feature to step backwards from the SK2 - and a lower price. Also, T-Mobile’s $400 starting price without contract strikes me as crazy high for a telephone, and I won’t sign a 2-year contract just to save a measly $100. Loyal Sidekick 2 customers should be getting a substantial discount off that amount, but really, T-Mobile needs to make that price lower to bring more people into the tent. Despite my concerns a couple of years ago, the company’s data service has been generally reliable for the Sidekick, and when it’s had occasional hiccups, its customer service has proved to be pretty good, too.

For these reasons, after using the Sidekick 3 - and I don’t feel this way about any other phone out there, current or future - I’ll be forking over my $400 without much hesitation. Unlike all the people out there that Danger and T-Mobile have yet to convince of the Sidekick’s value, I know two things: I can’t find a device better suited to both my business and personal needs, and there’s no comparably equipped data device I know of with a $20 unlimited plan. After using the Sidekick 3, I consider it as necessary for 2006 as its predecessor has been since 2004. Until and unless Apple releases something comparable, this is the phone I’ll be carrying - and typing on - every day.

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Wait. I have my Treo on T-Mobile and get the $20 unlimited data.

Posted by MikeM on June 27, 2006 at 3:02 PM (CDT)


The phrase was “no comparably equipped data device I know of with a $20 unlimited plan.” The Treo 600 from T-Mobile had a VGA camera, just as one key difference between that and the Sidekick 3.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 27, 2006 at 3:18 PM (CDT)


Now, the only reason I have to hold off on getting a SideKick 3 is that the bluetooth is only good for handsfree. Maybe I’m a nerd, but, I want to be able to use it as a modem, or offload my pictures to my comp, or load my OWN ringtones instead of buying them, ect.

Give me that on an SK, and I’ll HAPPILY give you my business.

Posted by Ghent on June 27, 2006 at 4:19 PM (CDT)


Sorry. This was the phrase I read:

“unlimited data service for the phone has cost me only $20 per month - good luck saying that about a Blackberry or Treo, or even coming close.”

And the Treo 650 can be used on T-Moble’s data plan. I expect the 700 will work as well, once the GSM version is released.

I’m not trying to start a “my phone is better than yours” discussion (I think the Sidekick is great and I’d consider it if I didn’t have years worth of palm data and apps I’ve bought) but just wanted to point out that other devices can be used with the cheap data plan.

Posted by MikeM on June 27, 2006 at 4:28 PM (CDT)


Ghent - you can offload your pictures to your computer with the included USB cable or via the T-Mobile web interface - both work well. Re: the ringtones and modem part, yeah, that’s not happening right now. It’s surprising that the MP3 files stored by music player can’t be used as ringtones, but my guess is that firmware could easily fix this. The integrated SK3 rings are pretty cool, though.

Mike: Fair point - I’m fixing that particular sentence for clarity (to keep it aligned with the other one). Re: the Treo 650, specifically, T-Mobile doesn’t sell it, and its camera again is only a 640x480 (0.3MP). We’ll see about the 1.3MP 700.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 27, 2006 at 4:49 PM (CDT)


I got my SK II for nothing on a introductory package - basically 18 month contract, first 12 months half price with a 40 MB data limit per month. I haven’t got near that 40 megs yet - I turned of the images option to save my MB’s but I was so low I turned it back on again.
So at the moment it is costing me £13 a month with inclusive calls which is not to bad…

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on June 27, 2006 at 6:09 PM (CDT)


T-Mobile refuses to allow Sidekick users to use their own music for ringtones. This is not going to change with the SK3.

I’ve also been an avid user of the SK2. It went everywhere with me (and I mean EVERYWHERE) and has been used to damn near its full potential. Like every other SK2 user I was excitedly waiting on the 3. Then the specs and user manual hit the FCC website. I’m now a happy MDA user and I’m not looking back. To me, the SK3 is all style and no substance and is really nothing more than a poor imitation of a real data phone.

Posted by Rockbox on June 28, 2006 at 2:32 AM (CDT)


I have been an avid user of the SK2 for more than an year now, I promote the thing like there is no tomorrow. I originally got it because I have to be able to communicate with my hearing-impared spouse and the SK2 was great at that, I heard the SK3 was coming out and started getting fairly excited, then I saw the extra features being added, was slightly disappointed, but still was thinking “it could be a nice change of pace”. Then I saw the price they wanted to charge: $300 with a 2 year contract? No way! My SK2 i have only had for a year and it’s already showing signs of overusage (buttons not working, signal dropping, etc). I wasn’t going to jump to conclusions, I waited until today to see if as a current user I would get a discount…no, I get NO discount. Which means if I were to upgrade both of our phones, we would be spending $600 and be stuck with them for two years. Not gonna happen. I am very disappointed in T-Mobile that they aren’t giving anyone any type of valid discount. They were promoting the SK2 on their website as late as yesterday (June 27th) evening, what are they going to do for all those people that JUST bought an SK2? Tell them to cough up another $300? They have lost my Sidekick2 business, I will be switching to either an MDA or Blackberry and be saving almost $400 on two phones (with the 7105t).

T-Mobile, get with the program and give us users a discount!

(My contract originally expired in Feb, if i had resigned a new contract then, I wonder if I would have even gotten the $300 offer.)

