capsule review

T-Mobile Sidekick iD

At a Glance
  • T-Mobile Sidekick ID

    PCWorld Rating

    This cell phone/PDA hybrid comes with a colorful, customizeable design and a very low price.

The latest member of T-Mobile's Sidekick family of cell phone/PDA hybrids for people who'd just as soon type as talk targets a youthful, budget-minded crowd.

The 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 (for $20 each) in black, white, yellow, bright blue, purple, or glow-in-the-dark orange.

The device's rather beefy dimensions are virtually unchanged: It's a tad taller (2.5 inches versus 2.3 inches), but width and thickness hold steady at 5.1 inches and 0.9 inch, respectively. The price, however, has slimmed down to $150 with a two-year contract. (At this writing T-Mobile lowers the price further via a $50 mail-in rebate.) Without a contract, the Sidekick ID is $300, compared to $400 for its predecessor.

Like other Sidekicks, the ID is T-Mobile's name for the latest version of the Hiptop, a software/hardware platform designed by Danger, Inc. and manufactured by Sharp. I tried out a shipping unit and was (as usual) most delighted by the instant messaging and e-mail features.

Not only does the well-designed keyboard--concealed by the device's swiveling 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 e-mail 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 right-hand 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 me only a few moments to master.

Making calls to numbers in my address book was easy and didn't require swinging out the display. But anytime I had to key in a number, I did have to get to the keyboard; once the number rang, I had to swivel the screen again to hold the device to my ear, which I found a bit awkward. Voice call quality was solid in my limited tests.

The Sidekick'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 smart phone). 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, it comes with photo album software; a concise and helpful printed manual suggests that you might use it to save .jpg images received as e-mail attachments.

You have room for some content, too: The device ships with 64MB of SDRAM and 64MB of flash ROM. But a message on the upper left of my empty photo album screen reported that I had only 1.7MB of space remaining, and when I downloaded a couple of ringtones, the device warned me that I 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 Sidekick ID's reformatting scheme isn't particularly attractive--it reproduced a set of tabs that appear across the top of the New York Times' site in several rows, for example. I would advise against getting this Sidekick ID if you're looking for any multimedia features.

We'll be testing the Sidekick ID's battery life soon, but as yet I have no sense of how the removable and rechargeable battery will hold up. Still, if you're looking for a deal on a phone with good messaging and e-mail features--perhaps for a younger user who might enjoy the colorful bumper options--the Sidekick ID could fit the bill.

Denny Arar

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This cell phone/PDA hybrid comes with a colorful, customizeable design and a very low price.

    Pros

    • Terrific keyboard
    • Customizable, colorful design

    Cons

    • No camera or expansion slot
    • So-so sceen
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