T-Mobile Sidekick LX PDA Phone
At a Glance
T-Mobile Sidekick LX
This stylish PDA phone works wonders for messaging but can be awkward for phone calls.
I'm not wild about the Sidekick LX, but that opinion might say more about me than about this flashy messaging powerhouse. It excels at text, IM, and e-mail but puts up some roadblocks for those who use a phone primarily to make calls.
The LX costs $300 with a two-year T-Mobile voice plan and a reasonable extra $20 per month for an unlimited data plan. You can pay $30 per month for a data-only, no-voice plan. You'll need a good data plan to take advantage of the LX's primary strength: messaging. I easily set up an AOL IM account (the LX supports Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, too), and I also logged on quickly to Gmail and to PC World's Web-based mail accounts; the LX supports the IMAP e-mail protocol and most other popular Web mail services. And, of course, you can text- and picture-message as well.
The LX is designed for two-handed use. To access the keyboard, you lift and swivel the large, beautiful 3-inch screen to reveal a luxurious QWERTY keyboard with excellent spacing between the keys and a no-slip matte finish. New instant messages scroll across the top of the screen when you're doing other things like surfing the Web, which, by the way, is slow. (Currently T-Mobile doesn't offer 3G network speed, but the company plans to roll it out in the first half of 2008.) The senders and subjects of new e-mail messages appear when you scroll to the main interface's e-mail icon using the quick and handy scroll ball.
This design, however, is not great for phone calls. You'll want to import phone numbers into the LX's address book and access them that way, because it's awkward to dial using the number keys, which sit in one horizontal row at the top of the keyboard almost directly under the display's hinge. Plus, you'll need to swivel the keyboard out to dial and back in again to talk--awkward design decision number two. While call quality in my area was fine, the speakerphone sounded distorted to me at volumes loud enough to hear. (Call recipients had no complaints, however.) Battery life in PC World lab tests maxed out at 10 hours of talk time.
People who don't want their phone constantly beeping, buzzing, and flashing won't particularly like this model either. Under default settings my test unit glowed green, or blue, indicating a new message, even when it (and I) were sleeping at night. It made frequent, unexpected jarring alert noises too. Sure, you can turn all that off using the phone's settings and hardware volume buttons, which I often hit accidentally while trying to swivel the screen. But it's part of the Sidekick LX's celebrity-attracting bling; turning everything off is like getting an Old English sheepdog and giving it a buzz cut.
Other features: The LX has a 1.3-megapixel camera with flash that takes decently sharp pictures but doesn't take video--a pity given the large screen. You can plug in standard headphones without an adapter, and you can play music that you transfer via USB or store on a microSD card.
I didn't like the Sidekick LX, but I can see why other people might. Since I'm not a master messenger, I can't overlook the awkward phone-dialing design, the sluggish Internet, and the too-flashy audio-visual effects.