Posted by zyphbear on June 28, 2006 at 7:03 AM (CDT)


I disagree with a ton of the objections being placed against the SK series.. I’ve owned a myriad of data cell phone, across many carriers (NXTL i930, NXTL BB7520, NXTL BB7100, SPRNT BB7130, TMO SK1, SK2, TREO 650, TMO MDA, TMO BB 71xx, and so on to name a few..) because I work in the cellular industry for a large cell carrier and demo a lot of handsets. Hands down, the products that Danger has produced in only a short amount of time since the company’s inception are advanced in their ease of use and accessibility.  While I have the intellect to use a treo or a BB, I don’t feel as if I should have to work soooo hard to make it do what I want it to.  From the keyboard layout to the data speeds to the form factor, the SK neats the pants off of its competition. 

My SK never froze up like my MDA would.  My thumb never got cramped from a side track wheel.  And I never ended up typing 2 or 3 letters at the same time like I would on my Treo 650/700.  Besides that, can anyone say the messaging interface on ANY device is superior to the SK? If so, please point me in the right direction, because a lot of phones have passed through my hands.

Not griping, guys, but please… Let’s give credit where credit is due…

Posted by CellGuy on June 28, 2006 at 11:19 AM (CDT)


Most of the people I know who have used both the MDA and SK2 (let alone SK3) have basically thrown up their hands on the MDA. Registry keys, crashes, and the like didn’t get mentioned in the Sidekick 3 articles because they’re just not a part of the SK3 experience… but they inevitably wind up in MDA discussions.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 28, 2006 at 12:23 PM (CDT)


I must be one of the rare peoe then who hasn’t had a problem with their MDA. It hasn’t crashed on me yet in the first 3 weeks, unlike my Sidekick 2 which did. I haven’t had to play with any of the registry keys as of yet. I’ve already created my own ringtones and have dozens of images to use as wall paper. I’ve found a few nice applications for use on the phone that were free, and will soon add a new web browser.

And I suspect we’ll see iTunes in some form on a WM5 phone before we see it on the Sidekick 3.

Posted by rockbox on June 28, 2006 at 4:59 PM (CDT)


Jeremy, I also have the $20 unlimited data plan on my MDA but it doesn’t include text messages in the plan, are you sure the $20 includes texting for you or are you having to pay extra for that? If it’s included I’m on the blower to t-mobile, and i’ll be bitching!!!! they charge me 10c for each one (including AOL IM!!!!)...

Posted by Alex on June 29, 2006 at 6:04 PM (CDT)


yes.. the sidekick unlimited for 20.00 in clused unlim. web, IM, Email, and text messages.. basicly unlim everything except apps. and minutes.. and i have a MDA as well.. because my SK2 was getting on my last nerve.. so im getting the sk3 because i know that danger and tmobile have fixed alott of problems.. and most likely there will b a lil problem with it at first.. but most OTA updates will take care of that as usual.. ALSO is you are having problems with your phone don’t just ignore it.. Call us up at t-mobile 1-800-937-8997.. we can do warrenty exchanges if your problems qualify.. i know i went through 8 sidekick 2’s in less then 7 months..

but We deff. shouldn’t run out of SK3’s.. they should make it to the local stores by july 10th..

also the mp3 player on it is VERy good..

but people who think because it has edge you can watch movie clips n stream audio are WRONG! 8/10 times you need windows media player b/c everythings in windows media format which is gay!

plus EDGE is only dial-up connection..

but they honestly should o’ve added a FM radio to the sk.. HD radio woulda been nice.. that way you get all the HD2 multicast (if you area has HD radio stations.. mulitcasts are 100% commerical free and 100% digital radio) hdradio.com will help you with that.

but that is askin a bit much.. but i cant wait to see phones with HD radio.. wondering how long it will be before that ever happens..lol


Posted by brandon on June 30, 2006 at 8:04 PM (CDT)



Posted by brandon on June 30, 2006 at 8:05 PM (CDT)


“Until and unless Apple releases something comparable, this is the phone I’ll be carrying - and typing on - every day. “

Couldn’t agree with you more!!!!

Posted by Mazer on June 30, 2006 at 8:08 PM (CDT)


not sure if t-mobile is going to put out an improved skIII in a few mounths, waiting for other people to try it out and get real life feedback if all is good ill be getting mine in sept. suprisingly though many t-mobile workers are telling me to go with the mda. wonder why

Posted by sir knight on July 2, 2006 at 3:49 PM (CDT)


Because you can do more with an MDA?

More than likely due high demand for the SK3

Posted by rockbox on July 10, 2006 at 1:01 AM (CDT)


I really liked the reviews of the SK 3, and have now bought one.  I am finding it to be incredible.  I have a BlackBerry for work that I have used for the last several years, but it can not compete with the SK 3 for personal use.  I am amazed at how well it does on the web and with all my email accounts.

The SK 3 is the kind of electronic device that if you hand it to either an adult of a child to play with for 15 minutes, they will not want to give it back.

Posted by dewarner on July 16, 2006 at 3:59 PM (CDT)


If danger decides to change some things when will that be? Even something like a sidekick 3.5? With video recorder/playback and better bluetooth for ring tones and possiably screen resolution i hear much about? Right now i’m torn between the MDA and the Sidekick 3?

Posted by B on July 19, 2006 at 3:05 AM (CDT)


I have to say that the sidekick 3 is awesome. I just got one and Its coo so I don’t know bout you people who don’t like it. Try it because you will fall in love with it I sure did

Posted by Tiara on November 29, 2006 at 11:38 AM (CST)

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